Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: Wondering in Westport

Editor's Note: Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and invite our readers to submit their questions directly to: [email protected]

Dear Bonnie,

I've been an in-house designer for a while and am thinking about looking for other work. I would love to work in a design studio or even start my own business. However, I have a ton of creative interests outside graphic design: I'm also a painter, musician, and photographer. Should I combine everything into one portfolio site or create multiple sites for each of my skill sets? Or, should I simply focus on one thing, which I've been doing with graphic design?

Wondering in Westport

Dear Wonder Boy

I wonder something, too: do you have commitment issues in other aspects of your life?

It seems to me that one career is tough enough to get going, let alone manage and sustain. But four careers? That sounds nearly impossible.

It’s terrific that you have so many interests outside of your day job. That's how it should be. All graphic design all the time makes Jack a dull designer. I can only hope (and assume) that your painting, music, and photography contribute in interesting and varying degrees to your design capacity. The books you read, the movies you see, the experiences you have when you travel should all influence the way you think, and the work that you produce as a result.

That said, as far as your graphic design portfolio goes, I'd keep it just to that: graphic design. Should you choose, on occasion, to provide the illustration or soundtrack to a specific project, it should be duly credited. (And if you do that, be proud of this contribution and note it as such.) But if you are focusing on working as a graphic designer, you'd do best to focus on your work as — wait for it — a graphic designer! You want potential employers to know that design is your primary passion.

In the end, of course, even these rules are meant to be broken. If you love what you get to do in your paintings and feel that it's important for a potential employer to see that side of you, go ahead and share your artwork. Just keep in mind that you are taking a risk. If you're set on doing this, get an honest opinion first. Show your portfolio to someone you trust, and trust them. Then, and only then, will you wonder no more.

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