How to create a great design portfolio
Putting your portfolio together is one of the most important things you will ever do as a designer: you can have the CV of the century, but if your portfolio doesn’t impress then you could be in trouble. So let’s just remind ourselves.
- First (and last) impressions count
It’s true in person and on paper: the first thing a prospective client or employer sees is going to have the biggest impact. Put a piece of work that you’re really proud of at the front of your portfolio.
Whoever you’re showing your portfolio to might ask you questions about it, so in an interview situation you’ll get off to a strong start if you can begin with explaining a piece of your work that you’re genuinely enthusiastic about.
It’ll also demonstrate what you’re passionate about, which will help your interviewer or prospective client to understand your work and whether you’ll be a good fit for them.
Do the same for the last piece in your portfolio so you can end with a bang, not a whimper!
- Show the journey
A great way to help someone understand your creative process is by presenting your work all the way from the initial sketches and ideas to the final piece.
In addition to showing how you came up with your ideas for a piece, this is also a good way to demonstrate your skillset and the different mediums you can use.
- Only present your very best…
We’ve already mentioned the importance of beginning and ending with strong pieces, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of your portfolio can be just anything!
Every piece of work in there should be something you can talk confidently about. If you’re not happy with something you did, then it shouldn’t be in your portfolio!
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re applying to a specific role, you should tailor your portfolio to fit it – an illustrator needs to show quite different work to a creative director.
- …and do it simply
As a designer, you probably already know this, but it bears repeating: don’t overcomplicate things.
Your portfolio could be looked at by anyone, so make sure that people can understand what you’re trying to say or do in each piece.
Include things like project titles, brief descriptions, page numbers, annotations where needed, and even quotes or testimonials from your clients to make sure that whoever sees your portfolio can follow it.
- Don’t be afraid of your non-commercial work
Employers and clients are interested in you as a person and your own creativity, not just your CV: showing them what you work on in your own time is a great way to express your individuality and add variety.
Presenting your self-initiated work will also help you to be enthusiastic and come across well, which you’ll always want to do in an interview.
- Keep it updated
Every couple of years, go through your portfolio again to add new pieces and take out older ones. If everything you’re showing an interviewer is several years old, they may wonder what you’ve been up to!
You may also want to keep it updated in another way: invest in an online portfolio as well as a physical one. This will help you to market yourself, as it’ll make your work easily accessible. Just make sure that everything online is high-res!
Become a member of the Chartered Society of Designers to get further support.