Category Archives: Artist Career Tips

Resume and portfolio tips TwitterBlast!

Hi everybody! Here’s another TwitterBlast I did on my @jonjones Twitter account on the subject of resumes and portfolios. Here’s the info-dump, and I’ve followed that with a bit more explanation on why I dislike Blogspot and Wix.


  • Resume tip #1: Including your location is a must. Home address isn’t necessary.
  • Resume tip #2: When applying, specify the job title you’re applying for. Make sure it’s industry-standard, not something weird or made-up.
  • Resume tip #3: If your resume is light on experience, I personally like seeing skills up front..
  • Resume tip #4: It’s “3D Studio MAX,” not “3D MAX!” Even pros get this wrong, and most don’t care, but this drives me up the wall!
  • Resume tip #5: Only one typeface, and keep consistent font sizes. One resume I saw got smaller and smaller text ’til the end!
  • Resume tip #6: Since spellcheck won’t check most software names, make sure you proofread them carefully.
  • Resume tip #7: Clickable email and portfolio links in your PDF resume is a great thing to do!
  • Portfolio tip #1: If all you have is in your folio is classwork, and you graduated 1+ year ago, it looks like you stopped trying.
  • Portfolio tip #2: I like embedded demo reels, just make sure they’re big enough to see! i.e. not 320×240.
  • Portfolio tip #3: Having an “About” page on CGSociety with your full name and whatever nickname you use makes finding you even easier.
  • Portfolio tip #4: If you create a character of a different race than yours, ask honest friends if it’s unintentionally, hilariously racist.
  • Portfolio tip #5: Test your portfolio in all browsers and resolutions, especially if you’re embedding video.
  • Portfolio tip #6: I prefer seeing reels on Vimeo instead of Youtube. I just saw a full length softcore Indian porn movie as a Recommended Video.
  • Portfolio tip #7: A Blogspot page is not a portfolio.
  • Portfolio tip #8: A Wix page is not a portfolio. Wix is the Photoshop lens flare of portfolio hosts.
  • Portfolio tip #9: ENVIRONMENT ARTISTS! Dude, EVERYBODY MODELS ANGKOR WAT! Do the temples in Bhutan or something off the wall instead. Be creative!
  • Portfolio tip #10: Full Sail and Animation Mentor grads — when you graduate, use a new character model! It’s great to learn on, but I see it *everywhere.*
  • Portfolio tip #11: It’s not strictly necessary, but it’s always nice to get a Not Safe For Work warning before poppin’ out some boobs.
  • Portfolio tip #12: If you EVER autoplay music, I will find out where you live, burn your house down, and salt the earth.
  • Portfolio tip #13: You need a website in addition to just a reel, because it’s easier to update with new content.
  • Portfolio tip #14: When crediting people for assets used in your folio or reel, make sure you spell their names correctly.

So, Blogspot! Here’s why I don’t like it: It’s way too easy to have one portfolio piece per post, and have 2 – 10 pages’ worth of content I have to manually click through to see anything. Blogspot is for creating a timestamped archive of content, not a presentation of deliberately selected art. It’s fundamentally a posting format that automatically archives your work and hides it behind multiple pages anytime you post something new. You really can’t curate content or present your work that way. Imagine if every time you made a new piece of art, the 10th-latest piece of art you made before that was deleted forever. From an art director’s point of view looking at a Blogspot page, that’s how it is.

Yesterday when I was posting these, I almost passed on giving a guy an art test because he had a Blogspot page with so-so work on the first page, and his actual reel with good work in it on the second page. Fortunately I was being thorough and caught it, but not everyone’s going to do that. Make your art so easy to access I can see it accidentally!

I dislike Wix because a) it’s Flash, b) it’s VERY easy to make a horrible slow-loading page, and c) it’s VERY easy to make a horrible slow-loading page. I don’t care about fancy templates or cool presentation. Think about it this way: As an artist with a portfolio, you’re inclined to think of it as designing an experience to present your work and want it to look super polished and cool, and seeing flashy features and presentation is very tempting. As an art director, I have a list of portfolios to go through and I just want to see art IMMEDIATELY. I don’t care about bells and whistles, I’m less inclined to be forgiving of load times, and Flash-heavy websites that bog down my browser just annoy me. I see Wix and I see a platform that makes it incredibly likely art will be harder and slower for me to see.

