Ask the Pros: If I'm applying for a design position, do you also want to see my photo and illustration work?

Ask the Pros: If I'm applying for a design position, do you also want to see my photo and illustration work?
To help prepare you for the real world, our Ask the Pros series is here to help answer some of your most common questions about interviewing, job-hunting and working in the world of publication and media art and photo departments.

Got a question you want answered? Send it to us at and we'll put it to our experts! A varying panel of professionals will give you their take, and then it's up to you to put their advice to work.

And if you're a working professional yourself, we'd love to hear your opinion too ... don't hesitate to add it in our comments or email us to be on one of our panels.

Today we address the issue of what type of work your interviewers will want to see...

I want to be a designer, but I also love taking photos and drawing ... do you want to see my photography and illustration work in my portfolio if I'm applying for a design position?

PRO: Andrea Dunham - Design Director, PEOPLE magazine
Sigh. This is tough. I get why you'd feel the urge to pad the book with your other passions. I love taking photos and drawing. I'm not bad at them, either. But I would personally never ever mix my personal artistic pursuit in with my professional design book. Your question didn't mention you were a pro in either area, so I'll be harsh and say I don't really see the point. Maybe you truly don't know in which direction to take your career, but I think its best not to reveal that by confusing your time-pressed interviewer. 
    That said, I'll concede that in some cases, it could be useful: if you think things are going swimmingly, and you've managed to get some response on your design portfolio, it may not be terribly annoying to share with them a separate book of the following: still life, food, fashion or journalism photography, icon or spot illustration, typography design, logo, packaging, music or book design, titling, or other graphic design work you may have done. So long as its just as expertly organized and carefully edited and makes sense for a magazine art director to review. 
    And to all you do-it-all-yourselfers: if you actually shot the photo in the fake magazine layout you designed and drew the cool illustrated frou-frou on the borders? I wanna know that. Or expect I'll ask you about it and then be interested in seeing more. 

PRO: Iris Johnson - Art Director, 20/20 magazine
I think a few examples of other creative work at the back of a portfolio are a good idea. It gives you the chance to talk about other skills you may have that your interviewer might be interested in. But don't include too many examples or it will overwhelm your design work. One or two examples of your best work should be enough. Even better would be a designed piece that incorporates your drawing or photography skills. 

PRO: R. Scott Wells - Associate Art Director, Popular Mechanics
This really depends on a lot of factors. What is the position you are applying for? Are the duties for this position very streamlined, or are you expected to fill a jack-of-all-trades sort of role? Obviously the latter would play into a varied skill set more. It also depends on whether your photo and illustration style, good as it may be, fits in with the visuals of the magazine. If it does, I would say it's a plus. If not, I wouldn't bring it up. Your portfolio should be geared towards the position you are applying for, so if it's a design position and you want to include other stuff, it shouldn't be at the expense of great design, it should sort of feel like a bonus.

PRO: Sarah Garcea - Deputy Art Director, Inc. Magazine
Great! I actually got my internship at Life magazine because I did photo as well. I think it's good to show that in your book/website as some places you may be able to do illustrations and photo-type work in addition to design. It also shows your aesthetic. I've had design interns do illos for the magazine which was great and very helpful to us! 

PRO: Jenn McManus - Deputy Art Director, Brides
If you're applying to a design position, I think work from other interests belong in a separate (and very brief) portfolio. Creative people always have other interests that can help them be better designers, but if you're applying to a design job, I want to see that you're excited about design. Don't water down your message with other work.

PRO: Jason Lancaster - Senior Director of Design, ESPN the Magazine
No, maybe after I hire you we could look at it.  

PRO: Soni Khatri - Designer, Sunset Magazine
I'd like the majority of the work that I see to show off your design skills, but if you'd like to add photography or illustration work to the back of your book, that's totally fine. If it doesn't work out with the design position, we can always recommend your name for a photo position or illustration assignment if we like what we see. 

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