Before we start, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a guide on how to make the perfect portfolio. It makes an assumption you’re just starting out, at university, looking to get your first job or that you’re rusty and it’s been a while since you last created a portfolio. Rather than being a specific guide, it’s an overview of the steps and the thinking behind what you should be doing. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
How should I present my portfolio?
Before you start collating your work you’re going to need to think about what it is you’re going to be creating, is ita PDF? a booklet? a website? It’s completely up to you the type of portfolio you decide to assemble, pick the best medium you feel will communicate your work, tailoring the portfolio to the job you’re going for would also be worth considering. Using a graphic design role as an example if you’re looking to stand above the crowd you could get your portfolio printed on some good stock paper, bound into a book, design a newspaper, you could even hire a billboard but it’s not necessarily necessary, a PDF portfolio will be more than acceptable for 90% of use cases.
What do I include?
I’ve worked as a brand designer, a digital designer and now a product designer, each of these roles different in their own right requiring different skills and a way of thinking but all in all you’re still part of the wider design network. Your skills are interchangeable, if you think about it there are a lot of aspects of design that tend to cross between job roles, taking typography as an example, having an understanding of typography can be appreciated no matter the field you want to work in, whether you’re working on an app, a poster, a website, having a good eye for typography is a valuable design trait.
Variety is the spice of life and so are your skills, just because you’re going after the digital designer role doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include the branding work you did that showcases a particular skill, an understanding of layout, colours, typography things you will need in your new role.
That being said you don’t want to go completely off-piste, you want to focus on keeping your portfolio clean and concise, not using all of your work but handpicking the best and most relevant pieces.
The work you include has to be considered; ask yourself why it’s there, is there a reason other than “This is just something I think looks cool” to you it might be the best piece of design you’ve ever done but if there’s no thinking, no rationale behind the work then your potential employer can't judge how you will work on live projects. Will you be able to work within time constraints? Will you be able to work within the restrictions of brand guidelines? Will you be able to solve the client's problems? Showing live client work or work from briefs that you have followed at university have much more weight behind them.
One of the hardest things I’ve found is getting to the point where you are happy enough, for me it was my website going through iteration after iteration until finally I finished it.
When you’re happy and you have finally finished your portfolio before you send it out ask someone to check it. The best person to look at it would be someone impartial who hasn’t been there while you’ve been creating it. Sending it to your tutor, someone in the industry or even friends and family (they may be slightly biased) to get their feedback.
Don’t be scared of feedback!
You will want them to be honest and to give you constructive feedback, not just tell you it’s great because they are your friend. In the design industry, your project will go through many versions before you eventually come up with that final deliverable, so you may as well rip the feedback plaster off now and get used to it.
Let it go
Seriously, just send your portfolio out there you’ve worked hard in creating it so let’s share it with the world, applying for the agencies that you want to work for not just the ones that you ‘might want to work with’. Even sending your portfolio to agencies that don’t have any job openings; If they like what you‘re offering they will either get in touch or keep a record of you for future positions.