Every portfolio is different but this guide will help you create a professional and practical portfolio with which to impress your interviewers and recruiters.


Types of portfolios:


Traditional Portfolio

The traditional folder portfolio may seem a bit old fashioned, but it still has a place in presenting your work. This in-person presentation method is best at displaying digital or photographic prints of your artwork. Make sure you keep your portfolio in good condition as employers look at details and the amount of effort you have put in, so grubby mounts with worn edges will only be a detriment to your work. The outside can have a bit of wear and tear - but it should not be reflected on the pages of your work. Protect your work and extend its lifespan by laminating your portfolio mounts. They will only get damaged by various potential employers reviewing your work. Make your work look the best it possibly can, as it says a lot about who you are and how you think.

Keep it to an A3 size minimum - It's easier to pass around during the interview panel, and who wants to bring something bulky and heavy? Your interviewers only have a few minutes with each candidate, so they want to see things fast. A smaller A4 size gives you the convenience to print your pieces at home, to replace the sleeves with ease and gives greater emphasis to each masterpiece. If you decide to have this type of portfolio; it is probably worth considering also having an E-portfolio to email to employers or recruiters before they’ve considered you for an interview.


Digital and E- Portfolios

A PDF portfolio or E-portfolio is a very common way to present your artwork as they can be emailed, printed out and posted to employers, or shown in person at interviews. Treat a PDF portfolio as a customized book. Create a cover with a title page or index, and then fill it with relevant work. A convenient format is the standard letter size as it can be quickly and easily printed. When you send the PDF in an email, the viewer can click through from start to finish and get a good sense of your talent. Portfolios should be no more than 10 pages in order to keep the file size small. Ideally you will have your CV on the first 2 pages, and then 6-8 pages for your samples. So make sure you pick your best pieces.

Never send separate jpegs of your artworks or a full jpeg. Not only is the size bigger, it's also very inconvenient for your potential employers to have to open each individual jpeg attachment, and print them out for their references. Again, keep it to an A4 pdf, and make sure the pages are not facing each other so that scrolling is a lot easier.

If you have InDesign, you should export your portfolio as one attachment to the smallest file size for web viewing: InDesign > File > Adobe PDF Presets > Smallest File Size. Your file size should be up to 1MB, at most 2MB.

You can also create a slide show presentation of your portfolio and then burn it to a CD and send it off to the employer. If the CD won't play on the employer’s computer, bring your laptop or iPad to the interview and play the presentation in person. You can also upload your portfolio to a website and share the link with the employer.


What to include in your portfolio

Whichever type of portfolio you decide to use, a good portfolio should have most of the following:

  • An index of the contents
  • Your CV including your interests and experience  - CV’s should ideally be 2 pages long (For more information on writing a great CV please have a read of our CV advice blog)
  • A profile or personal statement
  • Your key achievements and skills
  • Examples of your work with good documentation
  • Include a variety of examples of work you have done.
  • Your main example needs to reflect your strengths and your creative approach and flair
  • Production portfolios can also include budget sheets, idea pitches and marketing materials.

Portfolio Tips:

Ten is the magic number

Choose 10 good samples that you are happy with for your portfolio: 7 that demonstrate your precise specialization and 3 that provide a slightly broader perspective of your talents and interests.


Keep it contemporary and relevant

Everything in your portfolio should be fairly recent and relevant to the job you’re applying for. So keep your work fresh by editing the content frequently. Anything more than three years old is too dated to show off your passion for design. Don’t forget, you may need to edit your portfolio content for different interviews so that you are displaying your work that is most relevant to the specific job you’re applying for.


Label your samples with key information

Create a label for each sample including:

  • The name of the Client the work was done for
  • Your specific role in the project.
  • Software used to create the work
  • A sentence or two explaining why the project is important to your development


Demonstrate your expertise in context of the job

Read the job description and person specification, and demonstrate that you’ve got what they are looking for in your portfolio. If they have asked for a Graphic Designer that can handle a job from start to finish - then try and show evidence in your portfolio that you can carry an idea from the ideas stage right through to the final print management stage. Items that show your thought process and development of ideas are valuable, for example a sequence of photos.


Professional Presentation

Do not put 2 entirely different project samples on the same page or on two facing pages, as this does not allow each artwork to stand out of its own.

If you have a traditional portfolio then avoid having a mix of both portrait and landscape as it makes it look unprofessional and confusing, and you wouldn't want to keep on turning your portfolio the right way up for every landscape and portrait format presentation of each sleeve! Make sure your samples are printed in good quality ink with no streaks or colour errors.


Have a portfolio website

A portfolio website can be viewed 24/7 and allows thousands of employers and clients to view your work without having to download attachments.


View digital portfolios on different computers

View your digital portfolio and website on different computers and in different web browsers to make sure that the images display properly across different machines and different browsers.




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