What Makes a Good Graphic Design Portfolio?

If you are a graphic designer applying for a job, you know the value of having a portfolio to present to a prospective employer. Next to your resume, it is the single most important item in your application “toolbox” and you want it to speak well about your abilities. So, what goes into a successful hardcopy representation of your work?

Don’t Go Digital

Future employers do not want to take the time to search a flash drive. Even if your work is mostly digital, this is a time to use hardcopy images to showcase your work. You can enclose a link to your digital folder with your resume and application, but when an employer calls you in for an interview be sure to have a hard copy in hand. Experts also urge designers to include work that is different than what is in your online folder.

Choose Appropriate Work

While the temptation might arise to showcase your versatility, you should emphasize pieces that fit the job for which you are applying. The website Web Design View suggests having different folders for each of your specialties. At least, you can separate the pieces and index them.

Put the Best Work in the Front

This advice goes hand-in-hand with another point: consider this a work-in-progress. Continually replace earlier work with better pieces as you get experience. Many artists begin and end with their best work and put other pieces in the center in an order that makes sense given the kind of work for which they are applying.

Context and Content

Creative Blog.com suggests including annotations and captions along with your work to explain what the original assignment was, and how well you feel you met your goals. You can create a couple of “case studies” following an assignment from concept to finished product and include references from the employer you worked for.

Think Breadth

Even though you are trying to use job-appropriate pieces, include work that shows the breadth of your talent and creativity. Some experts recommend including no more than ten pages while others say you should aim for at least twenty pages of your best pieces in different genres that might work for the job. It is fine to use some creative pieces you did for your own pleasure as well. Remember, however, that employers will see through a folder padded with inferior work, If you must choose between quality and quantity, choose quality.

Be Creative Cover to Cover

Think about the cover. While you don’t want to come across like a doodling high school student, there is nothing wrong with creating a visual statement about who you are. Think about impactful color schemes and style elements that will make your portfolio stand out. Consider using a spiral bound file of cards or create a handmade book. Whatever you do, aim for ease and simplicity in looking through your work.

The work that you showcase is your best job application. You can build your folder as you gain experience, beginning with lower-paying jobs and climbing toward plum assignments. If you take the time to make the portfolio itself one of your best works, it will sing your praises.

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