How to make your portfolio pack a punch
23 MAR 2018

Published by Emma Acton-Bloom


How to make your portfolio pack a punch

As creative recruiters we spend A LOT of time looking at portfolios, so we’d like to think we know a good one when it smacks us in the face. It’s so important to nail it as it’s often the only thing prospective employers will see before they even set eyes on you. Get this right, you’ve got one foot in the door.

With that in mind here are some important points for graphic designers to think about when putting their portfolio together:

  • Don't show work you're not proud of – if you don’t rate it, why would an interviewer? Show them what you’re passionate about because that’s contagious!
  • Think about your format. Do you prefer the sleek simplicity of having it on a laptop? Or are you a bit more tactile and so would prefer print? Both are fine and should reflect you and your work. Just make sure the quality is flawless and the edges are crumple free. 
  • For permanent roles, aim to show between 5 – 6 projects max – for freelance, a few more, maybe 8.
  • Tell the story of your projects visually – don't just show one image of the end-product.  Show your starting point, your rough concept work (some of it), how you developed that into the core design, and then how that design actually comes to life. 
  • Always explain the brief to the interviewer - explain your thought process.  For example, what kind of client is it for, what was the reason for a design/redesign, what was your rationale behind your design work, who is the target market, etc. 
  • If you did a redesign of something that existed before, why not start with an image of the “before” at the start of the project – if the 'before' isn't great, it will only make your 'after' look even better! 
  • Why not include one or two of the concepts for a project that the client didn’t choose? It gives perspective and will show your range. 
  • Show the two projects that you feel are your very strongest first and last at interview – it is those that the interviewer is likely to remember best. Don't start with a bang and end with a whimper. The last project you show will be freshest in their mind when you leave, so make it a banger.
  • Make your design work the hero. The less images on one page the better! No tiny images please, these don't really stand out visually, so what’s the point? The less clutter the better.
  • Freelancers are often chosen purely from the work on a pdf or website, without ever meeting the agency you’re going to work for until you start the freelance booking. So show stories but show more of them.  A lot of freelance now is briefed as “we are rebranding a client in the financial sector – do you have a designer with branding in that sector?” So show the variety of clients you’ve worked on.
  • For permanent roles, you might want to consider one short section of the folio which is about you having fun creatively – show some personal projects that you loved doing, or if you can illustrate show a couple of your illustrations, or photographs etc – something that shows who YOU are. 
  • Don’t put wedding invitations/record covers etc. in as being one of your key work projects, unless they are THE BUSINESS.  Too many designers bulk up their content by putting in 2 or 3 sets of wedding invites they’ve done for their friends, creative directors won't buy it. 
  • And finally, this is actually a really important one, rehearse presenting your folio before you go to any interviews – if you do this all the way through a couple of times, you’ll be much more confident when it comes to the real deal. 

We have portfolio surgeries a few times a year so watch out for updates on social media or sign up for our newsletter to get first dibs. 

Or if you’re itching to make a move and would like to talk to a consultant - give us a call, 020 3770 7711, we'd love to hear from you!

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