In summary, Blogspot is for archived, non-curated content, and Wix’s temptingly flashy themes and features make it very easy to have a super slow portfolio. Some artists can do absolutely great working within those constraints to make good portfolios, but, across hundreds to thousands of portfolios, in the literal sense of “on the average” over a data set that broad, they are more annoying and badly done than not. There are exceptions, but it usually sucks.

Hope that’s helpful!

Art Test Tips TwitterBlast!

Hi folks! I’ve been posting a lot on Twitter lately, especially resume, portfolio, and artist tips. I’ve been queueing up a bunch of individual tips and pushing them out in one big two-second barrage of advice, and people have been asking for a more permanent location for them. Well, here you go! I’ll post these here anytime I do that from now on. Here are my tips on understanding and completing art tests:

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #1: NEVER be afraid to ask questions. It’s expected! However, a) DON’T ask just to seem clever, and b) DO try to ask them all at once.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #2: Follow directions precisely. You’d be astonished how often this DOESN’T happen, and it’s completely avoidable.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #3: We give directions, but also read between the lines at what isn’t said to add extra polish.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #4: Be tidy. It’s as technical as it is artistic. Tidy outliner, clean object and filenaming, organized layer groups in the PSD, etc.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #5: Be on time. If you’re going to be late, acknowledge it the *INSTANT* you know you will be late, and politely propose a new date.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #6: Log your time and be honest about it.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #7: Overdeliver, within reason. “Is there a way to jazz this up a little within my creative, time, and tech constraints?”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #8: Unless they say otherwise, assume the art assets are meant for a realtime game. Construct the assets accordingly.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #9: When submitting, always send a separate confirmation email. FTP uploads don’t notify, and large email attachments sometimes bounce.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #10: Think hard about how you distribute detail with polygons and texture. This says a lot about how you think.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #11: Make sure the zipped art test contains ONLY the files needed, not dozens of extra directories or files (.mayaswatches, I’m looking at you).

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #12: If you’re asked to provide diffuse, normal, and spec maps… don’t randomly just not use them and not explain why.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #13: Don’t include files with random names like “SomethingWhatever.tga” or “DammitPleaseWork.jpg” or “”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #14: DON’T PUT ART TESTS IN YOUR PORTFOLIO! a) It means you failed the test, and b) I’ve already seen 50 other people do that one, and probably better.

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #15: Ask your friends to look over your work. Be willing to accept criticism. Don’t make people wonder “did he even look at the reference?”

ARTISTS! Art Test Tip #16: Don’t let your own self-doubt keep you from finishing or submitting. It’s their job to evaluate you, not yours. Stay strong.

Artist tips braindump on my @jonjones Twitter feed!

Hi everybody! Long time no chat. I did a 15-minute-long stream of consciousness braindump of artist advice on my Twitter account (@jonjones) and I’m reposting it here — RAW AND UNCUT!

ARTISTS! Going through a lot of portfolios this week and have a few general RT’able notes and gripes following this tweet. 🙂

ARTISTS! Unless you’re selling your services as a Flash artist, please don’t make your website in Flash. It’s slow and lacks deep linking.

ARTISTS! If you have an embedded reel on your website, please have PlayPauseVolume controls! Especially if it’s not downloadable.

ARTISTS! If you’re on LinkedIn, GOOD. Keep that updated quarterly. But don’t forget your portfolio website link! This happens a lot.

ARTISTS! Portfolios sorted by the projects you worked on are great. This is a recent example that I like:

ARTISTS! Keep your skills and software package proficiencies updated in LinkedIn. You can search for that, and it makes you easier to find.

ARTISTS! If you’re trying to add someone you don’t know on LinkedIn, when it asks you how you know them, don’t select “Friend.” It’s tacky.

ARTISTS! Instead of applying for a job through the website, try to find their recruiter or HR manager on LinkedIn. Path less traveled!

ARTISTS! Take advantage of LinkedIn Groups. You can meet cool people and learn. Check your friends’ Groups on their profile and join them.

ARTISTS! If you’re prepping to change jobs and want to stay secret, you can turn off LinkedIn’s profile update notifications first… shh.

ARTISTS! Take advantage of Facebook’s Friends Lists to filter your posts. I put clientsbossesdirectors on a list to limit what they see.

ARTISTS! Take time once a week to check People You May Know in LinkedIn. Better to connect for its own sake than only when you need them.

ARTISTS! When scheduling interview, ask for interviewers’ names. Check LinkedIn, Mobygames, and FB for mutual friends. Make notes. Ask Q’s.

ARTISTS! Keep resumes down to 1 page. If >8yrs in games, 2 is okay. Anything more than 2 is fluff, and is judged.

