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12 Essential Tips for Creating the Perfect Design Portfolio

Designer looks at work variants on a large wall
Caution! This article is 7 years old, and our opinions may have changed.

Whether you’re applying for a job in the real world or online, your portfolio is the first impression that you’re going to give to your potential employers. Within it, you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your very best work, all your experience while having the ability to show your potential employers why you’ll be the best pick for the job.

Today, we’ll share 12 crucial tips to remember to help you create the best portfolio that will help you to stand out from the crowd.

Go for Volume of Experience

If your portfolio is up against a rival candidate and your file contains 10 examples of your work, and your competition has 15, the chances are that your competitor will get the job. This is because they are probably showing a much wider variety of work and a greater range of experience.

As a rule of thumb, in your physical portfolio should contain around 20 pages of content whereas an online portfolio should fill around 30. This will give a complete showcase of your skills, helping you to secure your dream job.

Be Relevant & Precise

It’s important that you only include the information in your portfolio that’s relevant to the job that you’re applying for. 

For example, if you’re applying for a director’s position, it’s far more likely that your job won’t be including much actual design work but more management skills. However, you should still include relevant samples to showcase your knowledge of the industry.

Write About Design

You may be thinking, ‘write about design, but both me and my employer are going to understand what it is?’ This may be true, but your future employer is going to know what your personal interpretation of art really is.

By describing what design is to you, you can really set an impression that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re the right person for the job. Maybe you see design as a way to express your creativity? Perhaps design is meant to inspire others or send a message? However you see design, share it in the best way you can. 

Use Context

It’s vital that you include context in the examples that you provide. Any samples in your portfolio must include annotations or references to state who the client was and why the design work was created.

William Ely, a web designer for OXEssays, continues;

“Without including context next to work in your portfolio, it makes it impossible for your employer to judge the work and to see what relevance this work has to your career. A simple note or input into the creative brief is more than enough.”

Including All Experience

Just because this is a professional portfolio, it doesn’t mean that you only have to include client work. By adding your own personal work, with contextual annotations and references, feel free to include your personal work and any freelance work you may have done on the side of your current career.

Utilise Case Studies

It’s essential that you include case studies within your portfolio. By showcasing real cases and projects that you have worked on, you are showing how skilled you are as a designer. You may also want to ask previous clients and employers for references in this section.

Use Tools to Improve Your Writing Skills

The written text in your portfolio is just as important as your creative design work. However, you might not have paid much attention to how to write properly and correctly. Here are a few tools that can help you with your writing process so you can aim for perfection.

Via Writing - An online blog resource for brushing up on your knowledge of grammar.

UK Writings - A complete writing community to help you answer all your writing-related queries.

State of Writing - An online blog full of writing guides to guide you through the portfolio writing process.

Easy Word Counter - A free tool for tracking and monitoring your word count in real time.

Boom Essays - An online writing guide to assist you with your portfolio writing. This is a popular service featured recently on the Huffington Post in “Write My Essay”.

Cite It In - A free tool for adding citations, references and quotes to your portfolio professionally.

Essayroo - A writing agency that can assist with your editing and proofreading tasks.

Test Your Portfolio

When you’ve completed your portfolio, try to look through the eyes of your employer at your portfolio to see whether you’d think that it’s suitable for as a portfolio. Try to see whether your portfolio really describes who you are and what your strengths are. Try to see whether it shows clearly what your personality is like.

Share All Your Experience

As a designer, the chances are that you haven’t just completed one type of project, but you’ve probably worked on a number of different projects that had different requirements. Some projects may have been on a tight deadline, others on a budget. Others may have required a different type of experience altogether. When creating your portfolio, try to show off all of your talents.

Break Up Your Portfolio

Whether your portfolio is 20 or 30 pages long, it’s a good idea to break it up into sections, with tabs or notes, so your employer can easily refer to a certain of part of it without having to look through every time. This shows a huge amount of attention to detail, a critical trait of a designer. One of the easiest ways to do this is to index your portfolio.

Keep Your Portfolio Updated

Just because you’ve created your portfolio, it doesn’t mean that that’s the end of it. For every job you apply for, you need to make sure that your portfolio is up to date, current and relevant. 

A great way to approach this is to update your portfolio as you go constantly. This way, if a job comes up, you’ve always got a portfolio ready to go.

Sell Yourself

This is the most important! Your portfolio is all about selling yourself and your skills, and it’s important that, overall, this is what your portfolio achieves! Sell all your skills. Maybe you’re a photographer, or maybe you’ve got experience with coding? Whatever your talents, hobbies and skills, be sure to include them!

Hiya, I'm Mike - Web designer at Shape. My articles usually consist of design related stuff.