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Donna Payne on Storytelling Through Illustration

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 Creative Director of Faber and Faber, Donna Payne, a portfolio that stands out is clear and impactful, displaying artistic and creative growth.  

She outlines three aspects of what makes a great illustration: a good concept, execution, and a story. Illustrators are not only artists, they must also be “problem solvers and not mere image makers.” Payne emphasizes the importance of creative individuality and direction: the ability to take an idea and run with it. 

A portfolio must flex your strongest muscles and exhibit your greatest pieces of artwork. As you would with social platforms, your website needs to be updated accordingly, especially if designs show artistic development and growth. As Payne explains, “if it shows development or an area you’re moving into, remember to keep updating your site to reflect where you are right now.” It’s important for art directors to know the area of work you’re showing interest in and being commissioned into. 

In your site layout, Payne encourages artists to keep the design simple and fun, allowing it to reflect your creative personality. If you’re in the process of experimental work, she advises creating a separate folder that is password protected. This way, you can manually send your in-progress work to those who have a strong interest in it, creating a safe space for the art that may lie beyond your typical collection. 

Payne’s top tips for creating a stand-out portfolio include being focused, doing your research, displaying your best work, and not over complicating simplicity.


To learn more about Donna Payne’s expert and creative portfolio advice, 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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