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Putting your best foot forward

15 Jun 00:00 By Georgia Mandarino

What Can Emerging Graphic Designers Learn From Those That Went Before Them 5

Putting your best foot forward. 

6 easy ways to improve your portfolio.

For designers, the portfolio is not just a statement of work or a showcase of what they may have done in the past, it’s more than that. It’s a collection, an opportunity, a journey that brings you to that moment in time. It’s a living thing that needs to be tended to and as you embark upon new projects, it needs to be kept up to date and relevant. 

So, is your portfolio as good as it possibly can be? Let’s look at ways you can improve it and the things you should consider when it comes to portfolios. 

1.Look at the platform

Many designers, especially digital designers have their folio’s online. It’s not difficult to secure a domain name, build a simple site that showcases your design work and provides a means to contact you if you’re looking for freelance or ongoing project work. Sometimes an online platform may not do justice to your work, however, in the current climate an electronic version of your portfolio is essential. 

2. Be Selective

Don’t include every single task and project you have ever worked on. Don’t be tempted to include everything.  Take a step back and look at the work from an outside perspective and sort through in categories of: 

  • outstanding work, 

  • good work and 

  • average work.  

When you’re making your selections of what to include, think about the briefs or projects you would like to work on in the future, so that you can include work that aligns with your ambitions. 

The work that should definitely be included is the work you would like to be hired to create. 

Show work you can stand behind and discuss in detail. Curate the folio once you have selected what will be included and ensure it all works together, let it tell a story and don’t be tempted to put it in chronological order, sometimes it’s better to group in another more relevant way. 

3.Show then tell 

The portfolio should speak volumes to the person viewing it. It should easily outline your capabilities and strengths. It should show evolution and growth so that not every inclusion has to be perfect. If it outlines a journey that can also work in your favour. 

If you’re a web designer, make sure the sites you list are fast loading and dynamic. Let the viewer take in the work, don’t be tempted to talk through the presentation or viewing. Let the work permeate. Ensure that you know the details behind all the items that you include in your portfolio so you can speak with confidence about the project, team and purpose. It’s OK to include self-initiated design work, it doesn’t have to all be client-based, this is especially useful for emerging or junior designers or illustrators who can show their talents with their own private work. 

4.Work in progress

Keep adding work, keep looking at your portfolio critically and keep it alive.  When you’re busy it’s easy to keep producing and forget to include work. You want to include examples that are current alongside work that shows your talents and skills. 

Don’t allow it to look dated with projects from years ago, it’s important to have that timeline of experience and breadth of variety. It shouldn’t be a personal diary of what you’re working on but it can include recent and in-progress work that can be viewed. If it’s an online portfolio don’t let yourself become too busy to include recent projects. This showcase is your best asset so give it the attention it deserves. For a physical portfolio ensure you have included at least 25 examples of work for an online portfolio aim for 30-35. 

5.Make it easy

Give your folio context, add notes and detail the project and a short snippet of the brief so that the viewer can see your ability to work with a brief and view the work against it. Indexing your portfolio in a way that makes sense to the work is hugely helpful to the person you are sharing it with. 

Use page numbers or project titles or whatever makes sense and doesn’t take away from the work on show.  A regular spring clean and critical look is a must. Don’t let it sit dormant while you work on a long term project. 

6.Demonstrate your experience & sell yourself

Make sure your design presentation shows everything that you are skilled at.  If you have a particular niche then ensure that it has several examples in varying forms. If you are a designer that can work across many roles then ensure that you show this versatility in how you present and select what is included.  

Be proud of what you have to offer and use it to sell yourself and your talents. How you present yourself and your portfolio is how you will be considered. 

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