What to Include in Your Graphic Design Portfolio

November 29, 2016

Whether you’re still a student, fresh out of college, or already have a job but want a better one, a graphic design portfolio is vital nowadays. Your portfolio can be your key to entering the industry, and your strongest tool in presenting yourself, your design work, and your goals to prospective collaborators. Your portfolio is more than your calling card. Think of this as one of your greatest design projects so far: You are designing a project that communicates who you are as a designer to the world. Companies and clients don’t only want to hear you talk about how great you are at graphic design — they want to see your designs, and they want to get a sense of what sets you apart as a designer! Overall, an effective portfolio should showcase “design solutions that demonstrate effective communication.”

The following are four tips we recommend when deciding what to include in your graphic design portfolio. No matter which aspect of the graphic design industry you have your heart set on, considering the following will help you stand out as you pursue your dream job.

Include Your Top Work at the Start and End

Your goal should be to wow the viewer of your portfolio from start to finish. A great way to do this is by starting with one of your strongest designs so it’s the first thing they see. If you’re going with an online portfolio, arrange your page/s so that your strongest example is readily available and catches their attention first. At the same time, you also want to save one of your top designs for the end as well.

This makes it so that the possible employer leaves your portfolio on a very positive note. All your work should impress the viewer, but your final piece should leave them thinking about your designs even after they’ve moved on to the next part of their hiring process. If you get called in for an interview, you’ll have a better chance of referencing one of these start/end pieces and the interviewer knowing which one you’re talking about.

Present a Short Video Reel

While their goal isn’t to see if you’re good at video editing, agents and hiring managers are usually impressed when a graphic design portfolio includes a video clip. Instead of having to click through all your design samples on your portfolio site or flip through physical pages, they can get a glimpse at your best work quickly and effortlessly via video.

Don’t worry; your video doesn’t have to be long at all. Since most hirers only spend a minute or two glancing through a portfolio, a minute or two is enough time to make sure they see your designs. Music is a very powerful tool, so add some music to give the person observing your work a more enjoyable experience.

Have Samples of Different Types of Graphic Design

What kind of work you show off obviously depends on your skills and interests as a graphic designer. But whether your goal is to work on logos and branding or you prefer user interface design, potential employers want to see flexibility.

For this reason, we recommend trying to have pieces that display your ability to orchestrate production elements (typography, geometric vector artwork, photo manipulation, infographics designs, motion graphics, and interactive print media) in service of clear and compelling communication. Doing so, you’ll demonstrate a wide range of abilities and familiarity with programs, making you attractive no matter what graphic design job you apply for.

Ask Others When Choosing Your Best Work

You definitely want to include the designs that best demonstrate your skills, creativity and experience. It can also help to take time to show your work to others and ask them which they think are the best. Creating an effective portfolio can be a tough process, but it’s worth taking the time to carefully vet and curate the pieces you choose to include. After all, your portfolio itself is a work of design, and with some care and artistry it can effectively communicate exactly the kind of designer you are to someone new to your work.

What does your graphic design portfolio say about you as a designer? Let us know in the comments below!