Experience / Graduates / Graphic Design / Portfolio / Side Projects

How should you curate your design portfolio?

If you want to get work as a graphic designer, one of the first things you’ll want to consider is how to present your portfolio to show it in its best light and to attract the right kind of clients. When you’re first starting out, it can be pretty hard to decide which pieces of work to include, especially if you haven’t got very much to show.

But even after years of experience and many projects, it doesn’t really get any easier – you just end up with a different set of difficulties in deciding which projects are the right ones to include.

Head over heart

Most of us came to this profession because we have a love of design. More than that – it’s something that always been part of us. Maybe you’ve always seen things in a slightly different way to most people. Your eye naturally picks up on the beauty of objects that others see as mundane. The colours and composition of the things around you seem to stand out and make you feel…something.

So how on earth do you decide which pieces to omit from your portfolio? After all, when you look at some of your best pieces, you remember how you felt when you were creating them. You know every detail of it, the work you put in, the thought process, and the sense of pride you felt when you sent it to the client.

OK, so maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic with this – but I think most of you will see some truth in it.

And the question remains – how do you choose?

Start by thinking about your past projects and your past clients. Which ones stand out as being the most enjoyable? Which clients did you find easy to work with? Which ones shared your ethos and saw your designs in the same way that you did? Those are likely the kind of clients you want to look for again, right?

You’ll also want to consider other factors, like your skills and abilities.

This is particularly important if you want to focus on a specific type of design. For example, you might be looking to gain more work in web design, if that’s the type of work you enjoy most. In this case, you don’t want to fill your portfolio with logo and branding stuff. And likewise, if you want to be known as a brand designer, by all means, put some website design in your portfolio, but make sure you add a variety of logo and branding projects as well, so they can see a breadth of skills. The aim is to tell a story of what you can do in order to give your ideal client whatever it is they’re looking for.

Have the confidence to only show your best work and not everything for everyone.

Thoughts about presentation and what information to include

Every designer has their own unique process and their own story. When you create your portfolio, you mustn’t neglect this – your images alone won’t sell. Your potential clients don’t just want to see what you do; they want to know how you do it.

So if you’ve worked on a great logo, rather than placing an image with a caption something like, “I was asked to do a logo, here’s what I did”, tell them the whole story. What was the client looking to achieve? What did you talk about to get the ideas flowing? Talk about their background/where they were starting from and the processes and techniques you used to get them the desired results.

People love stories – tell them yours. Give them an insight into your mind, how you work, and let them imagine what it will be like for them to work with you. What can they expect if they need something similar from you?

Side projects

There are some situations where you can use personal projects in your portfolio – and if you can, I’d encourage you to do it because it can really work in your favour.

You might be in a place where you have recently started out on your own, and you don’t have a whole lot of stuff to put into a portfolio. So what are your options?

Completing side projects can work well in demonstrating your will to take the initiative and allows you to experiment in ways you might not be able to under the constraints of a client project. Having the freedom to create projects of your own can be a great jumping-off point because you get to choose the kind of projects you do, and you can absolutely design the type of things you want to be doing through client projects in the future.

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