How to Build an Amazing Graphic Design Portfolio

by Sharon Elber

Graphic Design

If you are in the job search as a graphic designer, or you are building your freelance business, you need a way to showcase your best work to entice a future employer or client. A top-notch digital portfolio for graphic designers is important at every stage of your career.

Here are some great tips on how to make yours memorable, representative of your best work, and sure to convey that illusive “WOW!” factor:

Choose the Right Platform

If you happen to have killer web design skills, then your best bet may be to host your portfolio on a personal website which offers you the absolute most in terms of creating an interactive and completely unique graphic design portfolio. However, if you don’t, or you just don’t have the time to build a site from scratch, then your next best option is to choose a platform built with portfolios in mind.

There is another advantage to consider with such platforms as well – increased traffic with less work on your end. Optimizing a personal website to increase traffic is its own headache, and it also takes time. If you are new in your career, it might pay to start on one or more platforms which already have the attention of the kinds of folks looking for people with your skill set. And, many offer online payment systems so you can sell your work directly to paying clients.

A few such platforms worth checking out include Crevado, Coroflot, Dribble, Behance, and Carbonmade.

Provide Context

Images do speak louder than words, but the problem is that they don’t provide context. Eye of the beholder and all that. That means, with images alone, the person looking at your collection isn’t going to be able to fit your work into a story about who you are not only as a creative, but also as someone who solves problems for clients or employers.

Textual or audio narrative gives you the power to frame the story of the finished work in a way that will be appealing to the people you want to impress most. As long as you are not violating a previous client’s privacy requests, share a little bit about the job, what the client’s needs were, and the creative process that led you to this particular solution.

When someone views your images, you are not just hoping they connect with your aesthetic. You want to also help them connect with your previous clients, that is, see themselves working with you to manifest their dreams, objectives, and bottom line.

Another way to add some value with a narrative is to name some of the skills that you used to create your best work. This can help with both having your work be found by people searching for those specific skills, and impressing viewers with your tech savvy.

Finally, success metrics are important to both clients and employers. Including some quantifiable outcomes of the project, particularly if they can be tied to your contribution, are incredibly valuable additions to the text portion of your graphic design portfolio. For example, imagine you created the images for a social media ad campaign that produced a 57% higher conversion rate than the client’s previous campaign. This is something worth bragging about!

Awards and Accolades

One of the things that you can do throughout your career is to collect feedback from your clients. This is true whether you work for an employer or in a freelance setting. Including outstanding feedback from the client alongside a snapshot of the work you did can go a long way towards impressing the viewer.

Along the same lines, include any award-winning work you have done, drawing attention to the award itself. This is one way to show that your work has been officially recognized by people who know and understand quality graphic design.

Make Your Design Portfolio Interactive

These days the cutting edge of the most coveted graphic design portfolios include interactive elements using tools such as InDesign and Publish Online. Interactive portfolios can also be built with creative web design, showing off both your graphic design and web design skills at the same time.

When the reader engages with your portfolio in a unique way, you are enlisting their mind and stimulating their creative faculties. It is a great way to really make a memorable impression. However, just like with a resume, if theses “extras” are added in a way that feels random or chaotic, then this effort can backfire.

It is important to take the time to design your portfolio from a user perspective. The more interactive you make it, the surer you need to be that you still have a finished product that is easy to navigate, provides a pleasant journey, and tells a coherent story about your work as a graphic designer.

Build Visibility

A full treatise on how to build the online visibility of your digital portfolio is outside the scope of this article. However, it is important to note that even the best portfolio has no value if it isn’t getting in front of your audience.

Devote some time each day or week depending on your workflow to increasing visibility by promoting on social media, refreshing the content, engaging with other users on the site, and even paid advertising. If you are working on a predesigned platform, learn and use the tools they have for engaging with other members of the community, optimizing your profile, and getting noticed by potential clients or employers.

Showcase Both Depth and Breadth

Choosing the right work to showcase isn’t just about picking your favorites. A strong graphic design portfolio will show off both your attention to detail as well as the range of your technical and creative skills. In addition, try to showcase some variety of styles, and where possible, include some context about why this style addressed the client’s need for each project.

For example, perhaps you have done graphic design projects for websites, television, and printed copy such as brochures. Showcasing your best from each of these areas can show potential employers that you are able to adapt to the various mediums needed for their advertising, branding, or outreach needs.

Visually Communicate Your Personal Brand

There is a lot of talk about personal branding these days, and as a designer you are likely already aware of the need to project a consistent online presence that communicates your specific passions, values, and combination of talents. Consider designing a personal logo, choose some visual themes to represent your aesthetic, and keep track of specific graphic elements that you may want to repeatedly use throughout your portfolio and social media.

Make sure that your social media profiles and aesthetic contain some of the same visual themes (colors, fonts, textures) that your portfolio uses with background elements such as text boxes, page layout, and frames. This way, when someone moves from your social media profile to your portfolio, they will have a sense of visual coherency.

You Are Not Limited to One Portfolio

If you find it difficult to be broad enough to attract wide appeal and narrow enough to showcase your fit for a potential job you have applied to, then one solution is to create multiple portfolios hosted on different domains. In this way you can strike a balance between these two important but often conflicting objectives.

Allow Your Portfolio to Grow with You

As you continue in your graphic design career, your talent with deepen as you pick up new skills and master new tools. Continually update your portfolios with new projects that you are particularly proud of, and drop some of the projects that have become outdated, use old technology, or show a less mature artist.

Become a Contributor

We are always on the lookout for good writers. If you are a resume writer, career coach or human resources professional and would like to contribute, please get in touch and earn your badge!

WorkBloom Badge