Top Tips for Creating a Design Portfolio
A portfolio, for a creative, is the basis of their hard work and soul. It is quite literally the all or nothing of someone’s creative life. In design, your portfolio is more important than your CV or the experience you have. It’s a tool you use to get your foot in the door to make money. If you can’t present your work in a way that wows its viewer, your portfolio might not get you anywhere.
While there’s no proven method of presenting your portfolio, there are some tips in making your portfolio hit all the right checkpoints while still being authentic to you. It’s what you do with this information that sets you apart from the rest.
Start building a portfolio that establishes credibility and expands your professional network. Here are some tips below:
#1. Sell yourself on the things you love to do and want to do going forward.
People often brand themselves as a do-it-all, and most of us are pretty good at a couple of things. But employers would rather see what we love to do take centre stage. It’s a public showcase of your very best work. Since the average person’s attention span is about 8 seconds. So be sure to upload the projects that best prove your talent and experience.
In saying this, you need to have a balance of quality and diversity of the work you’ve done. Look for a few of your best projects that show off a different service or skill that you would like the viewer to see. This shows them that you can create beautiful designs but also have experience in a variety of marketing and advertising media.
#2. Where do you add value and take it from there?
Chances are you’re capable of so many more skills that what a job description has to offer. Can you write as well as illustrate? Can you create videos as well as have strong graphic design? Give more specific ideas in ways you can add value to the role that is unique to your skillset in design.
#3. Be authentic and true to yourself.
You deserve to work somewhere you can be your authentic self, which will help you do your best work. Don’t let the nerves keep you from being who you are. Presenting a diluted version of yourself isn’t fair to you and the employer would appreciate someone that adds unique values to the team.
Employers look for individuality and personality throughout the portfolio experience. So make sure to make it your own.
#4. Tell a story and celebrate the process.
Yes, add in the final product, what sold to the client and what did well, but employers love to see the process. How did you get to this final idea? What made you go down this route? Use this opportunity to show how you understood the problem, broke it down, and solved it by adding value*. Alongside each piece of the portfolio, explain the goals and how the design achieved them. Include a detailed summary of the results of each project. Help the viewer understand behind the scenes. So they have better insight into why you did what you did and what it achieved for the organization that’s using it.
Great design is one thing, but telling a story leaves a lasting impression.
Here’s something to help get you started:
- What was your role?: Was this a self-made project? Were you a part of a team? Whatever your role in the project was, let the viewer know and how your work made an impact.
- How did you get to the final concept?: Talk about the client’s goals and problems. How you worked with them to address and solve each one. Include the designs you found didn’t quite make the cut. Show the viewer you didn’t settle and you worked until you achieved the results you wanted.
- What made it a success?: How did you measure the design’s success? Was the client happy with the work? Were more sales made? Loyalty created? Whatever made it successful let the viewer know how and why.
#5. Keep it simple and easy to navigate
When it comes to showcasing your projects, keep it simple. Present your projects in a straightforward and easy to use format. Play with layouts and take advantage of websites. When you’ve got a lot of work to show off, make use of categories. Categories are a great way to show off the diversity you offer. Don’t ask too much of the viewer. A simple call to action like “view my website” or “get in touch” lets them know what to do next.
#6. Being online is a huge plus.
Having an online portfolio is almost a need in today’s age. This allows all types of clients to find you. Not just the ones you hand your work to. Websites/ blogs are a great way to showcase your work. Choose a web platform that makes browsing your portfolio easy and enjoyable. Some websites are customizable and you can even build your code if you’re into that. Don’t forget to show off your skills.
Or, the simplest option is a hosted portfolio website. If you don’t want to or don’t know how to write code, this is most ideal for you. Hosted platforms let you upload elements to a ready-made layout. All you need to do is have worthy content. And don’t forget to have a clear call to action and an easy-to-use contact form will help people make the first move.
It’s important to remember what a portfolio is and isn’t. A good portfolio is an extension of who you are. It reinforces your brand and your personality. The content you give focuses and displays the kind of work you want to do. It showcases your best work and is easy to navigate. Don’t forget to have a clear call to action that gets viewers to take the next step. A portfolio is a tool. The sooner you start thinking of your portfolio that way, the sooner it will deliver you new business!
Frost, A. (2021) How To Build A Portfolio That’ll Make Everyone Want To Hire You. [online] The Muse. Available at: <https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-secrets-to-building-a-portfolio-thatll-make-everyone-want-to-hire-you/> [Accessed 13 January 2021].
Robinson, R. (2018) 5 Things You Must Include in Your Creative Portfolio. [Blog] Creative live, Available at: <https://www.creativelive.com/blog/creative-portfolio-must-have-elements/> [Accessed 13 January 2021].
Rock, C. (2020) 5 Tips For Perfecting Your Portfolio Presentation. [online] Eye on Design. Available at: <https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/ask-the-experts-how-do-you-put-together-a-killer-portfolio/> [Accessed 13 January 2021].
Shorr, G. (2021) 4 Easy Steps To Create A Beautiful Design Portfolio. [online] AIGA | the professional association for design. Available at: <https://www.aiga.org/4-easy-steps-to-create-a-beautiful-design-portfolio/> [Accessed 13 January 2021].