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  • Writer's pictureJanet Federico

Review: InDesign Your Portfolio by Genna Blackburn


InDesign Your Portfolio Class Image

Like many pattern designers, I’ve been told repeatedly that I need to have a portfolio. I’d taken Leverage Your Art with Stacie Bloomfield and had her templates in hand, but was floundering around with which platform to use.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to learn yet another Adobe product. I’d created a less-than-stellar portfolio in Canva which I absolutely hated using for this project because I didn’t have enough control over how my patterns were displayed.

So, when Genna Blackburn’s free course, Path to Portfolio, launched, I leaned in to see what she had to say. Most of the free course was the same soup on a different day about what needs to go into a portfolio. But, the moment she said that with InDesign, you can publish your portfolio once and any subsequent changes you make will be reflected automatically, I was sold. I signed up for InDesign Your Portfolio, her signature course, paid my $497 and waited for the course to launch.

What the Course Does Well

No Drip Pacing

If you read my review of Leverage Your Art, you know I’m not a fan of drip pacing. I get why teachers do this, but given my schedule, I prefer to get access all at once so I can flow with my downtime. Genna gives you full access to the entire course upfront. Made my day.

Design Industry Term Discussion

One of the most helpful discussions in the class is the one where she goes into depth about the differences between portfolios, brand books, wholesale catalogs, etc. This was something that had continued to confuse me a bit. I understood what a portfolio was as opposed to a wholesale catalog, but brand books, lookbooks, etc., these terms were still a bit cloudy for me. Genna helped clear that up.

Portfolio Breakdown

Genna breaks down the elements of a portfolio in detail. For anyone who hasn’t created a portfolio before, this is a critical discussion. Because of my time with Leverage, I was familiar with what a portfolio needed, but I still found Genna’s perspective helpful.

Chunking of Content

Genna does a great job of chunking her content. I spent several years designing eLearning courses for the State of Texas and as part of my curriculum design training, we learned that most humans have an average active attention span of eight minutes. After that, they need to engage with the content in some way practically. We also learned that the average human can only hold approximately four pieces of information in their mind at any one time. So, the fact that Genna’s videos average around 15 minutes and each one is on a single topic is perfect.

Module on Typography

I happen to be a typography geek and have been studying it since 1996 when I designed my first website. I have serious pet peeves around typography, so the fact that Genna took the time to detail the fundamentals of modern typography made my heart sing.

Module on Pitching

If you’re creating a portfolio, you probably want to pitch it. Genna’s module on pitching is very helpful and I’m even exploring Airtable now to support my own pitch efforts.

Portfolio Review

This is a true value-add for the course. It’s an in-depth portfolio review (over an hour long) and it’s so helpful to see and hear this as you’re contemplating your own work.

What Could Be Improved

Support for the Course

When I signed up, I somehow missed — or blocked out — that active support for the course was only six weeks. I signed up because enrollment had a limited time frame, but I knew when I did that I was going to have a hard time fitting it into my schedule right then. I planned to work on it as I could. So, I was dismayed to realize that support was going to end when I was only halfway through. Yes, you can always search the archived Facebook group, but it’s not the same thing. Some students in the same boat as me created our own group, but it didn’t see much activity. Since the course is asynchronous and people are doing it at different times and schedules, a continuous Facebook group would be a value add here.

Bonuses

Most of the bonuses are videos without audio showing examples of the profiled artist's design collateral. Stacie Bloomfield does a wholesale catalog, the rest do portfolios. Only Lissie Teehee has audio and speaks to her process at all. It’s great to see samples, but hearing the why behind the design decisions is much more valuable in my mind. The lack of audio on the bonuses is a big fail for me.

Collateral

The only collateral Genna provides are a few PDF checklists to help you get organized around your work. For the price paid, I was underwhelmed. Some sample templates would have been a value add. Free mockups to use in your portfolio would be an amazing thing to give away, especially since Genna advocates for them in your portfolio. For the cost of the course, the scarcity of value-added collateral was disappointing.

Price

The cost of this course when I took it was $497. That’s a car payment in my world. If I’m giving that much money to something I want value for my money. Maybe Leverage Your Art spoiled me; there was so much content and collateral in that course. Even still, I’ve taken courses under $200 that gave more value-added collateral than InDesign Your Portfolio. When you compare what you receive to what you pay, the course lets you down a bit.

Verdict: Overpriced

My honest opinion is that this course is overpriced. When I consider how to price something, I ask the question, “What am I providing that my consumer can’t get anywhere else?” In this case, anyone can learn InDesign fundamentals for free using Adobe’s tutorials. So, it’s really the surface design portfolio-specific content that people are paying for. The blink-and-you-miss-it bonuses just don’t bridge the gap for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is great content in here, but taken as a whole, this is more a portfolio masterclass than a signature course in my book.


 

Janet Federico, MBA, MFA is a licensed artist, award-winning author, and speaker from Washington, DC now based in the Midwest. Her art has been exhibited at the Wichita Art Museum, the Wilson K. Cadman Art Gallery, City Arts, and InterUrban Art House. Janet’s writing has been featured in Elephant Journal, Writer’s Digest, and The Mighty. Want more? Get Janet in your inbox.



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