ARTISTS! Good technical artists and VFX artists are *very* hard to find, and almost always in demand. It’s not a bad specialty to have…

Enjoy. 🙂

Oh, by the way, I recently moved to New York City and I’m an Outsourcing Art Manager at Avalanche Studios. w00t! Oh, while I’ve got everyone’s attention, Avalanche NYC is hiring for several positions. 🙂 Avalanche NYC jobs page. … Tell em Jon Jones sent ya!

How to get answers faster!

One of the most important concepts I’ve learned as an art producermanager is this: If you want to get a specific answer from someone, make your best guess — ANY guess — and invite their feedback on it. It’s 10x faster than asking them to start from nothing, even if your guess is horrible. It’s a starting point *you* create, and it works because it’s easier to critique an existing idea than conceive and commit to a new one.

Predicting layoffs: How to check your studio’s health

Hi all! With the spate of layoffs recently, I’ve been thinking of how to assess a studio’s health so you can predict whether or not doom will come, and when. These are various ways I usually assess a studio’s health, and it’s upon that basis that I make the staygo”sorry, I’m booked out for months and regrettably unavailable for contract work” decision. This article applies mainly to full-time employees, but it could also be useful for contractors wanting to know if their clients will continue to have money to pay them.

I’m still new to the stock market side of things, but I’ve been trying my ass off to pay more attention to this ever since I worked at a THQ studio that was recently hit with massive layoffs. Following that rollercoaster has been instructive.

So, these are my questionscritera in no particular order:

  1. Track publisher stock movements and events. Sign up for Google Finance, add the big pubs (ATVI, EA, TTWO, THQI, ZNGA, UBSFF, KNM, NTDOY, CCOEF). How was their last quarter? Year? 5 years? How close are their sales projections to the actual reality when they release quarterly reports and how do they spin it? What obvious lies can you identify over time and what’s the common thread between them? What time of year have they historically performed “restructuring” and layoffs? (usually financial quartersbeginning of FY, but still.)
  2. Subscribe to the news. GamaSutra Newswire and to get a decent spread of up-to-date information on the industry. I subscribe to their RSS feeds in Google Reader so I only have to go one place to check. I also check GameTab occasionally, but I’ve had connectivity errors with the site recently. Beware of rumors and fearmongering, but still pay attention.
  3. Track patterns in press releases. Are there patterns between sequences of press releases like “This game will sell 5m!” – > “We have faith in the product.” – > “The product’s sales fell short of our expectations.” – > “In order to cut costs after disappointing sales, we’re restructuring our organization and have reduced [studio]’s headcount by 75.” How cyclical is this? Is there a predictable sequence of announcements that could give you an indication of what’s next?
  4. Know your publisher’s product catalog. Find out their fiscal year dates, and other games’ ship dates. What has happened to them when they miss a date? What is the organizational health and reputation of other owned and non-owned companies under your publisher’s umbrella? If you had to guess and be realistic, if shit hits fan which studio *should* be shut down first?
  5. Know your company’s track record. When did your company ship its last title? How did it sell? How did it rate on average? How about the one before that? Do they have a track record of missing ship dates?
  6. Know your genre. What genre is your game? Does that genre tend to sell well? Who are the biggest players in that space and are you competing directly with them, or trying to find a new take or angle or iteration upon the genre? Do you think your game compares favorably? And is its release date close to the release of another juggernaught in the same genre?
  7. Know your studio’s employee retention rate. How many people there tend to stay for the long haul versus staying only a year or less before moving on? “How long has the average employee at your company worked there?” is a question I have ALWAYS asked in an interview and it often makes people uncomfortable. 🙂
  8. Know who runs your company. Who are the principals of the company and what’s their history? What’s their relative rate of success with regards to companies runmanaged previously, success of previously shipped titles, how long they’ve leadmanaged? How long have they worked at the same company both currently and in the past? Mainly, find out if they hop around or commit for the long haul.
  9. Know your team’s history. Has this team worked together before, either as a whole or in small groupscliques? Check previous companies. Look up all the leads up on LinkedIn and Mobygames and map out concurrent employment and previous working relationships for future reference. Write it down.

That’s all I’ve got off the top of my head for basic high-level stuff. I could dig deeper into tech and so on, but this is a lot of data already. Still, these are all considerations I consider important and I’ve always dug into companies in this way and add to the list of criteria over time.

I’m curious what people think, and I welcome comments and feedback! If I’m completely full of crap, please let me know because I want this to be better. 🙂 Thanks guys!

