Your portfolio is the face you present to the world. It’s one of the key ways to gain new clients and show off the more unique aspects of your work. When it comes to creating a design portfolio, there are many different options. Portfolios are as unique as the designers they represent.
There are approximately 266,300 graphic designers in the United States. Standing out amid hundreds of thousands isn’t easy. However, if you follow these tips and study what other designers are doing right with their portfolios, you will wind up with a unique portfolio that speaks to your target demographic.
1. Start With Your Strongest Design
One of the first thing you’ll need to do when putting together a portfolio is choose what work to feature. Unless you are just beginning, you likely have a lot of different examples from which to choose. However, not all examples of your work are going to be the absolute best work you’ve done.
Take the time to choose images of the designs you are most proud of. What is truly unique? Which projects stretched your skills? If you aren’t sure which ones are your best, consult with a colleague or fellow designer to help you choose which images to feature in your portfolio.
When narrowing down which images to use, you’ll also want to ensure you’ve chosen a variety of project types. For example, you might include a screenshot of a website you designed, an image of a flyer, an ad you put together and a logo. The key is to show potential clients the range of your abilities while still making sure it is the best work you’ve done. This shows your versatility to take on different types of projects and still do a great job for the client.
Take a look at designer Heather Shaw’s page and how she provides a variety of projects to show the range of her work. She lists the projects, such as Buzzards Bay Coalition, and what she did for them with responsive web design. She also has examples from other companies of book design, presentational materials, posters and logos. She ties everything together by using a grid layout and similar looks to each box.
3. Brag a Little
Your portfolio is an appropriate place to brag about your accomplishments. Use some text to explain what is special about your work and any additional training or skills you might have. If you completed a big campaign, share this information with your readers. Not only should you share your absolute best work you’ve completed on your page, but also your biggest accomplishments.
You also can share a bit on each design’s page about how you came up with the concept and any challenges you had to overcome. This shows you are persistent and stick with a project to its completion. If you’ve won an award for a design, be sure to mention that as well.
4. Visual Beauty
You’re a designer, so the overall look of your design website should be aesthetically pleasing. It probably sounds obvious, but you should apply the same artistic principles to your portfolio design that you apply to your graphic design work. If you were a visitor coming to the site for the first time, is it a place you’d want to stay?
Look at everything from how much negative space is on the page to how things are laid out on the page and if everything is easy to find. How do the photographs you’ve chosen to display your designs work together visually? Does anything look off and need to be reworked so it is a better match for the rest of the portfolio?
Famed photographer Mark DeLong has an absolutely visually stunning portfolio on his website. The images he chose for this page work so well together, yet are quite varied in content. The pinks and blues across the top row almost seem meant for one another. The bottom row shows motion, and the whites and reds tie together. Even the layout creates a sense of symmetry and beauty.
5. Name Drop
Don’t be afraid to drop names on your portfolio landing page. If you’ve worked with a big brand and have not signed a nondisclosure agreement, go ahead and share that you worked with them. If you have a celebrity client, ask for a testimonial and share it on the page, along with a screenshot of the design you created for that client. When site visitors see a name of a person or brand they know, it builds a level of trust in your work. If that person worked with you, you must be good at what you do.
If you feel like you are bragging, see the point above about showing off what you have to offer. The more advantages you can gain the better. There is a lot of competition out there, and you have to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
6. Show Your Personality
Don’t be afraid to show your personality through your portfolio. Your portfolio should reflect your design style, so the best person to create your portfolio is you. Keep in mind what some of your favorite colors are for design or the overall look of your brand logo. What is the message you’d like to convey with your portfolio?
If your designs are young and fun, this should be reflected in the overall look of your portfolio site. If you do mainly illustrations, show this in your background or logo.
Take a look at graphic designer Marleigh Culver’s portfolio website. Form the minute you land on her page, you can see her fresh and unique designs. The blocky text on the navigation menu speaks of youth. The light green background is fresh and youthful as well. You can easily see the influence of Teen Vogue in her design, which is something she also mentions in her text. How can you put your own personal stamp on your portfolio?
7. Limit the Number of Pieces
You probably have a lot of examples of excellent work you’ve completed. Perhaps you’re extremely creative and want to include dozens of examples of your work. It is best on your portfolio page to limit how many examples you include. Some experts recommend limiting yourself to 10 examples of your best work — remember to keep a variety of graphic design projects and choose only strong, unique pieces.
By limiting the number of images you display, you keep the user focused on you as a designer and encourage them to take action faster. The last thing you want to do is create a page where the site visitor gets lost in the many images and is faced with information overload.
8. Contact Page
A strong portfolio should have an easy-to-find contact page so potential clients can easily get in touch with you. At the same time, your contact page needs to show your unique personality as a designer and match the tone of the rest of your website. If you plan to use a form, make sure you include a call to action to get the user to submit the form.
You may also want to include several ways to get in touch with you. Most artists today have an Instagram account. Include any social media links as an alternate way to contact you.
Studio Morag Myerscough lets its reputation speak loudly. Instead of providing a lot of images, it has one large image as the background, links to social media where visitors can locate images of work and an email icon where you can easily contact them. Click on that email icon and a simple new email opens in whatever program you use. You can also right-click on the icon to copy the address and paste into your email program.
If you limit your portfolio to your best work and display it with good design principles, your portfolio will naturally be stunning. Keep in mind that you’ll want to update your portfolio frequently to show off your latest designs. This will also showcase to potential clients that you are working consistently and are up on the latest trends. Your portfolio is a reflection of you as a designer. Put your best design foot forward.