Working on a portfolio is often one of the most challenging tasks for a Designer, and there are numerous ways to tackle it. Here at Futureheads, it’s something we frequently advise candidates on - graduates who are looking to make a start in the industry or experienced Designers looking to make a change.
Firstly, it is important to give yourself time to work on your portfolio- it’s not something you want to rush. Allow time for thorough research, planning, space and time to fully commit to getting it just how you want it. There’s nothing worse than your dream job passing you by because you just can’t commit to uploading that super relevant project in time for the submission cut off. With this in mind- it’s also a great idea to keep your portfolio up to date, as often as possible. That old 2010 portfolio that has been well and truly neglected might crop up when you least expect it!
PDF vs. website?
We do have some employers specifically request website portfolios where possible, but if you know you’re not likely to keep on top of managing a website then stick to a slick PDF which you can easily tailor to the roles you are applying for. If you’re going to create a website for your portfolio, but aren’t a confident coder - there are a tonne of great platforms out there to showcase your skills easily. We would advise Semplice which allows you to create beautiful portfolios requiring no coding knowledge. Steer clear of sites such as Wix or Behance- they just don’t look as professional as a custom site.
We would advise Semplice which allows you to create beautiful portfolios requiring no coding knowledge. Steer clear of sites such as Wix or Behance- they just don’t look as professional as a custom site.
Choose the work to include (and exclude!)
Hopefully, you will be applying for and will have worked on projects that interest you. If not, think about how you can communicate your style and interests. There’s no point filling your portfolio with top to tail financial projects if the thought of another banking project is hell to you! Work out which project best showcases your skills as well as what you are about…
Just because you worked on a couple of projects for an impressive client six years ago doesn’t mean that old portfolio pieces best showcase your skills or best quality work right now. Think about how you want to be perceived in the marketplace and resist the temptation to throw everything in, plus the kitchen sink. The best portfolios we see often showcase four to eight recent and high quality, detailed case studies. If you want to include these additional pieces, you can always add an “archive section” which you (or we) can refer agencies to if necessary.
If you have a particularly broad skill set, a PDF may play in your favour as you can show your specific relative work, for example; a branding portfolio, a UI portfolio and a UX/UI portfolio. Looking like a jack of all trades could put some potential employers off so keeping these as tight as possible should alleviate any assumptions.
If you have a particularly broad skill set, a PDF may play in your favour as you can show your specific relative work
You’ve chosen the projects you’re including, now to decide what to show within those…
As much as Digital Design is a visual craft, it’s also a bit like GCSE maths - you must show your workings. Take the time to communicate how you approach a brief and how your creative mind works. Begin by outlining the brief, talking through how you went about solving the problem, whom you worked alongside, what challenges you faced and how you overcame them. This is also a great opportunity to show your key skills and strengths - the client will want to know what you contributed to the project.
We’ve heard numerous examples of candidates showing super-slick visuals at an interview, yet the client has been more interested in the scraps of paper with sketches, wireframes, post-its and mind maps. Include all of this - the client wants to know how you think and how you came to a conclusion.
Most importantly - what was the result? The project might have been pulled but the 'whys', and 'hows' are still important. Did you improve click-through rate? Did sales increase by 15%? Did you solve the initial problem - prove it!
It’s the most obvious but still warrants a note: spell check! And as with most things these days, there’s a dedicated app for that.
If you are struggling to tackle your portfolio or would like some advice on this, myself and the Creative team here at Futureheads are always willing to help!