How to impress With Your Design Portfolio

Combined with your CV, your portfolio will tell the employer what you are capable of. You need to consider every aspect of its construction and how a potential employer will view its potential.

You can create a portfolio in any format you like – some employers might be impressed with a video and others with a laid-out pdf document. Whatever form you decide to create it in, you should take your time to plan out how you can effectively communicate and showcase your skills and completed work. During this planning time, you need to consider:

  • How do you want to guide a prospective employer through the body of work?
  • How will you communicate your skills with the right amount of information?
  • How much time and money do you have to create the portfolio?
  • Do you want to show a broad set of skills or more specific ones (the answer to this will largely depend on the job you are applying for and the employer’s specification)?

After you have worked out the above issues, we advise you to go through the following processes:

  • Look through your available projects to add and try out different combinations – consider, with each combination, what this shows to your potential employer. It would help to ask a valued peer what they think of the different varieties. Remember, there might be a whole design team looking through your portfolio – all with their varying critiques of certain bits of work. If you keep questioning one particular piece of work, then take it out!
  • It would help if you thought about how you want your portfolio to look – you do not want the portfolio to be more impressive than the actual work, and it needs to look smart.
  • The design of your portfolio should not distract from the content – it should always be content driven.
  • Like many good designs in your industry, your portfolio’s design needs to appear simple. Using flash to show off your skills is not a good idea. It’s about COMMUNICATION!
  • It would be best if you also had your portfolio available in different formats – print and web being the main ones. They should be consistent and complimentary.
  • Prepare the portfolio in the same chronological order as shown in your CV, preferably in reverse order, i.e. most recent projects first, then backwards from there.
  • For any portfolio, you prepare to be sent electronically; avoid creating too large a document. No more than 6 Mb; otherwise, the receiving server may reject it because of size.

We would advise that you need two types of portfolios. The first needs to be a shortened version of your main folio and be included in your CV/Portfolio combination document. The second portfolio type needs to be held back for a face to face presentations and needs to be much more extensive in ‘look and feel.

Here are a few points on what we look for:

  1. Great design portfolios must show a compelling design process from a project’s beginnings to completion.
  2. It needs to show rich ‘stories’ about people ideally. Not the ‘consumer’, but the human being. Consider the language used by the world’s most excellent designers and how they attempt to improve the world through good design.
  3. We would prefer to see a clear, understandable folio and a joy to go through. Certainly think about how you might present this, which could be .pdf, Flash, PowerPoint or a movie.

Overall, we are looking for great design which will inspire, excite and, most importantly, create interest from any prospective employer.

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