I receive some terrible portfolios from rookie designers but it’s not actually your fault as a budding designer. Remember in part one when I mentioned that universities keep you stuck in a box and you have to start using your eyes to absorb good design? Well this is why your portfolio is pretty terrible.
Universities tend to molly cuddle designers whilst their studying, concentrating more so on ideas as oppose to execution. The principles of design are forgotten and it shows through in your portfolio.
Obviously, having ideas is part and parcel of the job but what good is it if you can’t execute that idea professionally?
I see portfolio pieces with terrible margins, padding, alignment and layout. To solve this problem, go back and make sure you’ve read, understand and are doing part one (using your eyes).
If you do this you’ll see what good design is and how to build a better portfolio which is essential to getting hired as a designer because your portfolio is your most important asset as a designer. It’s effectively your visual CV to showcase your experience, talent and what you can bring to the job. Creating a portfolio can seem like a tedious task but you can turn your portfolio into a mini project in itself. Think of it as a creative and personal branding project for you.
- Create an identity
- Create a website portfolio
- A CV
- A PDF portfolio
- A physical portfolio
Treat it as one project with a synergy between each document. As for your actual portfolio there are four keys to creating a great portfolio:
1. Context and problem solving
Your portfolio needs to showcase real world work designed to solve a problem for someone else. This gives your portfolio context, demonstrating experience and the fact that you can ascertain, communicate and solve problems with design.
Now, you might be saying that you’re just starting out and don’t have any real world work in which case you need to make it up.
You can find exercise design briefs online at Breifbox or you can create one yourself. Likewise you can look at charity work, concept work or free work but in any case build up a body of work with context.
2. Your best work
I had a large portfolio and I wasn’t exactly sure what to put in it so I pretty much put it all in but that was a mistake. What you need to do is pick out your best work as oppose to all your work. Picking work is a tricky task especially for new designers. Over time it’s become easier and for me personally I now have a better opinion of my own work. When I finish a project I pretty much know by the end of it whether it’s something I’m proud of and whether it’s something I would put in my portfolio or not.
To solve this problem for you keep your work specific and niche according to the job role and try to keep it fresh with latest work as oppose to old but again a classic piece of work will supersede a dull new one.
3. Creating your best work
A very important point is to keep you work and portfolio sharp by using design principles. Use negative space, padding and alignments to make every piece of work look professional and use those principles again to present your work well in your portfolio.
4. Be Strict
When producing your portfolio be strict with yourself otherwise you may find it to be a big task that goes out of control. Pick no more than 5 projects to showcase or 5-10 individual pieces of work.
5. Try and tell a story
If possible, try and tell a story with each project in your portfolio. Think of it like a visual case study. This helps to add context not only to your work but your work process and rationale. It will show how you approached a problem and solved it.
Feel free to tailor your portfolio for specific jobs by looking at what the company themselves may want from you.
To give you an idea, heres a few portfolio pieces of my own that show off a complete project in digital format.