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Charlene Chandrasekaran: Creating an Unrestrained Portfolio

Since 2015, Squarespace has proudly worked alongside global educational charity D&AD to connect creatives and elevate their work. This year, we partnered on our second annual ‘By the Book’ video series for D&AD’s first online-only New Blood Digital Festival, aimed at empowering and supporting emerging talent in a remote economy.

In a world where a digital presence is often also a first impression, we asked industry leaders to answer the question that students, graduates, and job seekers are all considering: what makes a strong portfolio?

For Droga5 Creative Director, Charlene Chandrasekaran, a strong portfolio reflects the reality that less is often more—and how a person speaks about their work says everything.

No matter the scope of a career, Chandrasekaran believes a limited selection of projects that cover large and small brands is enough to help an agency understand your creative thinking process, and what you have to offer. Overall, it’s most important for a portfolio to capture individuality. Incorporating side projects—anything created or ideated outside of daily work life—can be the key to making a portfolio truly stand out. For Chandrasekaran, “personality definitely sings in those little areas,” and helps a body of work become memorable.

When it comes to talking about your work—whether that’s in an in-person interview, or in the text that accompanies a project in your portfolio—Chandrasekaran explains that it’s important to acknowledge that every brief is a collaboration, and that “you win and fail as a team.” When reviewing portfolios and interviewing candidates, she looks for people who speak about their work collaboratively, and who nod to the rest of the team that helped make it all possible. 

Ultimately, she notes that, in her experience as an employer, “we’re looking for something more than what we’re doing.” A portfolio that is liberated from the constraints of briefs and pushes the boundaries of creative ideas will always capture her attention. At the end of the day, she explains, “I’d rather see something funny and wrong, than boring and right.” Taking risks, displaying your individual talents, and acknowledging teamwork are all key components to a strong portfolio. 

To learn each of Chandrasekaran’s five tips for building your portfolio, watch the full video above. For more guidance from industry leaders, explore the rest of our ‘By the Book’ video series.

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