graphic design business

Importance of a strong portfolio and how to strengthen it

As a Graphic Design student you may ask yourself pressing questions such as “How do I go about finding a job?” Students close to graduation often have¬†no design experience beyond the academic so how do you find a job in a creative field? ¬†Everyone has to start somewhere, and successfully defining that starting point is key.

The Portfolio

The importance of the portfolio cannot be stressed enough; it is a showcase of the creative professional’s ability. This applies to all creative professionals in the visual arts, from freelancers to in-house designers.

The resume is a list of skills, but the portfolio demonstrates these skills. Professionalism in a portfolio is an absolute must: but what does this mean?

Steps Towards a Stronger Portfolio

Consider the following when crafting a plan for an initial portfolio or for a portfolio review:

  • All portfolio pieces should be professionally presented, both individually and collectively. This means clear, crisp imagery that highlights the work. Do not allow low resolution imagery, visible errors, or poor photography distract from the work.
  • Portfolio pieces should be recent and relevant to the creative professional’s focus. If a creative professional is pursuing a web design position, package design examples are not going to exhibit the proficiency that the employer or client is looking for. There is nothing wrong with strategically preparing a portfolio; this is the professional’s opportunity to show that they’re a good fit.
  • Student work is an acceptable inclusion, but it should be treated as a professional piece. This may mean refining work beyond the classroom.
  • Self-initiated projects are also an acceptable portfolio addition. This is a great opportunity to showcase your creative potential, ideas, and execution.
  • Note that a portfolio is not necessarily a timeline of work. It is a showcase of your best work, not of all your work.
  • Include design narratives, briefly explaining the project (e.g., dimensions, date, any outside resources). Process is often important.
  • Consider the most appropriate delivery method for the applicable creative focus. A website? A PDF? A printed portfolio?

The Next Steps

After fine tuning the portfolio and branding one’s resume, it’s time to start applying. This can vary, depending on career goals. It can include finding an agent, applying to live job listings, and searching for clients.

Think from the employer or client’s perspective. Would you hire a professional with a lackluster portfolio? What would you want to see? It’s important to view one’s work without rose tinted glasses; there is always room for improvement. Ask other creative professionals for honest opinions, and take their criticism seriously. Improvement is a strong step towards professional advancement.