Published Fri Feb 17 2023
Best Practices for Creating a Graphic Design Portfolio
There is fierce competition among design jobs and freelance graphic design, but there are many easy steps you can take to create a compelling portfolio, showcase your design skills, and boost your chance of success.
You have probably applied for a freelance project or a full-time design job and never heard back. There is fierce competition among design jobs and freelance graphic design, but there are many easy steps you can take to create a compelling portfolio, showcase your design skills, and boost your chance of success.
Similar to your design resume and cover letter, portfolios can be of different types: you can use portfolio builders or create a traditional digital or print pdf portfolio. It does not matter which approach you choose. There are actionable ways to make your graphic design portfolio look both professional and visually appealing.
First, you need to put yourself in the shoes of an employer, hiring specialist, or potential client. Receiving hundreds of portfolios can be daunting! The latest studies show that 73% of companies invest in design to stand out in the competition. So, it is less likely they will hire someone who has a poor portfolio that does not say anything about you and your talent. However, you can find ways to make your portfolio stand out. Whether you get that callback will highly depend on the quality of the portfolio you send.
In today’s article, we will walk you through some simple yet useful tips to create a solid graphic design portfolio that grabs people’s attention.
Why Do Graphic Designers Need a Portfolio?
There are various reasons why graphic designers need a proper portfolio.
More specifically, they need it to:
- Showcase to employers and potential clients some of their best work.
- Emphasize the influence of your designs (e.g., increased brand awareness).
- Represent your personality, interests, passion, and vision.
- Demonstrate your skills as a designer.
- Track the projects you complete.
Regardless of the reason, make sure to create a portfolio that looks professional and eye-catchy at the same time.
10 Tips On How to Create a Graphic Design Portfolio
Now that you know how important it is to have a good-looking portfolio, it is high time to learn how to create it by following ten simple yet powerful tips.
1. Select the Right Platform
To make a portfolio, you need to choose the right platform. There are many website builders: low-code and no-code. Do some research and select a website builder that suits your skills and knowledge. These platforms come with advanced features and allow you to create portfolios with ease.
WordPress is the most popular platform you can use to create a portfolio. All you need is to have basic knowledge of programming languages. But if you are not good at coding and don’t have time for this, it is advised to use a hosted website builder.
2. Choose a Simple Layout
This tip might seem obvious, but it is easier said than done. Ensure your portfolio layout only includes the most important elements. Whatever you do, ask yourself, “How does this help tell the story?” and “What value does this project give?.”
It can be extremely hard to choose because creative people might think that all their projects add value. However, you still need to make some adjustments to make your layout look clean. These could be keeping descriptions of case studies short or removing some photos.
Before you make a final layout for your portfolio, it is recommended to create a rough layout. This helps you plan your graphic design portfolio carefully. This way, you will know how many photos you might need to include for each project. You will also know how much text space you are going to allocate to a particular area and how many customer testimonials you may need to add.
3. Add a Bio
Your bio is a great place to share a bit more information about who you are and what your expertise is. This will allow employers or potential clients to have a basic understanding of your personality and professional background before they reach out to you.
Ideally, your bio should include the following elements:
- A bit about your projects
- What/who inspires and motivates you
- What personality you have
- What makes you unique
- A profile picture
- Links to your social media accounts
4. Share Your Story
As a graphic designer, your communication skills are just as important as the work you create. People love stories, which is why it is always a good idea to craft a narrative around your projects. Showing off the final product is boring.
When demonstrating your work, remember to tell the story behind every design-related decision you made. Build a story around each work to draw your visitors' attention. Not only will this showcase your problem-solving skills as a designer, but it also allows potential clients and employers to have a clear idea of your working style and what this process looks like.
However, it does not mean that you should write a long essay. Keep your narrative short and sweet. Try to catch the viewer’s attention with a few sentences.
5. Group Your Works By Project
To keep your portfolio more organized and user-friendly, you can group your work together by project. First, you need to create a list of all the design work you’d like to add to your portfolio website and see how you can categorize them by the project. You can categorize them by type or client name.
Splitting your work into categories will make it easy for potential clients and employers to go through your portfolio. It can also be a great way to show professionalism. So, whether you have experience for creating YouTube or Spotify playlist covers, designing website elements and illustrations, and making engaging poster designs, all of these should be added under different categories.
If a client is looking for a designer who can make posters, for instance, they may be excited that you have a separate section of your portfolio site dedicated to posters you’ve created for different brands.
6. Use the Right Wording
While you need to make an effort to create a visually appealing graphic design portfolio, some short descriptions are needed to better explain each design you have created.
Avoid using too much text. No one is going to read long sentences. Instead, opt for using short text. This way, it will be much easier for visitors to explore your portfolio and get a better understanding of who you are.
7. Create Case Studies
Case studies can enable the viewer to get a glimpse of how you think and what approach you have for design projects. You can showcase how you brainstormed for a design and maybe present some rough sketches and concepts.
You might have a detailed project history or tons of great work that can fill up hundreds of pages, but that does not mean you need to show every single design you have created. Strong graphic design portfolios demonstrate only a few projects (usually your best work) and present them properly with visually compelling images and descriptions that are neither too generic nor too lengthy.
8. Consider Your Audience
When crafting a portfolio for your design work, make sure to keep your intended audience in mind to be able to meet their expectations. Ask yourself who your target audience is and how you can catch their attention. Picturing your target audience when creating your portfolio can help you choose the right approach.
After all, your end goal is to reach your career goals. To achieve these goals, you need to make a great first impression and take your audience’s needs and interests into consideration. This will double your chances for success.
9. Highlight Your Best Works
The brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than it does text. So, take advantage and try to impress people with the visuals you have created. As you dive into organizing your portfolio website, it’s essential to be picky about which work you add and not just throw every random and poor-quality thing you’ve designed onto your portfolio.
This means you might need to leave out some projects or examples that do not fit your graphic design style now. Rather than filling up your portfolio with every single design you’ve ever made, curate your website to emphasize the work you are most proud of and demonstrate your design skills the best.
10. Show Variety
It's a great idea to demonstrate some variety in your projects and skills. So, try to choose the different types of work you have created.
It can be boring if you showcase only one form of design in the whole portfolio. Add logo designs, posters, infographics, brochures, letterhead, social media banners, typography, flyers, etc.
This is a great way to show clients and employers that you are good at designing several types of graphics.
Crafting and maintaining your graphic design portfolio is an exciting and ongoing process. Give it more thought, attention, and love. After all, this is an essential document that can help you reach your career goals. So, you probably don’t want to present something messy and chaotic, right?
We hope this guide was helpful and you can start creating your own portfolio.
Thanks for reading, and good luck!