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Create the Design Portfolio that Will Get the Job

Create the Design Portfolio that Will Get the Job

Mike Lenhart

Pack that Portfolio

When we get ready to graduate from those long days of design school, it’s time to think about our portfolios. What do we include in there? What kinds of work should we show? Do we just throw every project in it? I have a few thoughts on this and want to share them with you.

The Best of the Best

I feel the best thing you could do is to include your best work. It sounds sort of obvious, but many times I’ve seen work in student portfolios that have either been sort of sub-par, but have also been outdated. You don’t need to fill the portfolio files with every single thing you’ve done. The rule of thumb would be quality rather than quantity. It doesn’t matter if you have tons of stuff to show your prospective employer or graduate school department.

What really matters is the quality of work shown and the different types of applications used. If you want to focus on illustration, show that. If you want to highlight your logo and business system designs, show those. The most important thing is that you focus on your best and place those in your portfolio.

If you happen to be particularly adept at many different types of design, good for you. Just make sure that you categorize them according to different media or applications. It will make your portfolio neat and tidy and will help the reviewer find what they’re looking for. After all, reviewers have a ton of portfolios to look through. If you make it easy for them, you’ll come across a lot better.

Print or Digital?

It’s still a good idea to have a print-based portfolio that you can hand to or drop off at the firm or school you’re interested in. You can usually set a time in which to drop them off, and also arrange a time to pick them up. You don’t need the huge portfolio cases of the old days, a standard 8 1/2 × 11 or 9 × 12 should suffice. Additionally, it would also be a good idea to have your portfolio in a digital version as well. Many reviewers and potential employers want to see a PDF version of your work that you can simply email over to them. Optimized versions for quick file opening are best.

Try to match your print and digital portfolios, ie, same order, etc., so the recipient will see the same pieces of work – whether in hand or on screen. Through the course of time, especially if you’re freelancing, you’ll need PDFs of your work, as those who may hire you will always ask for something you can simply shoot over.

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But I don’t have anything!

We all have something we’re proud of and have to show. But, if you’re still in the early days of school and don’t have true winners yet, then don’t worry, they’ll come. Maybe you can start your resume and keep that current as time goes by. After all, you will need that too. A portfolio is not a one-shot deal. You’ll need to update it continuously, so be advised.

The simpler and more functional you set it up from the start, the easier and more hassle-free it’ll remain for you. Sell yourself, have confidence in your work, and don’t apologize for what you’re presenting. Good luck and go get ’em!



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