Building your dream portfolio

Your portfolio is arguably the most important ongoing design project you will ever create. It’s a piece of work that could land a dream job, propelling you toward a successful career. With that in mind, it’s understood your portfolio should resonate with your most relevant and prized work while also looking polished and refined, a fitting representation of who you are and how you work. However, this is no easy feat. Within this article, we will try to relieve you of the anxiety and pressure you may be under to create something truly you. Because not only does a portfolio sell your abilities to create and think like a genius, but it also sells who you really are and whether you are the right candidate for an opportunity of a lifetime.

Preparing your portfolio

Before even starting on creating your portfolio, it’s good practice to gain a little perspective instead of rushing in all guns blazing. To avoid any potential disasters let’s take a look into a few factors that will shape your portfolio:

  • The kind of position
  • The type of employer you are targeting
  • The role itself, specialist or generalized
  • Digital or conventional

Choosing the right content

The format, structure and overall look of your portfolio should be adjusted accordingly.

Depending on the position of which you are applying, the format, structure and overall look of your portfolio should be adjusted accordingly. For example, if you’re aiming for a more traditional career in graphic design such as creating company logos or brochure layouts then you would want to focus on showcasing projects that demonstrate your skills in these areas, like logo mock-ups or printed designs. On the other hand, if you’re going after a digital media role then it’s important to display examples of your work across varied platforms, whether its websites or interactive prototypes. Making strategic decisions about what designs to include based on the job title can make all the difference when evaluating competing portfolios.

What bits of you to include?

As much as this is an official document, trying to land you a job. It is also an opportunity to show who you are. So what makes you so unique compared to everybody else? When you are competing against hundreds of applicants, it might be your personality that gets you across the finishing line. Subtle hints of your personality, your favorite cartoon character as a child, a personal project of yours or even a tangential idea can blossom your portfolio into something much more meaningful. Let’s not forget that the people you are communicating to through your work are also likely to be creative minded people!

How do you look competitive with little experience?

For a post graduate looking for their dream job, it’s possible that you will be up against other designers with more experience and work volume in the industry. This can be somewhat intimidating for anyone crossing the student to employee bridge. This is where snapping up as many projects and briefs while you have the time is very important. You can do this by searching for briefs online, using freelance websites or getting some work experience. On the other hand, you can enter graphic design competitions. Even if you don’t win a competition or the freelance job you will be generating work that you enjoy doing, turning over real life projects and also filling out your portfolio. It’s a win win!

It’s important to remember that employees will look at quality over quantity in most hiring situations. So when generating more work for your portfolio, take this into consideration and use your time wisely.

Using case studies

When it comes to including case studies in your graphic design portfolio, the answer is definitely yes! Showing off a few completed projects speaks volumes about your abilities and experience; it’s always helpful to add more context than just showcasing a static list of services. Graphics can be complex, so discussing specific challenges you faced while developing the design and sharing your strategies for solving them adds an extra layer of credibility. Being able to articulate why something was designed a certain way also demonstrates that you have an understanding of effective composition and are willing to go beyond visuals. So don’t forget to include case studies in your portfolio, they can be incredibly valuable tools for attracting attention and demonstrating your skills and knowledge.

Curating your portfolio

There are many avenues to go down when compiling your work into something meaningful and functional. The root you take entirely depends on your abilities and who you are targeting, acting as supporting proof of what you are trying to sell. The very nature of a portfolio dictates that it is a multi page project, page or anyway in which you can showcase multiple projects. With such a broad variety of methods, it’s not as simple as going down the traditional root. However, we can take a look at the most common methods used today and go through their functionality and why they might appeal to your needs.

  • Traditional (a printed book)
  • PDF
  • Website
  • Using an online portfolio

Printed Portfolio

Creating a printed graphic design portfolio can give you an immediate advantage when trying to land your dream job.

