Burn Your Portfolio PDF by Michael Janda
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Table of Contents
Burn Your Portfolio PDF
Burn Your Portfolio teaches the real-world practices, professional do’s and don’ts, and unwritten rules of business that most designers, photographers, web designers, copy writers, programmers, and architects only learn after putting in years of experience on the job.
Michael Janda, owner of the Utah-based design firm Riser, uses humor to dispense nugget after nugget of hard-won advice collected over the last decade from the personal successes and failures he has faced running his own agency. In this surprisingly funny, but incredibly practical advice guide, Janda’s advice on teamwork and collaboration, relationship building, managing clients, bidding work, production processes, and more will resonate with creative professionals of all stripes.
Table of Content
Burn Your Portfolio…Really?
Section 1: Human Engineering
Behavior, work ethic, and social prowess have as much to do with your
success as your ability to beat Photoshop senselessly into submission.
1) The Big Fat Secret
2) The Extra Mile
3) Soak Up Advice
4) You Are Not Your Work
5) Be Nice to Everyone
6) Drama Is for Soap Operas
7) No More Flying Solo
8) Gripes Go Up
9) The Stress Bucket
10) Two Types of Grandpas
11) Be a Wall Painter
12) Every Position Can Be Electrifying
13) Lead or Be Led
14) Half the Victory
15) The Value of Downtime
16) I’m Not a Writer
17) Toot Your Own Horn
18) Don’t Work in a Vacuum
19) The Graphic Design Megazord
20) Live as a Team, Die as a Team
21) Everyone Does Something Better Than You
22) You Are Responsible for Your Own Time
Section 2: Art Smarts
The best designers take “luck” out of the equation. Smart processes,
strategies, and techniques will help you create a masterpiece every time.
23) OCD Is an Attribute
24) Polishing Turds
25) Hairy Moles
26) This Is Not Verbatimville
27) Shock and Awe
28) Art Is Meant to Be Framed
29) It Is Never Too Late for a Better Idea
30) Filler Failures
31) A River Runs Through It
32) Comps or Comprehensive?
33) Design Like the Wind
34) Type Fast
35) How to Eat an Elephant
36) The Venus Initiative
38) Hiking Your Way to Successful Projects
39) Solving End-of-Day Rush
40) Why Projects Blow Up
41) The Lo-Fi PDA
42) Bring Out Your Dead
43) Shake the Bushes or Get Bit
44) Red Flags and Extinguishers
45) Brainstorms Are 90 Percent Bad Ideas
46) The Communal Brain
Section 3: Two Ears, One Mouth
Sometimes a creative professional will actually have to take off their
headphones and interact with another human being.
47) The Ultimate Email Formula
48) Beware the Red Dot
49) Email Black Holes
50) Even the Lone Ranger Had Tonto
51) Canned Communication
52) Tin Can Phones
53) Vicious Vernacular
54) An Army of Support
55) Friendly Updates
56) Deadline Ballet
57) Big Brother
58) The Domino Effect
59) Avoid the W.W.W.
60) Be Afraid to Click “Send”
61) The Tragedy of Time Zones
Section 4: Happy Head Honchos
Everyone has to answer to someone. It might be a boss. It might be a client.
It might even be your mom. Learning how to handle superiors tactfully will
open the doors of success.
62) Designers Are from Mars, Clients Are from Venus
63) Let Your Client Leave Their Mark
64) “Forgiveness” Points
65) Let Your Client Be the 800-Pound Gorilla
66) Do Your Genealogy
67) Never Give Your Client Homework
68) Assume That People Are Clueless
69) Long-Term Relationship Value vs. Single Transaction Profit
70) Oddities at the Start Mean Oddities at the End
71) Don’t Be the Desperate Girlfriend
72) Stand in Manure, Smell Like Manure
73) Never Fire a Client?
74) “We Decided to Go Another Direction” Means “You Suck”
75) There Are Such Things as Stupid Questions
76) You Can’t Get Mad at Math
77) You Have 65 Seconds to Land a Job
78) How to Ask for a Raise Without Asking for a Raise
Section 5: Mind Your Business
Working as a designer without any business training is like jumping from
an airplane without parachute training. Something bad is going to happen.
