Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Online portfolio profile page guidelines for Visual Arts learners

Written for Visual Arts learners about to create online portfolio profiles and for the educators guiding  them.

Introducing the structure of guidelines for your online portfolio profile.
You typically enter three types of information into the profile you create for your online portfolio: a brief "(auto)biography", your "contact details" and "abilities". So, although the guidelines below are showcased with Carbonmade, they should still apply to any other service(s) you use. Once you have followed these guidelines, kindly read the assessment criteria at the bottom. Then take the time to reflect on whether your online portfolio meets these criteria and is truly appropriate for its audience(s). It's a good idea to ask your friends for constructive feedback on what you could improve...

Assumptions on which these profile page's guidelines are based.
These guides are based on ones used at an independent school, where learners are taught to develop a showcase electronic learning portfolio (e-portfolio). As such, the guidelines assume that you want to create a profile that reflects your genuine identity. This has many benefits:
  1. It should add credibility that you are willing to identify yourself as your portfolio's creator;
  2. It makes it easy for viewers to search for you using your real name;
  3. Your curricular artworks are done in the Fine Arts genre, where artists typically use their real-names;
  4. Using your real name should encourage you to have a sense of personal ownership and, hopefully, continue using it after you matriculate;
  5. In "The Facebook Effect", David Kirkpatrick quotes its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, as saying; "Having two identities for yourself if an example of a lack of integrity." By openly acknowledging who you are online and behaving consistently over different web services, you may actively develop not only a more coherent identity online, but off-line as well.
However, you may still prefer to create an online profile in which you use a nickname, pseudonym, a fake or a corporate identity. This can serve as a distinct online persona or corporate identity, which can be used in addition or as an alternative to your genuine one.

Here are four examples for creatives following these types under Carbonmade's featured portfolios:

Graeme Metcalf's "grabbins" nickname example (1 April 2012)



Pasquale D'Silva's PSQL pseudonym (1 April 2012) 
Cecilia Puglesi's "carbonomonono" portfolio header  (1 April 2012)
Agni Interactive's corporate identity logo (1 April 2012)
The downsides of using a nickname, pseudonym, fake or corporate identity is that it may make your portfolio difficult to search for by friends or others interested in you, personally. It may also be perceived to lack credibility when assessed using criteria commonly used by your Visual or Fine Arts educators. Lastly, it leaves you open to identity theft; unscrupulous learners may use your real name to create a fake profile  and portfolio for you!

1. Biographic information guidelines.

1.1 Portfolio title: The title of your portfolio is very important; it is not only shown on every page of your portfolio, but is the first thing displayed by search engines and is the bookmark title for other people saving your site. You should consider using your first and last name in the title, as well as a short descriptor for the type of online portfolio you have created. For example; "Severus Snape's E-portfolio" or "Pippa Riddle's School Art". 

1.2 Name: While you should use your regular name in the title, you should not use your middle names (i.e. "Severus Malcolm Payne Snape") as the benefits of this are generally outweighed by potential threats to your identity's security (middle names being typically used for official purposes).

1.3 About:  First decide whether you are writing in the first, or being written about in the third, person (click to see good examples of this). To kickstart your profile, consider adding an appropriate salutation to welcome viewers; for example “Welcome, stranger.” Not quite, but you get my drift...

While it is then tempting to write many, many words, please remember that your audience may be willing to only give you a short time. So, try to stick to 350 words as a rough guideline. It is also a good idea to first write your creative profile in software that spell-checks and gives you a word count. You can then cut-and-paste your text into your "about" section.

In writing a creative profile, do your best to stick to discussing your; creative aims, artistic interests and how these relate to your portfolioJust as Facebook shows your profile primarily to friends, Carbonmade provides yours to those interested primarily in your visual creativity. They are probably not interested in the fact that you play first team, like to party, are a chess whiz, etc. Remember, if your interests are not shown by your art, it's probably of limited interest to them. So, avoid going off topic; only discuss your sporting, musical, political, school or home achievements if relevant to your portfolio's artworks. Also avoid duplication of content; such as your name, which already appears in the page's "portfolio title" and "name".

As a learner, it's particularly important to protect your privacy: avoid putting in your age and information about your school. This information has NO relevance to your audience and could attract the wrong kinds of attention. Rather be general and say that you are a "secondary school learner from Cape Town".

