Today we chat with Tanmay Desai the co-founder of Creative Connect, a free platform for New Zealand creatives to showcase their portfolio and connect with the local creative community. Tanmay shares some killer advice on presenting your work to create a standout portfolio, along with how he started in the New Zealand creative industry. Exciting!
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I went to Auckland University of Technology and started off with a Certificate in Computer Graphic Design, then moved on to a Bachelor in Art & Design majoring in graphic design. I started freelancing after finishing my Certificate course and never stopped picking up the odd job here and there throughout my Bachelor.
One of the first jobs I ever did was to work in a Pre-press studio. It was a tiny studio in an industrial area of Auckland and I worked closely with the business owner. I was a Mac-op and also helped in making plates through the (then very new) computer to plate technology. It was quite nerve recking as each plate was quite costly and I really had to be careful in placing it inside the machine, so the alignment of all plates was spot on. Other jobs throughout my student days included working as a in-house designer at a company that created cloud based softwares and doing the odd bit of freelance branding work for mates.
Any passion projects you would like to share? past, present or future?
I’ve been lucky to get the opportunity to see the New Zealand industry from various points of view. As a student, an employee, a freelancer and a business owner. What became clear to me towards the later part of my career, is that there were a few aspects of the local industry that could be evolved further, for the benefit of the wider creative community.
This resulted in me founding Creative Connect. A passion project I started in June 2015 with good friend and crazy talented developer Ovidii Alexeenco. Creative Connect is a free platform where creatives can create a profile and upload their portfolio of work from any creative discipline. It’s an effort to make New Zealand creatives more accessible to the local industry, while also helping bridge the gap between students & the industry by providing helpful tips (the latter being a passion we share with TDK!). There is also a built-in messaging system within the site to encourage dialogue between creatives across disciplines, schools and cities.
What advice would you give students starting out?
I’d get them to ask themselves a question to begin with: How hungry are they to work in the creative sector? Because in my opinion it’s the attitude and passion that ends up being a huge factor in them being successfully employed.
Network within the school: Your faculty is a goldmine of industry contacts. Ask them for advice or whether they can help you get some freelance work. Network with people who are not in the creative industry. These people are known as potential clients. Call up studios/creatives you really want to work with and send them a link to your online portfolio/profile. Follow up with a phone call to see someone face to face, to get industry advice (or a job). Present your work as ‘awesomely’ as possible. Not everyone can afford a studio photo-shoot to present their body of student/industry work. However, there are heaps of resources available online that enable you to really make a huge difference in the presentation of work. Start with getting an online portfolio you can easily email the link to.
What do you look for in a great portfolio?
This obviously varies with the role, discipline and seniority. Here are some things I used to look for when viewing student/graduate portfolios who apply for a graphic design role (while I was running my own studio):
1. How did I happen to see the portfolio. This is often overlooked but in most cases it’s how the creative approached us. Did they email us and call to say they’d love to work with us – or was it when we put up a job ad and it came in along with the 200 other applicants.
2. Does the work show strong conceptual thinking or does it show beautifully crafted work with surface level concept. Both are great options at this level as you can learn either or on the job (best to show signs of both).
3. Presentation of portfolio & what you say in your covering letter.
Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and what do you think some of the issues are in the design industry that need fixing in 2015?
Through Creative Connect we’ll be providing practical tips that will help bridge the gap between students & the industry. This is something I feel needs fixing in the industry. Also, would be great to see more and more industry leaders and creatives on the rise give lectures & talks at schools. This is also something we plan to initiate through Creative Connect. I’m happy to help give advice to students or connect them with people who are better placed to do so. Creatives can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
What has been your highlights since you started out?
During the official launch of Creative Connect at Semi-Permanent (in July 2015) I snapped up the opportunity to interview a true super star of the international design community – Michael Bierut! We spoke at length about his views on the world of design and what he looks for in a creative portfolio and CV as his role as a partner at Pentagram. I’ll be publishing the article on Creative Connect soon.