What You Should Include In Your Design Portfolio

When was the last time you updated your portfolio? It's something we always say that we will get round to but other things seem to take priority. Why are portfolios so important? If you're a freelancer, your livelihood depends on winning clients. Everyone who considers you will want to see your work before they hire you. Applying for a new job? Any designer who works full-time will know how important it is to have a portfolio that stands out from other potential candidates. Whilst all this seems obvious, as a creative bunch, we're not updating our portfolios regularly enough.

If you're a designer, writer, illustrator or photographer, I'm sharing with you what we should all remember when creating and keeping up-to-date with our portfolios.


01 | Essentials of a design portfolio

Create a portfolio that reflects your personal style

Fonts, colors, visual elements and photography. Each are key components to a professional-looking design portfolio. Your portfolio should represent you as a designer and show your unique style. Every part should reflect your ethos and skills as a designer, create a beautiful layout for your portfolio which looks original and is a piece of work in itself.

Show your professional growth

We all struggle to stay on top of things that we just don't see as a priority. It is important to keep your design portfolio as up-to-date as possible. Whether you are a freelance designer, or you work full-time at an agency, you will be producing new artwork constantly. Include projects from different stages of your career, showing your professional progress and the skills you have developed.

Keep explanations clear

Designers are visual people. Whatever format you choose to display your portfolio in, don't overload it with lots of unnecessary copy. It's important to explain your work, but keep your explanations clear and concise. A short summary of a project should be no longer than around 50-100 words, or it's unlikely that it'll be read.


02 | Think like a client

Explain who you are

You may be presenting your portfolio in print or online. Either way, you should include a short bio explaining who you are and what you do. Some designers may like to add these details to their resume and send this along with their portfolio. Whichever way you choose to organize your portfolio, ensure there is no uncertainty about your skills.

What are your skills?

Be open about your capabilities, this is your opportunity to show employers what you can do. Include work that will showcase your best skills that are relevant to the job you want. You may want to include work such as branding, illustration, print design, web design and copywriting if appropriate.

Include testimonials

Testimonials can be a difficult thing to get hold of, but they can really make a portfolio shine. They can show potential clients what to expect, and give them piece-of-mind when booking you. Think about the layout of your portfolio and how it can help the viewer, include your testimonials next to the relevant project.


03 | What not to do

Information overload

Most of your potential clients or employers won’t necessarily be familiar with your work. Your portfolio must always remain clear and uncluttered. Remember, you’re not writing a resume - avoid the temptation to cram in too much information. If words aren't your strength, you should keep the copy to a minimum. It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to spell and grammar check their writing. One of my favourite free tools to do this is Grammarly.

Be straightforward

We are all guilty of over exaggerating occasionally, but don’t be tempted to get yourself into any hot water by claiming to work on a project which is not entirely your own. Be honest about your involvement, you may have just done a few hours of artworking on a project - and that’s ok. Make sure you are giving credit to your contributors if you choose to include the work in your design portfolio. If it is something you are proud of, let people know about it!