The perfect portfolio

A lot of up and coming designers and students contact me with regards to the layout of my portfolio 

“what works best? how do I do it? what’s the best way to lay it out?”

So I decided to write a blog detailing what I think is a perfect portfolio. We have to remember that design is subjective. What one person may like, another may not. So don’t take offence to someone who may not like the work you have done. Be proud of the work you are showcasing and own it! Your portfolio is the window to your own design world. It’s all the creativity and experience you have had along your career, so this is your chance to show off how good you are, where your skill set lies and some of the greatest work you have done.

Does size matter?

The size of your portfolio does matter, it’s good to show a variety of things that you have done to prove versatility. When an employer is looking at your portfolio for a digital job, if you have experience in print design, make sure that you include it in your portfolio. It’s important that they know you have had experience in setting up artwork and being meticulous about detail and positioning. Even though in digital things don’t need to be re-printed, it’s still important to get things right before they get developed – always remember time is money. Keep your portfolio content short, descriptions of work for example should be three lines maximum, keeping the wording to the point. Anywhere between ten to fifteen examples of work should be more than enough. A little more is no biggie, but make sure that you aren’t using your portfolio as a complete catalogue of work from when you started University! Yawn!

Structure is everything…

The structure of your portfolio needs to be simple. Make sure there is an attractive cover, as it helps entice the viewer into seeing more of your work. This time do judge a book by it’s cover! It doesn’t have to be over the top or overly colourful, but thought provoking always works. Make sure you then list your experience. A lot of the portfolios that I see ‘over work’ the CV, thinking that the need is to be creative with the typography. You have to remember that even though it may look beautiful, if it doesn’t read and takes too long to get the information required, they won’t even look at your work. Keep it simple, use headers and subheads, all matching and keep the content short and precise. Make it interesting or keep it organised. If your going to mix digital and print, make sure that one piece of work flows into the next, so there is some kind of story. Otherwise, it’s best to keep the sections delineated – branding, print, apps, digital etc.

Experience is key

When applying for jobs, it’s important that you show the experience you have gained in the industry. A portfolio full of print work, won’t be much use for a digital design job, so make sure that even if you put print work in, that the balance tips more towards the style of application that you are applying for. So keep it relevant, keep it on the ball and of course curate it beautifully.

Keep it updated

As designers, we are always creating, visualising and being inspired by our surroundings. So if you do a piece of work, that isn’t even for a client but for your own personal use, still keep it in mind for showcasing in your portfolio. You may have used a skill that you didn’t know you had or that it might just catch the eye of someone that is looking for a particular ‘je ne sais quoi’. When doing pieces of work for yourself, always ask if it is something that you can put in your portfolio.

Can’t find what I am looking for…

Some of the time I will get an email with a portfolio with a link that doesn’t work, that is broken or to a website that isn’t even structured. If you are going to keep your portfolio on the internet, make sure that it is always accessible before you send it out. Make sure that if you have it as a download, that the links work and that if you are going to showcase your portfolio as an entire website, that it’s easy to navigate. Remember, as designers we are all about communication – make sure that what you want to communicate comes across in the easiest way possible. That means taking into consideration bandwidth, responsive design and mobile/tablet devices.

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