By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

Creating a beautifully designed portfolio package looks professional. People will know that you take your work seriously. However, it is important to know that no matter how professionally you package your work, if your work isn’t good, then you have wasted your time creating the package. So first, spend your time developing the content of your portfolio; then, and only then, package and promote your work.

The contents of your professional package should contain the following: a business card, a cover letter, résumé, demo reel or portfolio, breakdown list, and web presence. It could also contain, if required by the company, a reel submission form and DVD label and case. Some companies only accept applications through e-mail or website and explicitly say that they absolutely do not accept mailed submissions. You should design all these pieces together, so that they form a cohesive package.

Most of these information should be present online. The rest can be printed on an as needed basis, dependent on the individual requirements of each company’s application process. A demo reel showcases your very best work, a cover letter is written specifically for each job for which you are applying, a résumé is tailored to show that you have the necessary qualifications listed in the job description, a breakdown list accompanies the demo reel with specific information regarding each clip seen on the reel, and web presence is necessary so that your information is easily accessible, whether it be a full website or simply a blog where your work can be seen. A reel submission form gives a company permission to view your work while it releases them from any prosecution or liability for any similarity found in relation to their current or future work and, if required, is usually downloadable from the individual company requesting one.

Examples for each element will be presented in this chapter. Additional examples can be found on the website


All your materials should be unifi ed by a design that represents you. This could be a logo that you’ve designed to brand yourself or simply a color scheme that is carried throughout all of your presentation materials.

One of the things that you do not want to do is to market yourself as a company, unless you are actually creating your own company as in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1 An Example Business Card of Someone Who, with Two Other Friends, Started Their Own Studio

Figure 2.1

Major production studios want to see you as the artist who is applying for the position. They are not looking to hire another company, but rather a person to fi ll a specifi c position. So market yourself as an individual artist.

You also want to consider the fact that over time your name can change, and how that name change affects your identity. For example, my given name and surname is Cheryl Cookmeyer. I was married in my 20s and became Cheryl Fell. I developed my original “logo” using my initials CF as shown in Figure 2.2.

Figure 2.2 My Original Logo Business Card

Then I divorced and married again in my 30s and became Cheryl Cabrera. I then changed from a logo to a more streamlined look I had developed from some video footage and After Effects, as shown in Figure 2.3.

Professionally, I am now known as Cheryl Cabrera. But with a recent divorce, I am now questioning what to do with my name, should I keep it professionally, or should I change it. Changing my name (now that I am established professionally) may cause confusion, but it also advertises my personal status to the world. So as you develop your professional identity, regardless of your situation, you should consider all possibilities and follow through with what option works best for you.

If you have not yet done so, complete the Action List at the end of Chapter 1 , which will help you come up with a logo or an idea for a visual theme that ties your materials together.

Figure 2.3 My Current Business Card


The purpose of a business card is to provide someone with the information they need to contact you. This should be the most important aspect of the card. Basic information, such as your name, phone number, and e-mail address, is all that is really needed. You can also include a mailing address. If the person has a diffi cult time reading the card, they may become irritated or simply not even bother with you at all. Remember that most of the people looking at this card are probably going to be over the age of 40, so you really want to make sure that the font size is not too small in case they are farsighted.

A business card is 2 × 3½ inches. Don’t be tempted to design an odd-shaped or -sized card because they usually create more problems than they are worth. When designing your business cards, you must consider the bleed while printing and usually add an additional 1/8 inch border making the total dimensions 2¼ × 3¾ inches. A bleed is necessary so that when the cards are cut, there is no chance of a hairline error, or in other words, a sliver of white paper showing between your graphic and the edge of the card after the machine cuts the cards. Extending a graphic or color beyond the actual dimensions of the card allows for some wiggle room and margin of error. You also need to allow for an inside 1/8 inch border for a safe zone for the same reason. You wouldn’t want something important trimmed off, like the last digit of your phone number. Figure 2.4 shows my current business card with the safe zone and bleed areas. Always check with the printing company that you are using, because they may have different requirements.

Figure 2.4 My Current Business Card Showing the Safe Zone and Bleed Areas

If printing business cards at home, do so only on a laser printer. If the card is printed on an inkjet printer and gets wet, you will have a blurred mess in your hands. Also, do not print on those perforated business card sheets. Nothing screams amateur more than handing out perforated business cards. Print on solid cardstock and use an x-acto knife or paper cutter. Make sure your cards are square and cut precisely. If you have trouble with precision cuts, you should really consider getting them printed by a professional. and are two online printers that I have personally used and have received a great quality product.

The business card should have a color scheme that allows the person receiving it a place to jot down notes about you, so that they can remember where and when they met you. This is incredibly important when at networking events, such as conferences or festivals, because one person can gather so many cards, they may have a difficult time remembering in what context they received your card. This is why a black business card on both sides is generally a bad idea. Although stylistically it may be appealing, functionally the card becomes somewhat useless.

Today, networking cards are becoming popular, where people list their social media information like Facebook or Twitter. I would caution you against this unless you want prospective employers or clients reading your mindless ramblings or seeing that photo where you were tagged while you posed half-naked and drunk. More on this will be considered in Chapter 4 when we get into the discussion about social media.

Sample business card designs, Figures 2.5 through 2.11:

Figure 2.5 Sample Business Card Design by Philip Negroski

Figure 2.6 Bridget Kieffer

Figure 2.7 S ample Business Card Design by Ashley DeMattos

Figure 2.8 S ample Business Card Design by Juan Rivera

Figure 2.9 Sample Business Card Design by Melissa Massingill

Figure 2.10 Sample Business Card Design by Marcos Carrasco

Figure 2.11


Excerpt from Reel Success by Cheryl Cabrera © 2013 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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Author the Author

Cheryl Cabrera, Assistant Professor of Digital Media – Character Animation Specialization, University of Central Florida; on Board of Directors, Animation Hall of Fame; Autodesk Certified Instructor in Maya; member of SIGGRAPH, Society for Animation Studies, and Women in Animation.

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