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The Perfect Graphic Design Portfolio

The Perfect Graphic Design Portfolio

January 27, 2021 / Naomi Ross

Design portfolios are a chance to show off your skills, quality of work, work style and personality… i.e. your BRAND! How do you stand out amongst the noise?

When building your design portfolio, there are 6 important points to consider:

  1. Your audience
  2. Your message
  3. Your range & order of work
  4. Your process
  5. Your digital footprint
  6. Your Elevator Pitch


Your Audience

Ask yourself;

  • Who are you presenting to?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What type of company is it?

What do all of these people have in common?

  • They are most likely time poor
  • They want to know why they should put the time and effort into you as a potential candidate
  • They will be asking - WIFM (What’s in It for Me?)


Your Message

What message are you portraying? Language? Tone of voice? Selection of images?

Integrate your personality into language, your tone of voice and your selection of work and images.

What are your strengths? What are you known for? If you specialise in illustration, then showcase your style and versatility. Are you a photographer who has been working as a freelancer? Link this back to your business & communication skills! Looking for a role in videography or editing? Then put together your own hype reel.

If you note you have great attention to detail, then ensure your application doesn’t contain any spelling mistakes or typos!

Ask yourself, what new role would be appealing to you? Emphasise your competency and demonstrate your readiness to step-up and embrace a new challenge.

Most of all - adapt your message to your audience!

Include a CV. Make it short, sharp and snappy. You’re a designer, so have it designed well, but don’t over-design!


Avoid clichés.

  • Everyone says they are creative
  • Everyone says they have good attention to detail
  • Everyone says they are a good team player but able to work independently


Your Range & Order of Work

  • Curate your best work, and show a wide breadth of skill.
  • Show non-client work, or side projects.
  • Quality not quantity
  • No mediocre work
  • Eliminate “similar” work samples
  • Engage and sell, sell, sell
  • Vary the pace and complexity
  • Leave a lasting parting impression
  • Who are you presenting it to?
  • Impress, then win over
  • Start with your strongest work
    • Pick 2-3 anchor visuals
    • Walk through “lifecycle” of the project w/ supporting examples
  • The last piece of work you share should build a case for expanded responsibilities
  • Adapt your range and order of work to your audience!


Your Process

  • Describe the creative process.
  • Include a professional case study, or client recommendations.
  • Behind the scenes
  • Include sketches, photos, prior versions
  • Capture the environment
  • What were the deliverables?
  • Be specific – but brief


Your Digital Footprint

Your digital footprint is the trail of data you leave behind when you use the internet.

As a graphic designer, it is almost expected that you will have your own website, or in the very least, a digital portfolio that a prospective employer can take a look at. Utilising a web platform, in addition to updating your bio on your social channels and LinkedIn stating you are looking for work, are really easy ways to let your network know you are searching for a role.

  • Website
  • Behance
  • Dribble
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Vimeo
  • Snapchat
  • Linkedin

Conversely, a comment you make on social media can be left behind, searched and found by prospective employers’ months and years after it has been originally posted, so be conscious that what you post in a public forum can be referenced for years to come.


Your Elevator Pitch

If you’re looking for a job, one of the first tasks on your to-do list should be crafting an ideal "elevator pitch." It’s the 30-second speech that summarises who you are, what you do and why you’d be a perfect candidate for the role.

You should be able to reel off your elevator pitch at any time, from a job interview to a casual conversation with someone who might be able to help you land a position. It is important to have your speech memorised and practiced so it sounds natural, and is clear, concise and easy to understand.

In job-hunting situation, an interviewer may ask "Why should I (or any employer) hire you?" This is the perfect opportunity to use your elevator pitch!

  • Your elevator speech should be brief
  • You need to be persuasive
  • Share your skills
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Be positive and flexible
  • Mention your goals
  • Know your audience, and speak to them
  • Have a business card ready.

Remember, tailor the pitch to them, not you. It’s important to remember that the people listening to your speech will be thinking in the back of their mind WIFM (What’s in It For Me?) So be sure to focus your message on their needs.


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