A solid graphic design portfolio is your ticket to professional success. It is your calling card and your way in—the visual representation of all you’ve accomplished so far and a symbol for where you hope to be in the future. Basically, it has to kick ass.
To push your portfolio to the front of the ever-growing crowd it helps to know what to include and what to leave out. Here’s how to build a graphic design portfolio that will blow your clients away.
1. Select Your Strongest Pieces Only
When considering what to include in your graphic design portfolio, there’s an easy answer: only your best work.
When you’re building a portfolio you need to ensure that each example shines and helps to showcase a wide variety of skills and abilities. This means if you’re early in your career your portfolio might be short and sweet, a single page of really strong projects that make you proud. Don’t make a visitor flip through dozens of designs to find the really good stuff.
2. Go for Variety
Don’t include only one form of design such as website design or illustration. Though this doesn’t mean that everything shouldn’t work together. Make sure it all still looks like it’s one person’s work.
3. Tell a Story
Think of your portfolio as telling a story. It should provide a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and end, with your strongest work serving as bookends at the start and conclusion. If you front load the good stuff a client might be left with a poor impression if the work weakens as they click through. On the other hand, saving your best work for last could mean a busy Art Director doesn’t even find the examples you really need them to see. Captions or explanations should be short and to the point. Let your work speak for itself—clients can contact you to ask questions if they have them.
If you choose to include longer narratives, like an About or Bio, keep them on-topic and avoid rambling thoughts. Clients don’t need to know everything about you to make a decision about hiring you. Be sure your contact information is easy to find, thorough and up to date.
4. Do you need an Online and Physical Portfolio
Most designers are using online portfolios these days but you should think about creating a physical one for those in-person interviews, especially if you’re a print designer.
Or you can get really creative and create an elaborate piece that’s a work of art itself.
5. Go high-resolution
Even if your portfolio is totally online, you never know if you may need a physical one down the road or if you need to print any pieces. Having high-resolution photos of all your pieces is a great idea whether you’re producing a portfolio or not.
Plus, clear close ups are perfect for sharing on social media, they create drama and give your portfolio a high-quality look.
6. Be Current
Don’t include anything older than 3 years. Trends, techniques and technology change quickly. You don’t want to look outdated.
7. Get Social
It’s important to remember your portfolio is only one part of your online presence as a graphic designer. Remember to include your social media handles. Social media can be a great way to build your brand and bring the necessary human element that might convince a client to hire you. Cultivate social media streams that connect and interact with your portfolio.
You can also use social media to show who you are as a person. Create content that sends people to your portfolio because they’re intrigued about who you are as a person. Remember: if you choose to use social media this way, keep your feeds clean and professional.
8. Keep it Alive!
A portfolio isn’t a stagnant thing. In fact it’s like a living entity that evolves as you do. One of the greatest feelings in the world is tightening your portfolio, removing the waste and filler and adding more relevant, updated content. Update it often as your skills improve and your focus changes.
Your portfolio should feel fresh, human and carefully curated. If executed well, potential clients or employers will receive a strong sense of who you are as a person and as a professional—and your work will truly shine.