79) Do What You Love; the Money Will Follow
80) A Business That Looks Orderly
81) Making Cents of It All
82) How to Calculate a Burn Rate
83) The Fixed-Bid Pricing Dartboard
84) Beware of Line-Item Pricing
85) “No Charge” Doesn’t Mean “Free”
86) How to Flush Out a Budget
87) Twenty-Piece Chicken McNuggets
88) Nonprofits for Non-Profit
89) The Code of Fair Practice
90) Contractual Mumbo Jumbo
91) “Etcetera” Has No Business in Your Business
92) You Don’t Have to Sign Off on This
93) B.A.M. Lists
94) One Line That Changed Everything about Collections
95) A Business Is an Organism That Wants to Die
96) If I’ve Got a Dollar, You’ve Got a Dollar, but No Partners
97) If You Want to Win the Game, You Have to Know the Score
98) There Is No Such Thing as a “Meet and Greet”
99) How to Make a Capabilities Presentation
100) Floods Happen
101) Flexibility, Not Freedom
102) Never Do Undocumented Work
103) Next Worry Date
104) Nickels and Dimes Are for Lemonade Stands
105) Only Terrorists Like Hostage Situations
106) Oh Where, Oh Where Has My $100K Gone? Oh Where, Oh Where
Can It Be?
107) Don’t Do Anything You Can Pay Someone $10 Per Hour to Do
108) “Skin in the Game” Usually Means “Free”
109) Three-Month “Lifetime” Guarantee
110) “Being Your Own Boss,” Whatever That Means
111) How to Bite the Bullet
About the Author
Burn Your Portfolio…Really?
With my diploma still warm from Indiana University, I grabbed my enormous, faux-leather student portfolio and hit the streets. I knew my destiny would land me at a hoity-toity agency where I would be a star designer, dazzling clients on high-profile campaigns for the most recognized brands in the world. One tearful month later, after the humbling task of job hunting—applying to agencies, getting a few interviews, and landing nowhere—I accepted my first job in the industry: prepress coordinator for the local AlphaGraphics copy center. At nine dollars per hour, I was the star designer all right. Nobody could center text on a perforated sheet of business cards and feed them into a photocopier better than me. With a Midwest work ethic and a motto of “OCD Is an Attribute,” it took me four short years to progress from my illustrious copy center job to a senior creative director position at Fox Studios. At Fox, I managed the design, development, and editorial elements of the Fox Kids and Fox Family websites. Burn Your Portfolio PDF
The dot bomb and the dismantling of our division at Fox launched me into a four-year freelance stint that would provide me with an income level well beyond any expectations I had upon finishing my college degree and that afforded me all of my “wants” as well as my “needs.” When the freelance load became too much to handle on my own, my wife forced me to hire people. Seventeen salaried employees later and over a decade of history, my acclaimed agency, Riser, boasts clients like Google, Disney, NBC, National Geographic, and Warner Bros.Burn Your Portfolio PDF
I have been privileged to interview, manage, and hire hundreds of designers and programmers throughout the course of my career. One thing I know for certain is that your graphic design portfolio is a critical element to get you in the door of prospective employers and clients. Design schools know it and spend 90 percent of their efforts teaching students the skills they need to put together an awesome portfolio prior to graduation.Burn Your Portfolio PDF
The other thing I know for certain is that, while a design school spends 90 percent of their effort making students capable of creating a killer portfolio, once you’re in the door your portfolio is not 90 percent of what will make you actually successful in a creative career. In fact, it isn’t even close to the only thing that will lead you to success. Teamwork, client skills, communication, social aptitude, production speed, and business savvy all play a GIGANTIC part in what will make you successful as a graphic designer, whether your aspirations include freelancing, working for an agency, or managing your own firm. (Free PDF books)
This book is dedicated to teaching those types of skills…the stuff they don’t teach you in design school, but should. Burn your portfolio? OK, so maybe that statement is a tad extreme. However, the lessons I’ve learned that are contained in this book are every bit as critical as your ability to create award-winning design. Learn them. Apply them. Couple these techniques with your killer portfolio, and find a new level of success in the real business of graphic design
Review – Burn Your Portfolio PDF
“The straightforward and funny advice in Janda’s book is what most people learn only after toiling in the corporate trenches for years. (Um, how dare he share ALL our secrets?!) I hope he’s charging at least a year’s worth of school tuition for this book. Seriously, take copious notes on the practical suggestions offered here to help steer your own career, whether it’s your first job or your 15th freelance gig. The drama-free work approach and leadership style outlined in Burn Your Portfolio is what makes working with him and all the folks at his company, Riser, FUN and worthy of the cupcakes we send to celebrate each of our successes together.”—Michelle SullivanVP Digital, Kids & Family Publishing and Media, National Geographic (aka 800 pound Gorilla Client)
