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Let go of the leave-behinds

[Hey students! is a multi-part series. Read the rest.]

When you’re in the classroom, you imagine that life as a professional is just like life as a student. Or, at least, you prefer to imagine it that way. Even though, buried deep inside your thoughtful designer brain, you know you’re kidding yourself.

Some of your classroom experiences translate into the real world and others don’t. Every moment that you spend designing is worthwhile, but each finished piece isn’t necessarily going to help you outside the classroom. One particular project, although it promises to be especially relevant in the real world, usually isn’t. This generally useless project, dear students, is the leave-behind.

A leave-behind is the piece that you give to someone after an interview. It usually contains samples of work and is often engineered into a 3D contraption of some kind. They’re intended to be an impressive showcase of your talents. Presumably, you expect us keep it around for awhile – perhaps toying around with it during our afternoon tea break.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work that way. Because of the limited size and budget, the leave-behind rarely showcases your work very well. Because they’re inexpensive and assembled by hand, they usually look like they’re inexpensive and assembled by hand. And because we don’t have much downtime (even for afternoon tea breaks), your leave-behind probably doesn’t stick around as long as you think it does.

I’m not suggesting that every leave-behind is a waste of time. (We’ve seen some great ones in the past.) And, I realize that we may be contradicting your instructors and/or curriculum. So just keep this in mind: leave-behinds typically don’t work that well in the real world, and they’re likely not a great way to represent yourself.

Nothing shows your work as well as your actual portfolio, and if we’d like to see more of your work, your website is the best substitute. You’re better off investing your time and effort a useful online portfolio.

4 Comments

25 May 2010

Reply

This kinda makes me wonder where mine went!!!

8 Nov 2010

Reply

Thank you. I’m working on a leave behind right now(for a senior class), and I sensed(before reading this) that it could be a bit of a waste of time…

I really do think the resume(designed) and business card(designed) are good “leave behinds” in themselves!

I also only plan on doing a leave behind if I feel the employer is one I truly wish to work for, as it is labor intensive. This gave me a breath of relief, and again sir I thank you!

. . .

Reply

Glad to hear it, Elizabeth. The time you’ll save is more valuable for doing just about anything else.

15 Apr 2012

Reply

Yes the online portfolio is the number one extra selling point you need for yourself. But your just one person not interested in the leave behind. I just finished school and before I graduated I took a portfolio class and we visited different businesses around the area and went on a few longer trips to ones a little further away. Talked to everyone from former students that are now working in design firms to art directors for popular magazines. Only a few said they just wanted to see online portfolios. 80% of them said that a leave behind is very necessary if they were going to consider you for the job because so many prefer to have something of yours that they can hold in there hand. Yes it will most likely get tossed out, but it’s necessary. Also if it’s poorly made, then ya it probably wont make you look good. But with the resources students have available and with a little skill and effort you can put together something very simple that is very well made. Just don’t be lazy and only put a few minutes into the design of the leave behind.

17 Jul 2019

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