September 15, 2020
A clear, complete, and professionally presented vision of what you do and how you do it is essential for the growth of your business.
Thankfully, the days of lugging around a massive A1 leather-bound portfolio bursting at the seams are long gone. It really is the most magical time to be a graphic designer. Portfolios now can come in all shapes, sizes, and formats, and can be crafted to be exactly what you want and need them to be.
Among the portfolio questions we hear most often are “What should I include in my Portfolio?” and “What is the best way to get it out there?”
We’ve put together some helpful tips to help you get over those important steps on the path to curating and presenting your winning portfolio.
“What should I include in my portfolio? What should I leave out?” They are important questions, and the answer is – there is no one answer!
The scope and contents of your portfolio will depend on what your goals are. It’s really a case-by-case thing.
But never fear! As educators we have reviewed many portfolios and have collected and refined many tips and suggestions on both content and quantity—resulting in winning portfolios that land our students the jobs!
This is the million-dollar question.
We believe, and our experience shows, that less is more. Of course, if you have a small portfolio with average or only partially relevant materials in it, it’s not going to be of much use!
We strongly encourage quality over quantity. Only include the cream of your crops!
We often see designers who have an overflowing portfolio. We understand – it’s a case of wanting to show every facet of your skill-set, and, to be honest, when you’ve put your heart and soul into your work, it can be really hard to leave anything out…
But you must! You don’t want to include any weak links in your portfolio.
It is super-important to take the time to curate your portfolio to suit your goals.
There is only limited value in producing a look-book that has no clear strategy on content or sequence of thought—the results can simply be overwhelming for your viewers, and lead to a kind of information overload paralysis.
Be clear with yourself about the messages you want to send, and the type of work that you would like to attract.
What lights you up? What work do you want to be doing?
This is the biggie, but the solution is simple: show the kind of work you want to attract.
Just as niching and zeroing on a specific target audience in your business is important, so too is niching your portfolio.
Remember – you don’t need to include actual client work. If what you want to show doesn’t exist in your paid body of work, invest in yourself (marketing budget!)
Write yourself a kickass brief and create a design solution that tells your story and represents the design aesthetic that you love to produce.
Or, it could be concept work. You might focus on creating a solution for a faux business in an industry that you would like to work in, such as fashion, big-business, or hospitality. Some of the most popular design images we’ve seen circulating on Pinterest (and in popular Instagram posts) show concepts, not actual projects.
You can even feature your own brand collateral… we all know that designers’ brands are the best brands! ✨
The bottom line is, your portfolio should present the work that really lights you up so that you will attract more of that.
For that reason, don’t feel you have to include anything that you don’t enjoy or don’t want to get more of in the future—even if it is a major brand. You gotta let it go.
What will your client expectations be? What is their brand story? What does their brand need? Answer these questions to make sure your portfolio demonstrates how your skill sets, design aesthetics, and approaches will meet your clients’ needs.
Are you a beautiful illustrator? A digital imaging expert? Can you animate? Can you web develop? It sounds basic, but it is incredibly important that your portfolio focuses on your strengths.
This one is often over-looked—people love process and sneak-peak behind the scenes! Regardless of how many pieces your portfolio shows, we believe that one element should showcase your process. Invite your potential client into your world so that they can get a good idea of how you do your work.
This should include the processes your clients can expect when they choose to work with you, such as client onboarding, briefing, inspiration gathering, presentation, customer care etc. Demonstrate how easy it is to work with you, and how your client will be guided through the processes. This kind of full transparency throughout your process really is an indispensable element of a flourishing and rewarding design business.
So how do you present your portfolio once it is curated? Luckily for graphic designers, there are many juicy ways to do this! So many lovely touch points for your clients to discover your amazing work.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are so many ways to get your portfolio pieces out into the world. We think you’ll find these simple ideas a useful source of inspiration as you develop your own ways and means in getting your portfolio out there.
These should be password-protected, creating the impression that your clients are now part of a special, invitation-only group.
This is a perfect platform for showcasing your work, especially if you don’t have a whole lot of pieces to promote. When it comes to social media, repetition is not only fine, it’s actually necessary to make sure you get the right eyeballs on your work.
Think of your Instagram highlight reel as a mini-website. Not only can you showcase your work, but you can also show something of your behind-the-scenes creative processes. For example, one highlight reel could be called ‘Our Work’ or ‘Portfolio’ and another could be called ‘Process’. You can also break these down into categories, like ‘logo’ or ‘branding’. You can have a bit of fun with this, because Instagram stories are the perfect place for a more relaxed, behind the scenes approach—so that people can fall in love with the real and authentic you. However, still be mindful that you need a curated selection and you shouldn’t be sharing work unless you want more like it in the future.
Hardly anyone is doing this one anymore! There is still something special about receiving a personally addressed package in the mail, right? So much the better when it is a beautifully printed, strategically-tailored print piece that shows what you can do – and that you are thinking of them! They’ll feel like they have received a special gift, just from you.
Simply with your phone and a video editing app you could create a beautiful film that combines your printed pieces and digital works. A video will add an extra dimension embedded in your website or sent via an email campaign. The skies and your skills are the only limits.
Added to a static logo, animation can really bring your creation to life. These can also be used to upsell to clients – they will want it too
When you receive gorgeous printed pieces hot off the press, have them professionally photographed as a flat lay. Great photography bridges the gap between not being able to hold a tactile object and being able to see its tactility. Showcasing your design work in this way celebrates the print media.
As a part of your regular promotional plan and to keep Mr. SEO happy, you will get good value if you create a blog post about at least one aspect of the project every time you have some new work. It is a great opportunity to show your behind-the-scenes processes, as well as your own inspiring and engaging work. Be sure to repurpose this blog post content on other platforms and share as much as possible.
While you’re at it, why not share extended concepts for a brand that may or may not have ever existed? It’s a great way to present the work you want to do and attract the people you want to work with.
In addition to Instagram, you can use your own profile on Pinterest like a portfolio page. Join group boards and pin your work to those as well. Share not only your blog images but your Instagram posts too. Broaden your horizons along with your collection of interested followers.
In addition to the strategic use of social media, you can post your portfolio materials on portfolio sites. Here’s 4 you can upload to today:
Still not sure if your portfolio has what it takes to convert to sales?
We’ve got you. We’ve assessed countless portfolios both as professional designers and over the course of our design lecturing careers. We know what works, and we have important insights into how designers sometimes might not always be doing themselves the greatest favours in their portfolios…
The good news is that we are offering 1 to 1 portfolio review sessions via zoom.
Sometimes you need an objective pair of eyes on your portfolio, someone who can see the forest for the trees and who can help point you in the right direction, and draw attention to areas that can be improved.
We offer ways to enhance what is working and give you the courage to remove what isn’t. Let that stuff go…
Let us put our loving, experienced and discerning eyes on your portfolio. 😍
We can help you with:
Book in your 1 to 1 Portfolio Session here
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