You should update the "about" section of your profile repeatedly as you develop and mature. Read your "about" description aloud. What are the salient points? Does it flow well; with no repetitive or otherwise irrelevant information? Make the effort to rewrite your profile several times; checking that there is correspondence between what you write and what is in your portfolio. For example, if you mention that you are passionate about a particular style of art, artworks in this style must be featured!

1.4 Linking: You may already have other online presences that you want to link from within your "about" description. If so, you can add hyperlinks from their web address text under "about". You must check that each link works well, though. It is inconvenient for your viewers if they don't, whilst making you look seem incompetent.

1.5 Profile picture:  Here you need to choose whether your photo is for communication or for "art". If you want to communicate to your audience what you look like, it's probably easiest to upload a self-portrait photo of yourself. If it's for art, take the time to create something that is clever and well-executed. Whatever your choice, it will be displayed under the search results for your portfolio, so encourage your viewers to click further by using quality imagery, not a poor quality short-cut. P.S. Google search "worst profile pictures" for examples of what not to do, or watch "Link's Golden Advice for Single Guys". Girls, it'll help you too!

2. Contact detail guidelines.

2.1 Location: Letting people know that you live in the Western Cape Province, Cape Town (for example) is sufficient. Providing them with anything more is too much information, i.e. Suburb: Nobody needs to know. Street address: Especially you, Mr Stalker!

2.2 Contact details: The same applies with your contact information; if you provide your email address for viewers to get in touch, let your educator and parents know. While email contact may be safer than publishing your mobile and/or home phone numbers, your viewers do not need your contact details upfront, so why make them available for abuse? Rather wait for an email query, whose legitimacy you, your educator and parents should check, before providing phone numbers.

3. Abilities guidelines.

3.1 Available for freelance: While it is tempting to show this button, you need to do a reality check that (a) you produce work good enough to freelance and (b) you have the time to do school work, homework and freelance work? In the unlikely case that you answered "yes" to both questions, go ahead.

3.2 Areas of expertise: List the basic disciplines you are being trained in (or are exploring in extra-mural activities), here. Your school-based areas of expertise may be: "drawing", "painting" & "design". If you do "photography" as an extra-mural activity, list it here. Similarly, if you have done a printing workshop, you could add the discipline ‘printmaking’, too.

3.3 Skills: Under the ‘Skills’ heading, list the specific techniques/media/tools you are well-versed in using. This could include specific media/techniques such as "acrylic painting", "drawing in charcoal", etc. As you learn and master new techniques/media/tools, etc, you should add them under skills.

4. Important assessment criteria that your online portfolio's profile should meet.

4.1 Searchability: Carbonmade features over 470,000 individuals portfolios. If you want to increase the chances of yours being viewed by others, you need to check that your portfolio is easy to search for AND produces an attractive search result that a viewers would want to click. If not, you need to modify your profile's "name", "picture" and "expertise" to improve it:

For example, check out the search result for "Grame Metcalf" below:






First, it's interesting that you cannot search for him by his portfolio title's name ("grabbins" does not produce a result), but only by the real name "Grame Metcalf" he uses under his profile's "name" field.

Although his work has been selected as a Carbonmade featured portfolio, he can still improve its search result's appearance: to do this, he should experiment with a new profile picture which would display better behind the "name", "projects", "images" and "expertise" texts.

4.2 Credibility, integrity and honesty: By ensuring that your profile is thorough and informative, you build credibility with your viewers. Your portfolio's honesty is enhanced by ensuring that the content in your profile page corresponds with what you've uploaded in your project folders. Lastly, by featuring only information that is relevant to your creative work and giving due credit to your influences, you can also simultaneously increase the credibility of your online portfolio and its profile.

I trust that these guidelines proved useful to you? If you have any questions or suggestions for improving them, I'd appreciate you adding them in the comments box below. Thank you.

References
Kirkpatrick, D. (2010). The Facebook Effect: the Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World. Virgin Books, Great Britain.

Allen, B. & Coleman, K. (2011). The creative graduate: Cultivating and assessing creativity with eportfolios. In G. Williams, P. Statham, N. Brown & B. Cleland (Eds.), Changing Demands, Changing Directions. Proceedings ascilite Hobart 2011. (pp.59-69).

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