“This book should be a mandatory course at art schools…no, at all schools! The message transcends occupation; it’s about maneuvering through the unspoken rules and dynamics of various personalities in your workplace. Mike is a perfect person to deliver this message; his long-term relationships and success of his business are the true testimony of his skills on managing up, down, and sideways. Your talent alone will take you nowhere if your character doesn’t support it. If you want longevity in your field, this book is a must-read.”—Jane BhangConsulting Art Director, Sony Pictures Entertainment
“I wish I could take every designer I’ve ever worked with and smack them over the head with this book…which would hurt, because it’s big! After that, I’d tell them to read it cover to cover, because Michael Janda will show them how to stop making the business mistakes nearly everyone in design is making.”—Dave CrenshawAuthor of The Myth of Multitasking and The Focused Business
“Do you want to supercharge your design career? Drop that Wacom pen and immediately pick up Burn Your Portfolio, and read it cover to cover. Michael Janda clearly outlines practical, actionable advice that will make your design business better, your clients happier, and your teams more productive. Even if you’re a freelancer just striking out on your own—no, especially if you are—the insights, truisms, and humor in this book will prove to be valuable tools in your design arsenal.”—Marc SirySVP, Media Products, NBC Universal
“I’ve worked with Michael and Riser for many years, and the thing that differentiates Michael and his team from other agencies is their ability to speak my language versus design speak! Michael and his company Riser are not only super-creative, they are total professionals. Communication is a big reason why Michael and his team are so successful at what they do. They are good at not only listening to a client who is not a designer and is trying to convey the details of a project, but also on working with the client to get the job done well, on time, and also on budget. I can’t think of a better person to give advice to designers who need to work with clients in the real world.”—Melissa Van MeterVP, Marketing & Advertising, TV Guide Network
Review – Burn Your Portfolio PDF
I did a full review of this book on my website pdn9.com, and then realized I should share the review with others considering buying it on Amazon.
Amount of Content 7/10
Value of Content (Usefulness) 7/10
Originality of Content 8/10
Relevance of Content (To a Product Designer) 7/10
Entertainment Level 7/10
Length of Read 8/10
I just finished reading Michael Janda’s book, Burn Your Portfolio, Stuff They Don’t Teach You In Design School, But Should. This book’s score of a 7.3 is pretty good, especially considering it was written by a graphic designer for graphic designers and I’m a product designer.
This book doesn’t grind down into the technical processes in creating digital art, rather Janda focuses on widely-applicable skills and habits that nearly all successful entrepreneurs have. A visual indication that I enjoyed this book is all of the shreds of post-it notes marking pages I found particularly helpful. Burn Your Portfolio PDF
For those unfamiliar with Michael Janda, he’s the owner and operator of renowned design agency Riser. As an independent designer and director of Riser, Michael Janda has worked with clients that freelancers and agencies dream about having. Riser has proven profitable and grown year after year, and Janda’s ability to understand design as a service as well as business is apparent. I’m very glad he took the time to share what he’s come to learn and publish it into a great book for everyone to learn from. Now, let’s look at why it scored the way it did.
Amount of Content
Although this book is only 361 pages long, there are a lot of words on those pages, haha. Not sure how else to say it. This book is just incredibly dense. Little room is wasted and the book is deceivingly heavy. I’ll go ahead and pretend that the weight is indicative of the amount of information contained within. There’s plenty of information in this book in my opinion.
Value of Content
I gave this category a 7 of 10. I found the content quite valuable. One way I’d find to improve this category is to include more actionable steps rather than high-level ideas and concepts. Another reason I only gave it a 7 in this category is because the book is really intended for graphic designers. Being a product designer, some of the content wasn’t that valuable to me as it simply didn’t relate. Burn Your Portfolio PDF
Originality of Content
This book is full of original content. That’s why it scored an 8 in this category. Michael’s take on design is that it’s a services. People skills matter in services and so he focuses on how to improve as a business owner and a human who’s paid to provide a service. He pulls lots of experience from his own life which makes it entertaining and original. He also shares what he’s seen work and not work. Finally, there’s lots of concepts from other successful business owners and authors in this book, but Janda discusses exactly how it applies to designer. Burn Your Portfolio PDF
Relevance of Content
This is a bit surprising. I’d think the relevance would be a 5 or 6, but I felt it deserved a 7. Again, since it’s geared toward graphic designers, I was impressed. As a product designer I got lots of great insights on how to improve as a designer, a communicator and consultant. The merit of thoroughness and hard work is talked about in an uplifting way in this book.
