A guide to help new designers build, send out, manage and present their on-line and printed portfolios. Advice provided by international industry professionals, edited and curated by Richard Baird.

Let your work do the talking

When building your website, it’s easy to get carried away with adding superfluous design detail. After all, your website should showcase your talent and expertise, right?

The purpose of your portfolio is to put your best and greatest on display, but you should let the work do the talking. An overly embellished website is akin to a bedazzling portfolio case, it will only detract from your meticulously composed content.

Keep it simple, let the work shine.

Provided by @e_known

Ordering your print portfolio

I believe the best way to order your portfolio is to have the second best at the very beginning and your best piece at the back. Once you have taken the interviewer through the portfolio you are very likely to continue the conversation with that page still open and it’s best to have the piece your most proud of in front of you.

Provided by @richbaird

Jack of all trades, master of none

You’re a jack of many trades: You design logos, brochures, websites,and packaging, you do a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. But lets be frank, no one really needs to know upfront about every single thing you do and every service you provide. When composing your “services,” or “what I do” section of your website, don’t feel a need to create a master list. At most, describe a handful of your top specialities and let the actual portfolio do the rest of the talking.

Provided by @e_known


Don’t put everything into your print portfolio, try to keep it to your best pieces and include a couple of case studies so you can show the interviewer your full process from research to final result and show a clear rationale for all your decisions.

Provided by @richbaird

Keep it fresh

Edit. And edit often. Keep your portfolio light and only put in your best pieces. Go back every few months and replace old items with newer better pieces. Better to have 5-8 outstanding pieces than dozens of average.

Provided by @StvCummins

E-mailing your portfolio

Don’t just send out blanket e-mails with your portfolio attached (especially with a vast visible list of recipients), take the time to find out about the company and the individual likely to pick up the e-mail. Avoid sending large attachments, keep it below 3mb and to just a couple of case studies, remember to save some of your best work for any potential interviews that may follow.

Provided by @richbaird

Don’t mix disciplines

When building your portfolio you have to be aware that people like to box you in specific categories; if you do illustration they will put you in that category if you do logo design they’ll remember you for your logo design. If you have more than one discipline, don’t mix them in the same book. Create different portfolios according to the client you are going to see.

Provided by @RudyHurtadoDsgn

Your individual offering and style

When you’re creating multiple portfolios on-line make sure that each has a consistent offering and style that ties them visually together. This will help potentially clients to instantly recognise you and your work across multiple touch-points.

Provided by @richbaird

It’s all about content

Keep it simple. Avoid flashy effects, resizing browser windows or strange navigation that is confusing and slow loading. Remember content is king.

Provided by @Dan (Please provide your Twitter ID)

Create a flexible and targeted portfolio (Print)

Depending on what you want to achieve with your portfolio (be it to land that awesome job, or attract clients) you must design and alter your portfolio to achieve that specific goal. Think of your portfolio as a product, and yourself as the client; What steps must you take to enhance your clients total reach to potential consumers and increased sales?

When I was hunting for a design job I spent a huge majority of my time researching the firms I was applying to and altering my portfolio to cater to the kind of clients they attract. Primarily a branding firm? No problem! Rearranged my print portfolio to showcase logos and branding first.

Marketing yourself as a brand that provides a unique service can benefit your portfolio tenfold.

Get straight to the point

Always display your work on the homepage of your portfolio website and give visitors an instant overview of your work. Don’t tire them with any introductions, silly catch phrases etc. Get straight to the point.

Provided by @ben_bate

Keep it concise

How many pieces should you include in your portfolio and is there a specific order these should be in?  Experts say you should not put more than 8 to 10 projects, being either individual works or campaigns. If you can’t show what you can do creatively in 8 works, you probably will not show it in 20 and even worse, you will only bore the viewer.

