From the beginning of his career Kern made sketches of ideas which he submitted to clients for approval, or used for production when approval was not necessary. The sketches, or photocopies of them, were faxed and couriered to art directors and magazine editors all over the world. Multiple sketches for more extensive projects were bound into what Kern called "idea books." As computer work became the norm Kern scanned the sketches and sent them as pdfs. Several art directors remarked to him that they saved and collected his "idea books."
Portfolio decorative covers
Before the digital age photographers showed their work to prospective clients in many ways, the most common being photo albums and slide presentations. From 1988 to 1994 Kern fashioned his portfolios into book editions, starting with No. 1, which not only contained prints of new work, but also decorative covers and inside section pages which he made by hand with a variety of methods such as photographic and mixed media collages, photograms, and xerography. Although Kern continued to make print portfolio books for the remainder of his career he discontinued his unique book process because many of the books were not being returned.