Vartika Gandhi

How to make a design portfolio: that gets you hired.

Why is a portfolio important for a designer?

Imagine being the proud owner of a delightful restaurant, eager to entice your customers with an unforgettable dining experience. To achieve this, you need a menu that not only tempts their taste buds but also captivates their imagination, leaving them craving more.

Similarly, designers possess a remarkable gift of creativity that needs to be shared. Just as a menu showcases tasty dishes, a designer’s portfolio serves as a captivating element for the eyes and minds of potential clients or collaborators. It’s an invitation to witness the visual wonders they can create—a sample of their ability to craft breathtaking designs that leave a lasting impact. Like mouth-watering menus, a compelling portfolio has the power to lure clients or employers.

Overall, a portfolio is a captivating and essential tool for designers, regardless of their level of experience. Just as we all have unique fingerprints, we each have unique design styles. There is no defined style for a perfect portfolio, but certain aspects should be considered while creating and maintaining one. A well-crafted portfolio can assist you in personal growth, provide better opportunities, help you find your style, and advance your design career.

How can I start/improve my design portfolio?

Let’s start with the basics—first things first:

  1. Finalise your area of interest: Graphic Design is a broad term encompassing various types such as Web Design, UI and Interactive Design, Advertising and Marketing Design, Motion Graphics and Animation, Packaging Design, Game Design, Illustration, Publication and Typographic Design.|
  2. Note down the skills you want to focus on. You have the freedom to choose a broader or more niche skill set. For example, you may want to specialise in logo designs, website designs, or packaging designs. Alternatively, you may prefer to work on multiple types of graphic design.
  3. If you have decided to focus on logo designs, include the majority of your work related to logos. You can showcase the concepts, the behind-the-scenes process, the reasons for colour and typography choices, and even mockups to give a realistic feel. Reveal the hidden layers of your design process.
  4. Understand your target audience. It’s essential to know who you are designing for. There are two main scenarios: either you’re applying for a job in a branding or marketing agency, or you’re a freelancer/in-house graphic designer looking for brands to work with.
    a) When applying to agencies, the recruiters may be design heads or HR professionals with basic knowledge of their company’s design requirements. They usually look for portfolios that align with their industry. Stick to your style and do not change or improvise it for anyone. Make a clean design and explain your concepts and ideas in a way that showcases your style. Pay attention to details like layouts, compositions, colour coordination, and the structure of the portfolio itself.
    b) If you are targeting freelance work or in-house positions, clients are most interested in how your design skills can benefit their business or brand. Make your portfolio relevant and easy for non-designers to understand. Add facts and factors explaining how you can uplift their branding. Use multiple mockups to help clients visualise their branding in the market.

Now, how to structure your portfolio

  • Cover: Design a simple cover with a title such as “Portfolio” (you can include the current year), your name (and job title if desired), and a quote that reflects your style or resonates with you.
  • Table of contents: If you have multiple projects, include a contents section to help viewers navigate through your portfolio. Number the pages for convenience.
  • Resume section: Include a brief bio, your photograph, a personal statement about why you’re applying and how you can contribute, your educational background, previous experiences, participation and awards, soft and hard skills, your areas of interest, and contact information.
  • Projects: Mention the project types and names, and include behind-the-scenes details to demonstrate your design process. Add sketches, drafts, and prototypes alongside the final designs. Use mockups to showcase your work realistically.
  • Closing: End with a thank-you section.

How to build a creative design portfolio with no experience?

It can be challenging, but it’s not impossible to create an amazing portfolio. You can showcase your creativity and potential through personal projects. Start by identifying your interests or the industries you want to work in, and design projects based on them. For example, if you find designing logos interesting, choose one of your favourite existing brands or create a dummy brand name and curate a few different logos for it. Write a brief description explaining your thought process, and how and why your designs differ from the original. These projects will help you refine your skills and demonstrate your imagination and capabilities.

  • Present your process by including your scribbles, thumbnails, drafts, and prototypes alongside your final designs. This demonstrates your understanding and ability to transform ideas into finished products.
  • Remember to keep learning and improving. Design is a field that continuously evolves, so experiment with new techniques, and styles, and stay updated with industry trends.
  • Networking and applying for opportunities are crucial. Consider applying for internships, design awards, events, and freelance gigs that can provide you with real-world experience.

And don’t forget, quality over quantity.

Where can designers build a design portfolio?

It is recommended to build an online portfolio, as it is visible 24/7 and creates a more professional impression. You can create your own website or use existing platforms like Behance or Dribbble. Organize your work into relevant categories, provide project descriptions, and include your contact information.
Well personally, I will recommend building your own portfolio website, as it offers the advantage of keeping visitors focused solely on your work, without the distractions of other portfolios. if a person landed on your website, they will stick to your projects only.  

Remember, a portfolio is an ongoing project that evolves as you grow as a designer. Continually update and refine your portfolio as you create new projects and gain experience. Be patient and persistent, and with time, your portfolio will reflect your growing expertise.