10 Tips For a Killer Design Portfolio

As a creative professional you live and die by the quality of your design portfolio. It sums you and your work up and is the first port of call for anyone looking to hire or commission you. Here are 10 golden rules that will set you in good stead when putting your portfolio together.

1. All Killer, No filler

Only ever show your very best work in your portfolio and if you aren’t 100% happy with the outcome then don’t feature it. It’s often hard to self-edit but it’s important to be quite ruthless when selecting  the work to ensure that all of it is up to scratch and of a standard that you’re happy with.

2. Start and end with key pieces

Begin with a really strong piece that grab their attention and then finish on a similarly striking talking point that will leave them wanting more. It’s easy to see how this can apply to a traditional print portfolio, but the same thinking can be applied to an iPad folio or indeed a simple PDF attachment in an email.

3. Leave them wanting more

Leave the viewer wanting more, especially on initial application as you don’t want to arrive at a meeting or interview without nothing left to talk about. Also, don’t overdo it in certain areas of your portfolio. If you’ve done some info graphic work then feature a few key pieces and then show something different.

4. Get an Online Portfolio

There’s no excuse for not having an online portfolio, even if you are predominantly a print designer. You don’t have to know any code to take advantage of features of sites like WordPress even Tumblr.

5. Show your working

It can be also valuable to show your working and the journey you went through to realise the outcome to a given brief. This may be the journey from marque creation to implementation within a branding project or the craft-based process behind an analogue piece of work.

6. Curate for the job you want

If sending out a PDF sampler or curating your portfolio for an interview always make a bespoke selection of work each time that’s tailored to a specific client. This applies to whole selections of work on websites as well; only show the kind of work that you want to get commissioned for or hired to create.

7. Self-Initiated work

Including self-initiated work helps the employer to see where your passions lie and the kind of work that you’d choose to do if not restricted by a tight client brief. Potential employers are interested in seeing you flex your creative muscles and express your individual voice.

8. Choose the right format

Display work on an iPad is a much easier, convenient and contemporary way to display your work, but when dealing with print it’s nice to see the actual pieces and feel the tactility of the product wherever possible. Ultimately use your common sense and choose the best format to display the kind of work that you produce.

9. Let the work speak for itself

Don’t be tempted to over-embellish your online portfolio (or printed portfolio, for the matter). Allow the work to do the talking by making projects easy to view in large formats.

10. Be confident and tell your story

The key to any portfolio presentation is the ability to deliver and talk confidently about the work within it. Ensure that all the pieces you include are ones that you’re very proud of and can talk confidently and enthusiastically about in a meeting, explaining the back story and journey you went through to get there. Go get ’em!


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