A Portfolio Redesign Will Help Clients See You How You'd Like to Be Seen
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
Creatives are experts at exporting their creativity, but often forget to apply those skills to their own brand. WNW Member Ngaio Parr was part of that club until recently, when she committed to redesigning her studio's portfolio site. "Everything outside of the actual work is such a steep learning curve! Until embarrassingly recently I didn’t know that I should be promoting our work and getting in touch with people we want to work with us."
Ngaio (you say it "Nigh-Oh") leads her independent studio as a designer, art director, and illustrator. The studio collaborates on a range of work including publication design, illustration, art direction, curation, set & space design, visual identity, and other printed matter. For a multidisciplinary artist, it helps that the new portfolio has intuitive navigation, skillset filters, and project descriptions. You'd be surprised how many portfolio sites fail to nail the basics. In our interview below, Ngaio tells us what she's been up to and what went into properly branding her studio and their work. She also shares why it's worth it. "One surprising benefit of working on our own branding and website is that is forced us to look back and take stock. It also forced us to look forward to what we want to achieve. It helps for clients to see you how you’d like to be seen"
Tell us a bit about your creative background. Who is Ngaio Parr and how did she get here?
I graduated from a Fine Art degree studying art theory and contemporary art, and started working as a curator in a contemporary art gallery. That course really instilled a love of self-directed learning, which I still keep to this day. I wasn’t feeling challenged after a while, and enrolled in a design degree while I worked full-time. I realised that design and illustration combined my love of art with my problem-solving and communication skills — and I could work for companies and clients that value the same things I do, and combine my work with other interests like music, feminism, food, nature, and colour theory!
I worked for some design studios and cultural institutions in-house after I graduated, and — after working independently for a few years, officially launched my own studio in 2014. Now, we work on a range of work including publication design, illustration, art direction, curation, set & space design, visual identity, and other printed matter.
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links your projects, or do you try to excuse yourself and approach each project as its own entity?
I think there are threads that can be seen through all of our projects — consideration of colour, typographic detailing, and shared values. Though, hopefully — I’d like to think that all of our projects are approached as their own, with skills and styles used uniquely to best suit each project. Sure, it makes you work easier to market, and sometimes I do wish I could focus on one style for my entire career — but where’s the fun in one signature style?
What were some of the challenges and breakthroughs in launching your creative career?
Everything outside of the actual work is such a steep learning curve! Until embarrassingly recently I didn’t know that I should be promoting our work and getting in touch with people we want to work with us — until this year I’d been entirely relying on clients coming to us which, luckily for us, worked thus far!
You recently redesigned your portfolio site. What led you to initiate this project?
It is the project I had dreaded for so long, designing for yourself is the worst! It got to the point where I stopped directing people to the site because it was so dated — so I knew I needed to prioritise it.
How do you think your new portfolio site starts the conversation for you and your work? What do you think it says about you and your work?
I hope that the design encourages people to get curious and look through the entire site — and is accessible enough for people outside of the design world to enjoy.
Our portfolio happens to be largely colourful and bright — but our own studio aesthetic, interests, and personalities are a little darker. We wanted to make a site that gave an insight into the personalities behind the work so you don’t meet us and get confused!
We collaborated with our developers Rascality Studios to design something that was as minimal as possible, while still being approachable and usable.
Is applying your creative skillset to your personal brand and personal life something that’s natural for you?
Oh definitely not! My indecisive nature and inability to talk about myself and my work gets in the way every time.
Do you think that most creatives could benefit from spending more time branding themselves?
As someone who doesn’t write 10 year plans, or even step back and evaluate what the studio has achieved often, one surprising benefit of working on our own branding and website is that is forced us to look back and take stock, and look forward to what we want to achieve. That, and, it helps for clients to see you how you’d like to be seen.
Any lessons learned? What advice can you offer to creatives when it comes to the look and contents of their portfolio sites?
Your website is often the first place a client judges your work, and it is often also how they form their idea of you as a person — especially now that many creative projects can be started and finished without meeting your client face-to-face. I’d try and make sure you work looks good, but also that your personality is in there too.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m working on an illustrated book cover series I’m excited about, designing two books for a skate brand, a few illustration projects, and trying to carve out some time to work on some personal projects. Exciting times!
What would be your dream project or job, or is it already on your resume?
Too many! I’d love to create the vision for a boutique hotel — direct everything from artwork to menu design, from the lampshades to the music being played. I’d love to do an illustrated book, have a solo exhibition, or be the art director for a company I care about.
I’m going to go for broke and say we’d love to do illustrative work for Healthy-ish/Bon Appetit, Sonos, Conde Nast Traveller, Sub Pop, and the NYTimes (of course!). I’d personally also love to work for Commune, Studio Shamshiri, Studio Be-Poles, Atelier Ace, Man Repeller, or Refinery 29 — dream teams!