Provided by @RudyHurtadoDsgn

Arranging your portfolio: The picket fence

Arranging your portfolio: The picket fence by Rudy Hurtado

In terms of the order of your works, an important thing to remember: Start with a POW and end with a WOW! This means you will have to give your book some structure, for some experts it’s like a picket fence. Build the posts that will carry the weight of the the rest as illustrated above. Your best work first, your second best at last and third best in the middle, then you choose where to put the rest, just make sure that the work you are showing is absolutely your best.

This technique can be applied to an electronic portfolio, although there are some websites where you can upload your work and they are not flexible to do your own sequence.

Provided by @RudyHurtadoDsgn

It’s all about potential

Something that’s been on my mind for several years: the approach to the printed folio, or more so the student graduation folio. I’ve attended graduate exhibitions (in various capacities), as well as looking back through my own, and there is always a consistent flaw: Illustration, illustration, illustration. They’re always so illustration heavy, mostly conceptual. Why? Because they’re fun and they’re not just boring corporate, right? What I’ve learned is that as proud as you may be of these artworks, they don’t show your potential client or (even more so) an employer why they should hire you. They may appreciate it on an aesthetic level (Wow, that looks cool. What’s it for?), but there’s no context for why it’s there or answer a brief. You may get a few ohs and ahs but essentially these efforts will be disregarded quickly.

Don’t shove everything in only your best, and make it relevant

When I was contacting design agencies and going for interviews I wouldn’t have any more than 15-20 pages in my folio, but I’d design/prepare 40-50 pages. Not every agency has the same work output, so why have the same folio? I’d research the majority/typical output of each agency and tailor my folio book to suit. It seems like common sense, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been sharing a waiting room before an interview and seeing the other guy with a book full of character illustration when we’re both going for a position that deals with mostly text and editorial layout. So pad it with what’s appropriate, then add a few pieces to show your diversity and disrupt a possible sense of monotony. I’ve always taken great care with my folio page order, specifically how and where I use my disruptive pages having a sense of rhythm keeps it fresh from start to finish. Besides page rhythm, make sure to keep a fairly consistent page grid too, otherwise not only will your folio look sloppy, rushed and disorganised, but you will look sloppy, rushed and disorganized.

Research the company before the interview. It takes it up a notch

Research the company as well as the company’s work, it shows you’re keen and creates an extra talking point with your interviewer. The moment an employer becomes aware that you know little to nothing about their company, the interview is over. It will then just be formalities (if you’re ever in this situation pay close attention to body language. You’ll know the second they’ve lost interest. Hint: It’s mostly in the shoulders.) Yes, diversity in your portfolio is good, but employers need to be confident that you have an aptitude for their particular service. After all, they intend to pay you for it. Just remember the diversity pages are supposed to enhance your suitability for the role. They need to say I’m confident in the areas you require, but if you ever need me for something else I can handle that too. What you don’t want them to say is “sure, I’ll do the tasks you require, but just so you know, this what I’d rather be doing. Every page in your folio needs to be justifiable. You could be quizzed on all or any portion, so make sure you can always back up an inclusion by discussing its relevance and how it can be beneficial to the viewer.

Make it stand out

Through my printing job, I’ve seen many folios. Some go for the different decorative papers, others the fancy binding the most common is the experimental look popular among designer grads and architecture grads. Just imagine if Federation Square was constructed from letterforms and gradients that’s the general look. I also believe that finding some kind of gimmick to give your folio a bit more punch couldn’t hurt. After all, you’ve got to stand out any way you can, maybe the way you package it could be different, does it have to be in a book format? Everyone likes a puppet show … kidding, or not. Having a folio of great work with a unique approach to its presentation could make all the difference.

Provided by @hayestweet

Take your time

A good portfolio, be it in print or on screen, lives on details. You worked hard on each of your projects, make sure that you put the same effort into the way you present them in your portfolio! Perfectly shot reproduction, location-based pictures, retouching, animated gifs and even movies can be a pain in the ass and often time consuming but the results will be worth the effort!

Provided by @moodwood