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Welcome to rachelsays... The blog of Rachel Lewis, containing my thoughts and musings on illustration, design, fashion, music, cakey-bakey goodness, culture and things that I generally find cool. There's also a good chance my own illustration work will pop up on here.

All work on this blog is copyright to me unless I state that it isn't. Obviously. Don't do stealing, kids.

So come on in, have a look around, and leave a comment if you like what you see.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

How to: Make a Self Promotional Mini Portfolio

There have been various options going round my head of how best to make this sort of thing. I really enjoy bookbinding, even though I've never actually been taught properly how to do it; it wasn't a part of my Uni course at all. But, like most things, that never stopped me. I made all my own sketchbooks in the last 2 years of my course, nothing fancy, just binding them myself when I was all done. Then, for my Seven Sins project, I made a handmade book as the outcome, of which you can see here. I followed a tutorial in Computer Arts, which you can download the PDF of here. It was definitely a trial and error thing, and a labour of love. Came out well but much too time consuming to make 20, or 50 of. Which is about how many I need, to promote myself effectively.

So after a bit of internetting, I decided upon a Concertina book. Seemed the easiest to make and the easiest to alter the contents of, from book to book; this means that I can slightly tailor the insides according to who I'm sending it to and what sort of illustration they commission. Aha.

You can buy books that teach you how to make handmade books, the simplest one I found was Handmade Books: Binding, Folding and Decorating by Heather Weston. Cheap, too. I probably will buy it at some point (I wonder if you can get it at the library..) but as I'm trying to spend as little money as possible here, I just found a tutorial off the internet and made it up as I went along.

Here's how I did it.

1. Learn how a concertina book works.
The websites that I found seemed to make it sound harder than it is. Basically, you need lots of sheets of paper, the same size, folded to make a small flap on each side to glue to the next piece, and so on, until you get one long massive piece of paper that folds together. You then need some hard board, slightly bigger than the area of the paper, to stick to each end, and end papers if you want. That's about it. You can get complicated with spines and all that, but I'm doing simples.

Taken from this website - follow it if you wish, it's not so simples.

I decided that I wanted my book to be A5, landscape - A5 is a good size for a mini portfolio, and I chose landscape because a lot of my work is landcsape; just fits the pages better.

I did a lot of experimenting with scrap paper to figure out how to fold the flaps and where they had to be:

Before I decided to go landscape.It's a lot easier to do this because you can figure out what side the flaps have to be in relation to which side of the paper is getting printed on.

So I decided that the easiest thing for this was to set up an A4 portrait sheet, with the flap folds on the right hand side, of 7mm. Then I could slice each sheet in half once printed to make my A5 landscape ones, and glue together.

2. Set up a document in Indesign/Illustrator to work from.

This is probably the most important step, so spend lots of time getting it right. I used InDesign for this as you can set up the Master pages then just add content from there, but I guess you can also use Illustrator just as easily, with separate layers for each page. Whatevs.

If you click on that image up there you'll be able to see what I did a bit more clearly. Use whatever system you find easiest; this is just one that I understand and know works. Again, experiment with it, print out some test sheets, find out if it all works ok.
Gridlines and margins obviously don't print, so I added tiny dotted lines so I knew where to fold, and where to cut, once it was printed. Image above is without margins etc. Nice.
Experiment with colours and fonts at this stage too. Before you print out 20. Just a heads up.

Once you have the format perfect, save it, and keep it forever - you can change images, add or take away pages etc, but your rules and spacing will always keep it pretty.

3. Start adding content.
This is the fun part.

Add your images and descriptive text, fiddle about with alignment, size, etc. I added a few more rules for myself at this stage, like where to align the text to, etc. It all ends up quite organic though, if you want to ignore your lovely grid, then do. It's what looks best, after all.
Choosing fonts is important - I went with 2, which could even be too many, one more decorative for my website title and one for the descriptive text. I decided a sans serif font was less conspicuous, as a lot of my work already has type in it and I wanted to be as discreet as possible. So Gill Sans saved the day.

4. Print out your pages and start folding.
Start off with printing enough for just one book first, ok. You just don't know if something's gone tits up and you have to reconfigure your creation. Once you've made one from start to finish perfectly, then you can get into assembly line mode and make as many as you need.
So here are all my lovely pages. I figured out while doing this that when assembling single pages like this, your first page's flap needs folding up, the second one needs folding down, and so on. The flap sticks to the underside of the next page, so you'll see why.
Eventually they were all stuck together in a several foot long book of joy. I just used pritt stick (other types of glue stick are available) but a more permanent choice would be double sided tape.

Next I added coloured end pages to each end - just so the hard board has something interesting to stick to. I chose blue because... I like blue.

What the book looks like as you turn each page over.

The front page, with the blue end papers. My hand looks strangely tanned. It's not. I'm as white as a sheet =/
The back, which I'm going to add something to; more later.

It's already pretty lovely, but won't withstand any kind of manual handling.

5. Make it sturdy.
You need some kind of hard board or mounting board for this. These days you can get mounting board in all kinds of colours, which would be a fine choice. I however, wanted to go for the more rustic, grey board look, for reasons you shall find out.

Cut your board so that it's about 1cm larger than your paper on every side. This means that it's all protected inside and has an attractive overhang.

Don't stick the hard board to it yet - we need to decorate it.

This is the back of my portfolio. Before sticking the end paper down, I made 4 slits to hold one of my postcards. This is just so that the recipient has something to stick on their desk/wall too - the dangers of a mini book like this is they get looked at, then put in a drawer. Postcards are more likely to be left in a place where they'll get looked at.

6. Design your cover.
You can do this anyway you like. Draw on it, screenprint it, stamp it. I'm banning glitter though. No no.
What I have decided is to use tracing paper as an overlay onto the card. That way, you can still see the natural colour of the board, but with a layer of plastic-ness. It's a nice juxtaposition, and you can print straight on to tracing paper, if you've got an inkjet printer.

I designed a simple pattern for the front, and decided to just go with my name. I could have done 'Rachel Lewis, Illustrator' or 'portfolio' or something, but I think you need something striking and uncomplicated. This fits in with the rest of my identity (speech bubble, colours).
Cut the corners of the tracing paper and fold round the back of the board - stick down. Don't stick the front, just the underside - that way there's a slight separation from the board and the tracing paper, which I think gives a nice feel.

7. Attach the hard board to the book.
Stick your end papers to the board with something better than glue stick - double sided tape is best, or industrial strength glue. Don't glue your hand to your face.

8. Admire your handiwork.

The one thing to remember about a concertina book is that it will all just fall out into one big line if you're not careful. You can fold it like a book but if you drop one end it'll just concertina out. Of course. So you might decide to seal the pages together, if you feel that's an issue. Make sure you include all your contact details somewhere in or on the book - in my case, I used my business card stamp to stamp the reverse. I'm also going to experiment with paper luggage tags too, as a 'to and from' thing.

9. Make as many as you need and send the bad boys out to prospective clients.
This particular one was made to leave behind at a recent interview I had, at AMV.BBDO. I'm buying more hard board tomorrow and spending this week making ones to send out. Having spare ones at hand to take to interviews/portfolio meetings is a good idea I think. And remember what I said, you can customise each book with different examples of your work in relation to who you are sending it to.

Good luck! And if you make this, please leave a comment telling me how you went with it! :D

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