From the IFD Mailbag …
Portfolio Building

Let's start today's Mailbag with this question from a new student:

“I'm new to Graphic Design Success and I'm trying to build my portfolio. But besides the assignments from the course, I have not designed any other pieces. How do I build my portfolio?”
– Michelle

Michelle, you don't need a big, fat portfolio to attract top-flight clients. And it's fine to use course assignments in the beginning. Most clients won't care. They just want to know that you can do the job. For example, when master designer Lori Haller (who wrote today's main article) interviews someone with limited experience for a project, instead of asking to see many examples of his work, she asks how he'll approach it.

So begin with what you have, and add to it as you go. Here's one idea that you can use to beef up your portfolio:

Create your own design makeover. You've certainly been on the receiving end of direct mail that looked terrible –– where the designer neglected the rules of good direct-mail design. Maybe they used the wrong font, did a poor job of guiding the eye along the copy, or made other mistakes. Recreate the whole package and include both “before and after” in your portfolio. Potential clients will be impressed when you point out what you changed … and why.

Next, here's a question from John …

“What are OpenType® fonts? They are mentioned in the course and I read about them online, but I am not really sure that I understand how they are different from other fonts.”

OpenType® is a kind of font that has cross-platform compatibility. This means it can be used in both Windows and Mac systems – which isn't possible with other fonts. The other main benefit of OpenType® is its ability to support widely expanded character sets (symbols and foreign font faces) and enhanced layout features.

The only drawback is the price. For example, Times New Roman in OpenType® costs $99. This expense is probably worth it if you are planning to take your document from Macintosh to Windows or vice versa. But keep in mind that you can download less-expensive OpenType® fonts from

Finally, let's see if we can solve Bridgett's problem. (If you're working with Word, it may be one that you're struggling with too.)

“My assignment needs kerning and leading, but I have worked for hours trying to accomplish this in Word. It does not appear to be working unless I manually kern every word in the letter. I'm sure others have run into this as well. What should I do?”
– Bridgett

Bridgett, here's how Word lets you change kerning and leading:

Highlight your copy and then go to Format>Font on the menu bar. The Font Format window opens. It has three tabs. The first tab – “Fonts” – lets you choose the font, font size, and effects. The second tab – “Character Spacing” – lets you adjust the kerning. The last tab – “Text Effect” – lets you animate your copy. Don't use that for your design.

For line spacing, go to Format>Paragraph. In the window that opens, you'll find “Indents and Spacing.” This allows you to format paragraph settings like first line indents, spacing between paragraphs, and the spacing between lines. The tab “Line and Page Breaks” allows “orphan” and “widow” control.

That's it for today! We love hearing from you. Until next time …


The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: June 30, 2005

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