Your Portfolio is Your Brand.
Make It Shine.
by the FourthIdea Design Team
Right now, life is a little unsettling for all of us, but especially for new design grads. You’ve done all this work and then a pandemic ground the world to a halt. And while it’s not ideal, it is an opportunity to make sure your portfolio stands out from all others.
Design advice is subjective and while the methods for sharing work are rapidly changing, some tips will stand the test of time and present your portfolio in the best way possible. We wanted to share some insight on things we wished we knew and now look for in portfolios, and hope it will help future designers stand out as they begin their exciting new careers.
Do your research and know your audience. Make sure the work you’re showing is relevant to the work you’re trying to get. If it’s not the style of creative a company is looking for but the thought process and ideation are there, be sure to discuss that when presenting your work.
While your resume should be well designed from a layout and typography standpoint, save the bold colors and graphics for your portfolio and skip those charts that show how well you know each design program–that will be evident through the quality of your work.
Do not show incomplete work. It’s very off putting when someone comes in for an interview, is super enthusiastic and seems eager but then has unfinished work in their portfolio. Someone once presented a school project that they “didn’t have time to finish.” That wasn’t received well.
Edit work down–less is more! It’s better to have a quality meal over a mediocre buffet. Take your best 8 – 10 projects and really dig into them, improve on them and figure out what makes them work well. Write up short rationales/briefs for your projects and organize your work so it flows easily.
Show the process from start to finish. Show ideation and sketches, and make sure your design choices were intentional so you can easily talk through your work. People will really see your worth in the path you took to get to the finished product.
Showcase your personality and taste in your work, and while it’s important to show a range of skills in your portfolio, don’t include work that you don’t enjoy. If you hate web design, leave those projects out–and don’t include random artwork unless it was part of a finished design project. Make the type of work you want to create in the future, and never show anything you’re not proud of.
If you have a digital portfolio–which a lot of people do nowadays–bring print samples of finished pieces if you have them. It’s always nice to see work in its true form when available. Too many times, work falls flat when there’s no real world application. If you don’t have physical copies of your work, mockups (hyperlink: https://www.mockupworld.co/) can take design to the next level and bring your concept to life–even flat posters look better on a wall with shadows and a background.
Sweat the details and always get it proof read. I wish I had multiple people to proof read my portfolio. I recommend having someone who’s in the same field–as well as a non-creative–proof read, but also ensure that what you’re writing is true to yourself and your personality.
Bring a leave behind, something to talk about. Not only will it impress your interviewer, but it will give them something to remember you by sitting on their desk.
Keep in touch with your talented friends–they will bring you opportunities in the future.