[update] Thanks to Dave Shramek and Matthew Weigel for informing me that EA’s stock symbol is now EA (not ERTS) and to include Zynga (ZNGA)! [/update]

User interface artist tip: Three tips for a better portfolio

Hello, UI artists! I’ve been going over a lot of UI artists’ portfolios — particularly contractors, hint hint — and I’ve noticed three things in particular that I love to see in a good UI artist portfolio.

  1. Wireframes. It helps me get a sense of your talent, planning and user experience sensibilities when I can see different treatment of UI layouts. Bonus points for explaining briefly and succinctly the requirements and constraints you were following when you created the wireframes.
  2. Multiple treatments on one idea. This helps me see your creative and overall user interface design process to see all the different angles from which you develop ideas. The closer to final these seem, the better. Coupling this with showing wireframes also shows how you weed out less effective ideas and know which ones to develop into a stage that’s closer to final.
  3. Who-did-what breakdowns. I usually see user interface artists skew in one of two directions. a) Someone that focuses on the UI design from the ground up and develops the wireframes then hands that off to a 2D artist to finish, or b) Someone who’s more of an illustrator that takes wireframes and beautifies them and takes them to final. There are certainly people that do both, but it’s not always obvious which is which when I’m looking at a portfolio. If you can clarify this simply and briefly, it makes it easier for me to understand what you did and what you do.

That’s a brief breakdown of what can turn a below-average or average user interface artist’s portfolio into one that’s much easier to view and understand. On a final note, presenting this information cleanly and efficiently is, in and of itself, an opportunity to demonstrate your ability. 🙂

What do you guys think?

Artist tip: First impressions matter. Buy a domain and email from there.

Something I see from a lot of artists (and even some studios) soliciting their services for artwork is people with MSN, Hotmail and Gmail addresses. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. To be honest, my primary email address is still with Gmail, but only because I’ve been using it for seven and a half years and I use it everywhere. That being said, I’m gradually moving my professional correspondence to my company email address because it does make a difference.

As a first impression, it feels markedly more professional when your email comes from your own domain or website. If you’re a professional service provider, having this form of web-based “real estate” offers an air of legitimacy and seriousness. This is your career, you are organized, you have a website, and you have an email address coming from the website which represents you professionally. Really, only GOOD can come of this.

This goes triply for an art studio. If you’re a group of artists and expect to be taken seriously, having a Gmail or Hotmail email address is going to make you seem young, moderately unprofessional and “indie” in the bad way. I want to work with companies organized enough to have a solid web presence and a “storefront” of sorts. If you don’t have that, it makes me feel like you’re less serious professionally. It sounds a bit unfair, but it makes me less confident in your ability to provide a service for me and deliver on time. You really could be awesome, but first impressions do matter. Why risk it?

As far as good domain names to buy, here are some guidelines:

  1. Try your best to get a dot com. Second best is dot net. Avoid strange TLDs (top level domains) if you can, and also avoid subdomains. Bad example: “”
  2. If you don’t use your real name, pick something simple. If you say the name aloud, can people find it on the first try? Bad example: “!!11/”
  3. Avoid internet slang. Bad example: “”
  4. Avoid non-standard spelling. Bad example: “”
  5. No hyphens. Bad example: “”
  6. Avoid complicated words. Bad example: “”
  7. If it takes longer than three seconds to speak aloud or explain, it’s too long. Bad example: “It’s, but ‘incompetence’ is spelled ‘i-n-c-o-m-p-a to be funny and ‘development’ is spelled ‘D U H velopment’ because — hey, where are you going?”
  8. Don’t pick something offensive. If it has to do with drugs, sex, poop, or communicable diseases, reconsider your life. This is the first impression you’re making to a prospective client or employer. Do you want to be the guy with the gross or stupid name? Bad example: “”
  9. Short and simple is best. Examples of short, simple, REALLY good domain names: “,” “,” and “”

The verbal aspect of a good name is enormous, and I don’t think many people consider it. You want a name simple enough to stick in someone’s head in the shortest possible amount of time, with the least chance of misspelling.

Remember: YOU need to go out of your way to be memorable to people so they’ll come to you. It’s not up to other people to find you immediately special and earth-shatteringly compelling. Don’t assume they’ll want to remember or will try REALLY hard to track you down online, especially if you have a bad domain name or email address.

What do you guys and gals think? Anything you’d disagree with, or anything I’m missing? Feedback is welcome as always!