3 Tips For Creating An Amazing Design Portfolio

My previous entry, 4 Tips for Landing Your First Design Job, focused on leveraging your personal brand in order to achieve that goal. This post will center on crafting a portfolio that reinforces your strengths, and brand, to further that cause.

  1. Limit yourself

    Between school, freelance and internships you are bound to have a lot of work you COULD show. However, not everything deserves a place in your portfolio. You might be really proud of that first freelance project you got designing a flyer for a local restaurant. Chances are the owner art directed the piece to death and made you include terrible pictures of the food and his cat Meatballs. Does it belong?

    The curation of a portfolio says a lot about a designer and how they think. Like an advertisement, the visual, headline and body copy send deliberate messages to the viewer. Take a look at your portfolio. What does it say about you? Start by limiting yourself to 10-15 pieces and go from there.

  2. Surprise them

    The world requires your portfolio live in two places; In physical form and in ones and zeros. Your first inclination might be to put all of your work in both places but consider this alternative. Pull three pieces you are proud of from your portfolio that you don’t include on your site or in your PDF that way when you get called in for a face-to-face you will be able to talk about work that the recruiter hasn’t seen. Dimensional pieces are great for these types of situations because they are often hard to photograph and their interactivity depth to an interview.

  3. Strike a balance

    We all have strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to design you might excel in typography and illustrations, but struggle with editorial and identity. You need to decide what kind of designer you are. Are you a jack of all trades or a specialist? My advice is to start by specializing in a few areas and eventually break into other areas once you have work worthy of the spotlight.

At the same time, you need to make sure you aren’t cornering yourself into only one aspect of design and more importantly execution. Take a flip through your book. Are you overusing a color, font or execution like grunge? There are many ways to show diversity within a few disciplines if you vary the execution.

The overarching message here is that you need to be conscious and deliberate about what you show the world. If you’re already thinking about the tips I’ve outlined and you’ve read my post 4 Tips for Landing Your First Design Job then you are well on your way to creating a great portfolio.