Creating a printed graphic design portfolio can give you an immediate advantage when trying to land your dream job. Not only does having a physical portfolio showcase the hard work and effort you put into each project, but it also acts as a representation of yourself. It shows that you are passionate and care enough to invest time and energy in creating something tangible. There is no limit to what you can do at this moment and so personalizing it can really emphasize your point and even touch whoever may be viewing it in an emotional way. There are plenty of production methods out there that can really add depth to your portfolio look, such as:

  • Using different paper weights
  • Embossing
  • Embellishing
  • Painting
  • Using a variety of different materials
  • Cutting out shapes
  • Choosing from a selection of binding methods

A printed portfolio is often a memorable way to stand out among other candidates. It may be one small thing, but when applied alongside other skills like knowledge of the industry, customer service and communication skills, it often makes all the difference in getting hired for the job of your dreams.

PDF Portfolio

Creating a PDF graphic design portfolio is a great way to showcase your talents and skill sets to potential employers and with so many portfolio templates available, there’s no excuse to get started. It gives you the flexibility of creating a custom-tailored presentation combining any combination of collections, images, videos, written content and more while still maintaining a professional look. Additionally, it’s incredibly user friendly; no longer do you have to worry about having the perfect device or software for displaying your work. Simply email your completed PDF portfolio to those viewing it and let them appreciate your work on the medium of their choice! So if you’re looking for an easy and effective way to help your credentials stand out from other candidates, a PDF graphic design portfolio is definitely the way to go.

Website Portfolio

A web portfolio is becoming almost essential for any designer.

The dividing line between website development and graphic design has become more and more blurred over the last decade, and as a result, having such skills could shift you up into pole position. Websites can be very impressive. Showcasing pixel-perfect projects in a fully customizable environment will most definitely shine through, and with its interactive capability, it could also function to your advantage, providing the employer with a user-friendly experience. Designers can accomplish stunning website portfolios using website builders such as:

  • WordPress
  • Wix
  • Squarespace

Not only does it provide an easier way for the employer to immediately access examples of your work, portfolios are able to expand on opportunities such as customizing designs based on briefs and make yourself more marketable. Additionally, creating a website not only allows you to show off your skills and creativity but gives you greater control over how potential clients or companies view your work and style. With modern day technology continuously advancing, take advantage of this new era of self promotion by building a solid foundation that showcases both strengths and ambition.

Online Portfolio

There are a bunch of highly sociable design communities on the web that are great for circulating your most prized pieces of work while also connecting and networking, brushing shoulders with the current top dogs in the design community. They are such a useful tool for people like you who want to connect and get noticed, and also find inspiration for your future projects, perhaps even collaborate! But it doesn’t stop there. Some of the biggest brands and design agencies use them to fish for the best talent in the pool, and so it won’t do you any harm whatsoever to hang up your portfolio in one of these communities.

All you need to do is create your own profile, provide a little information about yourself and you will have the options available to create a portfolio ready to be viewed by the online community. You can even apply for jobs within the sites!

Branding your Portfolio

treating your portfolio like a deeply thought out, branded project greatly benefits your portfolio’s look and appeal

To some employees, looking at your portfolio could be the conclusion to their search. So the notion goes “It does exactly what it says on the Tin”. Therefore, treating your portfolio like a deeply thought out, branded project greatly benefits your portfolio’s look and appeal. You could come up with a brand identity, using an original logo, color palette and even carefully selected elements like icons or images. This could also be where your personality can really shine through, perhaps embedding something that is truly unique to you alone, communicating a sense of purpose.

Finding a suitable job is a numbers game, so placing eggs in other baskets will raise your odds of accomplishment even higher. Why not create multiple versions of your portfolio? It’s very likely you will have the skills and knowledge to do all of the above methods, branching out to a wider audience of employers, building awareness of your portfolio, and also being prepared for a special request.

When you have created something that truly reflects you and your ambitions in such a way that makes you proud, then you are on the right track to perhaps impressing someone else. Your portfolio should be the best piece of work you have ever created, a celebration of you and what is possible. Because perhaps one day, you could infuse all that creative genius into something the rest of us can appreciate. We wish you the best of luck!