How to Have the Best Graphic Design Portfolio on the Block: 3 Tips
Graphic Design Portfolio Tips by Go Media –
Hello Go Media Faithful! Hunting for your dream job? The last two weeks we’ve been discussing the resources you need to submit in order to gain the attention of your dream design firm. If you missed part one and two of this series, please go back and read them before proceeding:
Now that you’re a pro at cover letters and resumes, let’s move on to part three of your submission to the graphic design studio of your dreams – the portfolio.
Here are three graphic design portfolio tips we need you to learn and embrace now (from the boss, Bill Beachy, himself):
Slow down and nail your presentation. Many young designers do good design work… then spend very little effort putting it together into a BEAUTIFUL portfolio post. The project is done, you’re eager to move on – so you throw a few images online for the portfolio. STOP. SLOW DOWN. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF LANDING A JOB – a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L portfolio. Take the extra time to write about, mock-up and present the work you’ve done in the most flattering way possible. You SHOULD find yourself doing EXTRA design work as you prepare your portfolio post. Once you have a project that’s moving in a pretty direction that you’re happy with – KEEP GOING… don’t stop until you have all the pieces and parts to present a beautiful portfolio post.
Consider this… you may have just spent several weeks designing something. Now… you should spend at least several days preparing it as beautifully as possible to show off.
You must have an online portfolio. This does not mean that you have to be a web developer. You can use SquareSpace, Wix, Coroflot, a WordPress Template – really anything. An employer just needs to know you’re living in the 21st century. If you have the dev skills to build your own website, that would be best – HOWEVER don’t post your beautiful portfolio on an ugly website! If you’re going to post your portfolio onto a website you built – it better be as beautiful as the items IN the portfolio. The last thing you want to do is distract your potential employer by putting good portfolio work onto an ugly website. Make sure wherever you put your portfolio – it’s not distracting. If you want to show off your dev skills, but they’re not portfolio worthy – just do that somewhere else.
Your online portfolio must be a match set to your resume and cover letter – and must be GOOD. I would err on the side of good over self-built. If your web dev skills are not portfolio worthy yet, then don’t rely on them to show off your work.
Show a variety of work types. It’s important that your portfolio demonstrates your ability to do a variety of things. Obviously, you’ll want to show your ability to do the type of work that matches up with the work the firm you’re applying to does. In Go Media’s case, that would be: branding (logo design), print design and web design. I recommend including your 3 best samples of work in each design category. You don’t need to have a huge portfolio, but whatever is in there needs to be your very best work! Err on the side of showing less work of higher quality than having a big portfolio where some of the pieces are only so-so. An employer is going to pick out the worst thing in your portfolio and assume all your work will be that bad. So, it’s kind of like the saying: “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.” So, if you have doubts about anything in your portfolio, get it out of there.
Side note: If you think you can only show one style of design and tell clients: “take it or leave it…” I’m telling you right now – 99% of clients and employers will leave it. You need to be more adaptable than that. When a client hires you, you need to be making designs that are appropriate to that client, not just designs that you like. When I come across candidates that have extremely homogeneous portfolios I give them two radical jobs: Design branding and promotional materials for Metallica (sponsored by Monster Energy Beverage) and design branding, signage and promotional materials for a cupcake shop that is owned by Hello Kitty. These two hypothetical projects will force a designer to push their style to extreme ends of the style spectrum. You can invent your own projects, the point is to demonstrate a wide range of styles in your portfolio.
Alrighty, so some of you may have a lot of work to do before submitting your cover letter, resume and portfolio to your dream job. These may include things like –
- Researching your dream design firm inside and out, outside and in
- Scratching that Word doc in favor of a beautifully designed resume and cover letter
- Designing your own personal brand
- Improving upon your website (online portfolio), carrying your personal branding over to that
- Thinking strategically about what you need in your portfolio and working toward those goals
- Adding more work to your portfolio
Yes, this may seem overwhelming, but when you take all of these tasks step by step, you’ll be happy you did. And believe us, so will your future employer. Best of luck, everyone!