Presenting your portfolio: the basics

You make think your portfolio is a sort of representation of your inner soul, but you must also take into consideration that your portfolio is showing your prospective employer what you have to offer them.Your portfolio should show a enough range that it indicates that you are able to fulfill the needs of the design firm or employer. Gear your portfolio for each job you apply for. A large corporation will have different needs then a small printing company. Prepare your portfolio accordingly depending on the specialization of the place you are applying to, so that you can best showcase relevant skills.

Before you can create the successful portfolio you need to know what your prospective employer is looking for. You will only know if you do a good amount of research. Once you have a clear idea who they are and who their customer base is you can better adjust your portfolio.

While it is impossible to have one general portfolio that works for a number of prospective employers, having subcategories can save the amount of time you are creating specialized portfolios. For example, your main content might showcase your top designs, while a secondary page highlights skills that the employer is also looking for. You can structure your portfolio in a way that indicates versatility and well-rounded design skills while also featuring a few of your specialties as well, be it video editing, animation, print design, etc.

How do you decide what should go into your portfolio?

-make an honest assessment of what you have to offer your potential employer
-know your strengths and understand your weaknesses
-understand that creating a strong portfolio may be daunting, but it is essential
-ask yourself “who is my audience?” (a good portfolio indicates that you understand the needs of the employer)
-gain confidence by building a strategy for what should be in your chosen works
-be critical and weed out mediocre work
-try to use only newer and relevant work
-remember that an emotional connection to a work does not guarantee it will translate well for a portfolio


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.