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Ask DN: Know any true Jack/Jill of all trades websites?

over 5 years ago from , Founder of Build Interactive

I'm searching for examples of Designers/Developers who also have many strong passions in other fields. To clarify: I'm not referring to work skills only, I'm looking for individuals who excel at a number of different passions that may or may not be related to their day job.

The reason I ask is because I find it very difficult to build a personal portfolio site that encompasses multiple passions. Generally, you only grow an audience when you narrow your site content so that people can associate your name with a single subject. For example, if I say Chris Coyier, I bet you instinctively think "CSS". A Jack/Jill of all trades, on the other hand, are often harder to remember because their name isn't tied to one area of expertise.

I'm curious if you know of any portfolios of people who have succeeded in portraying their multiple interests well.

20 comments

  • Jake ChapmanJake Chapman, over 5 years ago

    http://www.alexcornell.com/

    6 points
    • Adrian Pelletier, over 5 years ago

      Very interesting. It looks like Alex's answer to showing his three main skills (design, photography, music) was to give each a dedicated page, then the blog appears to be a behind-the-scenes on all of these subjects.

      Thank you for the link, this is great.

      2 points
  • Paul @StammyPaul @Stammy, over 5 years ago

    While not a work portfolio I have a lot of writing and in-depth travel photo stories on my site: http://paulstamatiou.com

    2 points
    • Adrian PelletierAdrian Pelletier, over 5 years ago

      Hey Paul, thanks for the comment. I've followed your work for quite a few years now and always enjoy seeing what you're up to.

      Let me ask you this: do you run into any issues with curating multiple topics (design, photography, etc.) through your Posts section? Or do you think your readers are OK with expecting multiple topics?

      To use myself as an example, I have been designing and building on the web for 10 years now, 7 of which have been self-employed. I feel I have a wealth of design/freelance knowledge that I want to share, but I have many other passions too, such as astrophotography (this was last weekend: https://instagram.com/p/389JMkMfqa/). In your opinion, could I write about design and photography (and possibly more topics) on my blog and still have it feel cohesive, or should I pick one and focus on that only? I honestly don't know if I could do the latter because I have many passions.

      0 points
  • Aubrey JohnsonAubrey Johnson, over 5 years ago (edited over 5 years ago )

    I've been honing many skills as an early-at-the-company startup designer for a number of years.

    I've had to do branding, marcom sites, web apps, responsive websites and apps, apparel, motion graphics, photography, illustrations and plenty of code too. It's been difficult but super rewarding. Check it out:

    http://aubrey.me

    2 points
    • Adrian PelletierAdrian Pelletier, over 5 years ago

      Aubrey, thanks for the feedback. Nice portfolio and sounds like you have your hands full!

      I may not have been clear enough in my question but I'm really looking for individuals who are experts across many different fields. For example, someone who might do computer work but is equally good in an opposing trade, such as carpentry.

      0 points
      • Aubrey JohnsonAubrey Johnson, over 5 years ago

        Ah I see, that's why it's hard to find/sorry for the misunderstanding. It's a strange combination, though many many people have hobbies outside of their "body of work." I think most people use these sort of sites as tools to attract more work vs mix with their hobbies / extracurriculars.

        Thanks for the love man! Best of luck on your hunt.

        0 points
    • Mike Wheaton, over 5 years ago

      Just want to say that I love the title of "Software Designer".

      3 points
    • Csongor BartusCsongor Bartus, over 5 years ago

      Perfect portfolio, stunning works .... congrats and keep up :)

      1 point
  • Richard BallermannRichard Ballermann, over 5 years ago

    I've struggled with this and it seems to me that there isn't any good way of effectively proving your level of skill in many practices from a single portfolio. You're just trying to sell too much to someone who only wants one thing. In today's market it's vital to show that you are extremely good at what you do and showing off too many unconnected skills means you're just watering down your expertise.

    I know I can potentially tackle a great range of tasks that come my way, but showing potential clients why I am the BEST choice for a particular task is difficult when I'm trying to say I'm the BEST choice for digitial and print design, illustration, woodworking, typography, photography, sound design, etc.. Showing a large sample of projects of a single type will demonstrate your vast experience in that field. Let's be honest, you simply cannot be a master woodworker, cellist, designer, illustrator, writer or whatever else and expect people to be equally convinced that you are the top candidate in any of them and worthy of being hired. They want a single service, they want to find the person who is really damn good at that.

