Behance Portfolio review in Tokyo – our experiences

This week our Editor Tim and Contributor Yo review the Behance Tokyo Portfolio Review series of events. They have both participated in the events at different times and we found the difference in their experiences as a designer and illustrator respectively to be quite informative.

Behance portfolio review is a creative event for designers, illustrators and creators from all around the world. The reviews take place in 70 countries, so of course it happens in one of the most creative cities in Asia – Tokyo. The most recent review in Tokyo was held in July 2015. There were 15 creators and more than 200 reviewers attending Tokyo Behance portfolio review #7.

The Behance Folio Reviews are held twice annually in Tokyo by a dedicated crew of volunteers who organise and promote the event for the local Behance community. The way that these events work is anybody can enter their folio through Behance and 15 creators are chosen to present at the event.

On the night, each creator stands beside a poster of their work while wearing an iBeacon; a device which sends their folio to nearby iPads. Then the reviewers, who are the attendees of the event, are each given an iPad and three stickers. Each reviewer has 15 minutes to spend with creatives to talk about the folios, and they stick a sticker on the creatives’ folios they like the best.

At the end of the night the four creatives with the most stickers get to present their work on stage in front of everybody and are given feedback from a pannel of judges who are usually experienced designers and creatives.

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Yo: UI Designer and Illustrator. Entered the folio review with an illustration focused folio.

May of 2014 was my first time attending the event – Behance portfolio Review #5 – at Daikanyama T-site. Although the reviewers have iPads, most of the creators also bring their analogue portfolio and art works, one of the creators, Takuro Okuyama, made a computer box and had it on his head. I was very impressed by their works, their patience in creating, and ideas I’ve never thought about.

At Behance portfolio Review #5, there were special speakers from IC4 Design Studio. They presented a project on a children’s book; how they started, how they got connections outside of Japan, and how they published their book around the world. Joining in this event seemed to start something new in my career life in Tokyo.

Behance potfolio Review #6 was my second time attending this event, I was a creator this time.

Two weekends before the event, the Tokyo Behance team ran a workshop called ”INPUT” in Nakameguro. They invited two speakers to share their experience. One speaker, Hirofumi Kamigaki, from IC4 Design shared his experience on how to give an excellent presentation.

The other speaker was Alex Mather, an illustrator from London. He shared his experience of how he became an illustrator. He listed the 4 points of his method, 1. Build deep, real connections with people. 2. Decide which market you want to focus on, and find the key-person in this market. 3. Research this market and key-person completely to find the best way to show your value to them. 4. Utilise social networks to promote your work and make contacts. There may be some people who don’t agree with his method, but it’s still a good reference for all creators, especially those who want to start their own career.

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This was the longest presentation of my works
in my life

This time, Behance portfolio Review #6 partnered with Tokyo Deisign Week, they changed the venue to a bigger space – Shibuya Hikarie. As a creator, This was the longest presentation of my works in my life. This experience helped me improve my presentation skills, and how to tell people the story of my work. Through this event, I realised telling the story well is not easy as you would think. Moreover, this experience taught me the importance of communication skills.

About the language, I have to say, it would be best if you can speak both Japanese and English. Sometimes people can feel the story from your works, but without explanation, it’s difficult to convey the real concept and what you really want to say .. However, the most important thing when you are the creator is to just do your best to communicate with the reviewers.

Maybe you’re thinking “Will I really have job opportunities here?” The answers is, YES. I met one Japanese guy, an art director, who told me they were hiring and wanted me to do an interview if I was interested. Well, perhaps not always, finding a job by joining Behance Portfolio Reviews as a creator is possible. Some creators exchange information on design and art after the event. I’m very glad I joined this event as a creator, I learnt something I’d never learnt at school or in a company. Also, the people I met here helped me get into a different level of creative society in Tokyo.

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Tim: Communication designer and strategist. Entered the review with a design based folio.

Presenting your work at the Behance Portfolio Review is a great way to get exposure to a lot of creatives from very diverse backgrounds. I was lucky enough to be chosen to show my work in the Behance Folio Review #6 in November, 2014 at the Hikarie building in Shibuya.

It can be pretty nerve wracking to put your work up in an event like this. It is even scarier to stand there next to it and talk to a lot of people about it! But I found it to be a great experience nonetheless.

It was interesting to see that the majority of other creatives presenting their work were from artistic backgrounds with about three of us presenting graphic design based folios. However, if you look at the users of Behance in Japan there is a strong focus on art and illustration in the community, so it makes sense.

The reviewers were from very diverse backgrounds, there were students, professionals, other aspiring creatives, and even some recruiters and staff from agencies looking for talent. I found that there were roughly an equal balance of Japanese and International reviewers attending.

This presented a fairly big challenge – speaking about my work at length in Japanese. I can get through most daily conversations in Japanese but I am by no means bilingual. So I found the folio review to be a real challenge! It was mentally exhausting to talk for 1.5 hours about my work to so many different people in Japanese.

While I could give an overview of my own work I couldn’t really go into great depth with the Japanese speaking reviewers, nor answer some of their questions. This was a little disappointing as I feel there would have been opportunities for some very interesting conversations. However, the limited time of the event and the large number of reviewers also meant that I only got to spend about 5 minutes with any one person.

Despite the focus on artists, I had a lot of interest from the reviewers I spoke with about my work. Many people wanted to discuss the work I have done in Japanese and to talk about how I have found working with a language very different to my own. I also spent quite a lot of time explaining what, exactly, a “communication designer” does.

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Although I did meet some creative directors from big studios I didn’t receive any offers at the event. But I know that some of the illustrators who featured their work did, which is great. I feel that the people scouting for talent at the event were more interested in the artistic folios than the design ones.

However, these kinds of events are, to me, about meeting new people and getting feedback on your work so I was not disappointed! I connected with a lot of the creatives who presented at the event,have gotten some work, and built a good network from this experience.

When the next Behance Folio Review comes around I would encourage you to enter!

Behance Portfolio Review #6 in Tokyo, Japan from Behance Tokyo Community on Vimeo.

Riccardo Parenti

Italian. Art Director, interaction design enthusiast, occasionally photographer. Riccardo is the founder the TGD community, starting the LinkedIn group when he first moved to Japan in 2010. He is also a volunteer for Behance Tokyo. He loves to spend his free time seeking and exploring abandoned buildings in the Japanese countryside.

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