Toy Tech: 10 Really Amazing Portfolio Tips (Part 4 of 4)


Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 3.31.22 PMCover design for my fine art gallery portfolio printed using Blurb, an online resource.


This is the fourth and final part of my article featuring 10 Really Amazing Portfolio Tips. To me, Tip #10 is one of the most important tips to follow outside of Tip #1, because it is a continued commitment to quality and personal growth.

Unlike the last tip seeking out advice from prospective employers and career professionals, this one is more about you making an honest assessment of your own work after sorting through all of their feedback. This will not only help you stay true to yourself, but also keep your skills relevant to the standards of this unrelenting and highly competitive global marketplace.

Blind ego has killed more companies than economic downturns. Staying current and up to date has not been easy for many areas in corporate America and, in some cases, downright awful. In the next few years you’ll see some companies fade away as others rise in prominence. In this day and age, there simply is no room for the status quo—personally or corporately.

Tip #10:

Early on, I learned the value of constantly updating my portfolio while working with designers at Disney Studios and Dreamworks. Doing so not only keeps you strategically prepared to safeguard your career, but also forces you to take stock and continue to grow as a creative person.

There is simply no better way to grow your skills than taking a critical look at the development of your work over a specific course of time. You will see areas that need to improve by looking at your designs collectively, which works to motivate you to try new techniques and innovative ideas to avoid repetition. 

The process of honest evaluation may be painful at times, but this certainly avoids career stagnation and continually takes you to the next level. You may think you are the best in the business, but if you are truly honest with yourself, you will begin to see areas that clearly need improvement.

Regardless of industry or specialization, when people refuse to grow their skills they have no other choice but to circle the wagons for self-preservation, protecting the all-important pecking order within their corporate food chain. Because of this, many companies fail to keep some of their most promising people and, in the process, begin the slow but steady decent toward losing relevance within the global marketplace.



My commercial portfolio featuring digital paintings, 300 © 2006 Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros.

The status quo is actually relieved when co-workers leave for other opportunities, because it keeps them in power and eliminates their direct competition, lessoning the burden to update their skills. The result, of course, is good for them, but bad for the future of the company and the clients they serve.

Sadly, not only do these companies have the proverbial glass ceiling securely in place, it’s also bullet proof and reinforced with steel rebar. A friend of mine recently called with his tale of woe, citing it would take the ten plagues of Egypt for him to break through to the next job level. This, of course, is very frustrating when you have a family to support and bills to pay. 

If you love what you are doing, though, none of the corporate politics really matter. Slowly, but surely, as strong talent continues their exodus toward new career opportunities, business owners are beginning to realize they are spending valuable resources training their own competition—you don’t need an MBA to figure that one out.

So, just keep growing and the doors of opportunity will eventually open, because forward thinking companies are willing to make room for forward thinking people. Humble self-evaluation, personally and corporately, will keep you learning and open to change, both work to maintain your relevance within the highly competitive global marketplace of continued innovation and cutting edge ideas. 

I’ve always sought out great mentors and my current mentor in the toy business pushes me to reach higher and take on new challenges. Humbleness allows you to have such mentors, no matter how impressive your resume’ may be or how amazing you think you are, there is always room for growth. If you give yourself over to hard work and are truly dedicated to improving your skills, you’ll be amazed how many doors open up to you. 

Summing It Up:

I was recently invited to join a private online portfolio site for artists, designers and executives in film, gaming and retail design. This online resource, along with many other networking sites, provide wonderful forums to meet people at the top of their game and to get feedback while promoting yourself to companies across the globe.

It’s amazing to meet so many people in these fields, especially toy company executives, who are more than willing to share their knowledge. Recently, several designers sent me their digital brushes to try out—no politics or buddy system to protect, just creative people trying to learn more and grow. There is a real sense of excitement when you are plugged into such a creative community, sharing techniques and pushing one another to the next level. 

If the guy next to you is catching a catnap during work you may not be getting the experience I’m talking about. Developing friendships with amazing creative professionals who love what they do will motivate you to dream bigger and reach higher. It’s hard to settle for the status quo when your friends are exploring new technologies and pushing the limits of their imagination.

In other words, when you are surrounded with creative dreamers, it is almost impossible not to get a dream or two yourself—it’s simply contagious. Make sure you have people in your life who motivate you to grow and to embrace new ideas and technologies. 

Hopefully, these tips will help you reach the next level of your creative journey. Be sure to season these portfolio tips with hard work, strong commitment and continued passion for skill development. By doing so, you won’t have to try to find success—success will find you.



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