    The idea I'm toying around with is creating a separate website/company for any service I want to provide that is distinct, rather than bundling them all together into a super portfolio to show a huge breadth of skill. This allows each "business" to remain autonomous and won't confuse any potential clients by showing them what could appear to be an apparent lack of focus.

    1 point
    • Adrian PelletierAdrian Pelletier, over 5 years ago

      I could not have said it any better — we both share the same perspective and struggle with this topic. Like you said, people want to hire an expert and that usually means someone who does just one thing. If I'm going to hire a carpenter, I want the person who has been doing it for decades and not the someone who does woodwork plus ten other unrelated things.

      This is the reality but, unfortunately, it also severely hurts true Jack/Jill of all trades. Da Vinci may be a cliché example but imagine if he had followed only one of his interests. I'd like to think there is a way to embrace multiple passions and still be able to build a cohesive site around them all.

      However, your idea of doing separate sites for each passion is likely the best approach and it's something I've been considering as well. From my main personal site, I would then have a "Projects" list that basically says, "Hey, Web Design is my main career but check out these other passions I pursue as well."

      Thanks again for the input.

      0 points
      • Richard BallermannRichard Ballermann, over 5 years ago

        I would even divide the two further than what you're saying. I think people have different mindsets when shopping for services, so I want to avoid at all costs associating the two under the same roof even to the point of not directly telling them "hey, I also do this, check out my other page".

        My issue is that I love illustration, and I love design. The two, in my mind, are completely exclusive paths. Even though they both co-exist, I feel the emotional nature of illustration immediately detracts from the very practical, critical method of thinking needed for design. I plan to use my name to define the design work, as it is a much more practical sounding label for that practice and then come up with a fun sounding company-type of name for my illustration site to resonate with the subjectivity of that line of work. Some people might connect the dots that I'm behind both ventures, but at first glance it will make both feel like a focused effort.

        1 point
  • Boris GrudininBoris Grudinin, over 5 years ago

    Scott Hansen / Tycho. Designer and musician, though probably more musician these days.

    http://blog.iso50.com/

    1 point
  • Csongor BartusCsongor Bartus, over 5 years ago

    Frank Chimero. A designer who writes.

    http://frankchimero.com

    1 point
  • Radley MarxRadley Marx, over 5 years ago

    It's not uncommon for creatives to change focus every few years, so It's fine to have a wide-ranging portfolio.

    I do recommend, however, that you focus your home page to the particular kind of project you're trying to attract.

    Stack the deck and all that...

    0 points
    • Adrian PelletierAdrian Pelletier, over 5 years ago

      Thanks for the input. I do believe you're right about the Homepage and I actually find that to be the hardest page to design when you have multiple passions. The common solution I'm seeing is whatever you do for your main living (i.e. web design/dev in my case) should be emphasized on the Homepage, then sub-passions like photography, writing, etc. can go on other pages.

      0 points
  • Adrian PelletierAdrian Pelletier, over 5 years ago

    Thanks for the links, everyone. What I'm noticing in these examples is the authors separate their different passions into specific pages (Design, Photography, Music, etc.) and then there's usually a blog that tells the story behind it all. It's an interesting approach and is probably the only way to keep it all organized.

    0 points
  • Daniel YpsilantiDaniel Ypsilanti, over 5 years ago

    I've been working on the same problem while I put rebuild my portfolio. I do/have done front-end web design, branding, packaging, menu design, signage, brochures, album art, video editing, illustration, game design, 3d-fabrication, laser engraving, window displays, etc...

    I guess it depends on your intention for the site. My plan is to have pages for most the most relevant/best projects (about 6) but for stuff like album art and game design (which I want to do more of but is 100% a labor of love) have a general page to show my interest but not go too into the depth of the process.

    For me it's getting more business which is why I choose to highlight professional work (web design, branding) and group passion projects on more general pages.

    0 points
    • Adrian Pelletier, over 5 years ago

      Makes sense. So, focus on highlighting what pays the bills, then mention your other interests on subsequent pages. This is definitely the technique I have found most when looking for portfolios with lots of varied interests.

      Thanks for the comment.

      0 points