There are two ways to use email to distribute your portfolio. The first is as an advertising conduit: providing a URL where your work can be downloaded or viewed online. The second, the email attachment, is more like a traditional direct mail sample. With it, you can target prospects individually with a fairly small outlay of time and energy. Because you don’t have to design and build an interface to deliver your work, almost anyone can send a portfolio attachment.
There are very few negatives to attachments, but they are worth considering nonetheless. First, you need to keep their purpose in mind. Attachments should be little teasers. If successful, they should lead to a presentation, either in person with a physical portfolio or laptop, or as a high-resolution movie player download. They should not constitute your only foray into the portfolio world. They are also an awful move for anyone who is applying for web-based design work and should obviously have provided a URL.
Designer Jason Ring uses the concept of the T-shaped person—a person with a deep principal skill and a native curiousity about things outside it—coined by IDEO’s Tim Brown, as his lead-off and framing device for the PDF portfolio he sends to prospective clients. It creates the perfect teaser for his portfolio presentation—clever, well-designed, memorable—and smaller than 3MB, even though it’s 25 pages long.
Second, standards for email attachments have risen now that most people can receive large attached files. For 2D images the expected format is a PDF file. PDFs are familiar to everyone, Adobe Reader is ubiquitous, and a PDF can be locked to prevent unauthorized appropriation of your work (see Chapter 12, “Copyright and Portfolio”). All of these good points, however, require that you own an application that generates PDF files (like Adobe applications InDesign, Illustrator, or Acrobat Professional). Designers (industrial, graphic, or architectural) and illustrators should have no problem with this. They should also be well-positioned to make their PDF a coherent design project as well (see Chapter 7, “Repurposing and Optimizing,” for some PDF format guidelines).
What if you don’t have strong design experience? You could still enlist a design friend or partner to set up a template file that you can update easily when you want to just add text or new images. If that’s not possible, you can move images into Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote and provide a slide show player. Slideshows can be a great solution for a photographer, artist, or illustrator, as long as the size of the finished file stays within a mailable size (see Chapter 9 for more on this option).
A last possibility is an FTP (file transfer protocol) site—owned by you or, most likely, provided as a service—where you can upload your work. Dropbox (www.getdropbox.com) is one service that has an enthusiastic and growing group of users. By grouping your material thoughtfully, you can offer access to different work examples based on who you have contacted. Some FTP services provide security that allows invited guests to view, but not download or change, the content. Most, however, do not, and once you have issued an invitation, it can be shared by the invitees until you remove them or shut the access down. On the other hand, it could be a great way to share a high-resolution movie file without having to maintain a personal website or other online presence.