CAP 271 - Computer Animation Portfolio Project

Chapter 9 - Creating Written Content
(*this is chapter 8 in the second edition)


The text presents a discussion of preparing text documents for your portfolio. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Content
  2. Components
  3. Commentary
  4. Mechanics

The text begins chapter 9* with on observation that you need to use some basic skills when you write, regardless of your audience. Other chapters discuss what portfolio items to include. This chapter presents some suggestions about what standard personal documents to include and what standard information to provide about your work examples.

No matter what work samples you include in your portfolio, you should write some kind of explanation about them. The degree to which you explain them will vary with the audience you are writing for and the purpose of your writing. The author advises us that there are four main reasons to add written material to your portfolio. She has arranged them in descending order of necessity (first edition: page 164, second edition: page 166):

  • identify your work - work should have a title, so it can be discussed and referenced; work that was done for a client should identify the client (were you contracted by an agency or by a vendor?)
  • identify yourself - your portfolio is not your résumé, but it should include your résumé. The text offers suggestions about what to include in this document:
    • a brief summary of your work experience
    • educational data if you have just graduated; only a statement if you have had a job or two
    • an objective only if you are trying to change careers
    • a cover letter to introduce yourself, and to explain why they are receiving the portfolio (if you sent it to them)
  • explain your ideas and process - the level of detail to include in your process descriptions varies depending on the audience. Note the author's description of a design brief: a short explanation of the requirements and constraints for the project. Contrast that with her description of a case study: a full analysis of a problem and its solution. The first is better for the first contact with an employer, while the second is better in a second interview.
  • speak directly to your audience - as she has said before, the portfolio and its supplemental documents should be tailored to the audience

In any written material, some advice will always apply. Note that the author remembers portfolios that contained embarrassing mistakes in spelling, reference, and mechanics. She does not recall hiring the authors of that material.

  • To avoid this kind of problem, she recommends checking your spelling in every document electronically. This is a good start. Have someone else proof read your documents as well. An electronic spelling checker will never notice words you left out or words that do not belong where they are. It will only notice words that are not in its dictionary. Good spelling is necessary, but it is not the only requirement for good communication.
  • Some programs (e.g. MS Word) have grammar checkers that can be of some help. They are not a substitute for learning to use proper grammar. The author stops short of suggesting a reference for grammar. I have recently become aware that a handful of distinguished persons take issue with The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. They are welcome to their opinion. In my classroom, they will be invited to take their opinion elsewhere.
    The Elements of Style
    is an indispensable reference for any writer. You should own a copy, you should read it, and you should refer to it when in doubt about English grammar. There are web sites that contain the original work by Will Strunk, which is no longer protected by copyright. That version is nearly a hundred years old. The more recent versions include some modern references that are helpful with more modern questions, such as citing Internet references. Find it, borrow it, buy it, but above all, read it. When I think of Will Strunk, I am inspired to be a better writer. Read his work, and be a better writer.
  • The author tells us to avoid writing too much. We must learn to cut as well as to write. In the book referenced above, Professor Strunk wrote "omit needless words". According to legend, he illustrated the point by stepping to his lectern and speaking those three words to his class three times. He then sat down. That was the end of his brilliant lecture on the subject. He was given a standing ovation by the class.

Assignment: Add Documentation

  1. Unless you have already done so, add the elements discussed in this chapter to your portfolio.
  2. Refine your résumé as noted above. Remember that this does not have to be the only version of your résumé, it is just the one for the portfolio you are building.
  3. Provide a draft of the commentary you plan to put with each work example in your portfolio to me. This document can also serve as an improved table of contents of those work examples.
    • Spend enough time on this document this week to make sure that you include all the work you mean to include.
    • Make sure that you describe each work well enough that a reviewer will know what it is and what you want them to see.