Does your portfolio fully showcase your talents? These tips will help your design portfolio stand out. We’ve pulled together our top 10 tips for dusting off a tired design portfolio and giving it a good spit-and-polish. For a more detailed look at portfolios, both online and off.
1. All killer, no filler
Don’t grab everything you’ve ever created, snap a few photos and include it with a title. Set aside time to go through all of your pieces, exclude anything you’re not proud of or don’t think is your best work. You should only include your strongest stuff–the pieces that have the best feedback and have had the best results. A good rule of thumb for web is to present the whole piece first, followed by more detailed shots to show the precision of your craft.
2. Non-client work is acceptable
Your design portfolio doesn’t have to only include client work. Self-initiated projects are always acceptable in full-time applications, and recommended for freelance work – especially for illustrators.
3. Number of pages
Go for quality not quantity. My suggestion is 10 on the low end to no more than 20 (30 for online portfolios). You don’t want to lose the attention span of the viewer, but you need to be able to show a healthy breadth of work together with a range of applications. No matter how great your work is, the viewer will still only click through a few projects before moving one.
4. Remember what you’re applying for
Only include design portfolio examples for a full-time position that are appropriate to the role. A creative director position, for instance, won’t entail much artworking – if any at all – so don’t include it.
5. All in the brief
It’s vital to provide brief information–briefly. Use annotations and notes to talk about your experience. Make it clear in a short summary what the brief asked for in each portfolio example you include, and how you managed to accomplish it.
6. All round experience
Does this project show your potential employer you can deliver award-winning designs? Is this project all about your 3D rendering skills? Or does this project share a little about your design process? Employers don’t just want to know you’ve got a good eye for design (though that’s important)–they also want someone who understands budget restrictions, branding and the importance of meeting deadlines.
7. Case studies
Don’t think of your portfolio as simply a collection of your art and design work. Recommendations and real-life case studies go a long way in showing how professionally capable you are. Ask a previous client or employer for a recommendation, and write up a short case study to accompany a project.
8. Navigating your work
Those viewing your portfolio (either web or print) will be pushed for time and energy, so make it easy to navigate by including page numbers and clear project titles for each portfolio example.
9. You portfolio says a lot about you
Try to look at your portfolio from the perspective of an outsider and think carefully about what your portfolio says about you. Is it too serious–or not serious enough? Do your best to strike a balance that you believe shows off your qualities without seeming too stuck-up.
10. Promote yourself
There’s no point in having a great portfolio site if no one is visiting. Be active on Facebook, Twitter and Google+; deploy portfolio pieces to Behance, Flickr, Dribbble and deviantART. Film yourself working and put the video on YouTube (preferably with clothes on). The more places you share your content, the more you’ll drive people towards you and your portfolio website.
It may seem a pain to have to find something new to post every day, but a regularly updated blog keeps people coming back. Also, Google loves a well-structured, regularly updated website that’s stuffed with great content–and the easiest way to provide fresh content is to keep your blog updated. Basically, the things that make visitors happy are the things that make Google happy.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.