Another 7 for this category. It’s not as entertaining as an adventure or thriller book, but then again, it’s about business as a designer. For the subject matter, it’s well-written. There are some funny stories, but perhaps most useful are the actual experiences Michael shares which are inspiring as he’s had a very successful career. Burn Your Portfolio PDF
Length of Read
I assigned an 8 for this category as it took me a while to read this book. It’s got many short chapters (over 100), so it’s pretty easy to pick the book up, knock off a few chapters and then put it down. Also, at 361 copy-heavy pages, there is a generous amount of content between the two covers of this book.
Seven again! This book is perhaps a bit more aspirational than inspirational. Being pretty young in my career, Janda’s accomplishments are more like milestones I’d like to hit than things I’m about to go do. The evidence he provides that a thorough, hard-work approach will take you far is inspiring and all the practices he mentions provides some sort of blueprint no matter where you’re at in your career as a designer… unless you’re Mr. Janda. (If that’s the case, thank you so much for reading!!)
Burn Your Portfolio is a fantastic book. It’s full of original information that provides a look into the design business through the eyes of an agency owner. this is valuable to anyone who ever wishes to be more than just a production artist. I think there are loads of valuable resources for Product designers and (other) designers alike. It’s reminded me how my clients deserve to be treated and provided some stepping stones to advance my own career.
As I walk down the memory lane of experiences that led to the creation of this book, I see faces attached to moments in time. A few of these require mentioning here. First and foremost to my wife, Jodi, your undying support of my addiction to ambition has not gone unnoticed. In the brief moments that you have not been consulting with me on every aspect of my professional life, you have been managing our family, allowing me the freedom to achieve my successes in life. (Free PDF Books)
I would not be who I am without you. “Thank you” is an understatement. I love you. To my parents, Dennis and Nancy, thank you for teaching me good principles, instilling in me an expectation of success, and encouraging me to do something I love for a living. My in-laws, Gary and Connie Allen, you both have taught me life lessons that are referenced in the book. Burn Your Portfolio PDF
Thank you for supporting me as “one of your own.” Alan Rogers, in my early twenties I learned to be a leader, teacher, and manager under your great example and tutelage. Much of my success has come from the foundation you helped me establish. Sara Robbins, my high school art teacher, you made art so much fun I chose it as a career. Several coworkers (past and present), family members, and forever friends require mention. Jeff Jolley, Rachel Allen, Kris Kristensen, Marc Siry, Ray Woods, Thuy Tran, Grandpa Zwick, Eric Lee, Darrell Goff, Derek Ellis, John Thomas, Josh Child, and Mark Long: You drive me and inspire me to much greater heights. And to all the Janda Design Company, Jandaco, Riser Media, and Riser employees past, present, and future: Thank you for enduring the rough times when we had yet to solve all the challenges that faced our growing company. Sorry for the times we weren’t perfect…I was always striving with good intentions. Nick Jarvis, thank you for the wicked illustrations and collaboration on the design of the book. You are a rare talent. Jennah Mitchell, thank you for the first round of edits. You drove this book in a better direction. Jan Seymour, the development and copy editor on this book, you are amazing. You epitomize the “OCD Is an Attribute” principle. Finally, to the rest of the team at Peachpit Press and Nikki McDonald, thank you for believing in this book and convincing me not to name it “Polishing Turds.” 🙂
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About the Author
Michael Janda has been in most positions on the graphic design world org chart over his 16-year career. He has served as production artist, designer, freelancer, and creative director (including a few years as senior creative director over two of Fox’s Internet divisions). Since 2002, Janda has owned and operated his own agency, Riser, which boasts such high-profile clients as NBC, ABC, Fox, Google, National Geographic, Warner Bros., and Disney.
Michael Janda is an award-winning creative director, designer, agency owner, and author. In 2002, he founded the creative agency Riser, which provided design and development services for clients that included Disney, Google, Warner Bros., Fox, NBC, ABC, National Geographic, and many other high-profile brands. Following 13 successful years, Michael sold his agency in 2015. He now spends his time writing, speaking, and mentoring to help freelancers and agencies navigate the complex world of design.
Prior to founding his agency, Michael served as a Senior Creative Director at Fox Studios where he managed the design, editorial, and development teams for the Fox Kids and Fox Family brands.
Michael’s book, Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff They Don’t Teach You In Design School But Should, was published in 2013 and has been one of the top-selling design industry books since its release.
His work, book, and agency have received awards and recognition from Inc. 5000, FWA, Awwwards, HOW Magazine, Print Magazine, Ad News Magazine, Huffington Post, Promax/BDA, AIGA 100, Addy Awards, Webby Awards, and BusinessQ Magazine.