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How to Make Your Portfolio Kickass

How-to-Make-Your-Portfolio-Kickass
April 11, 2015Business

As a designer, with so much creativity flowing through you and so many creative works under your belt, it’s indispensable for you to have a perfect portfolio to showcase your design skills. With each passing day and new design graduates joining the league, the portfolio formats are evolving, and the biggest challenge that the designers, big agencies and design studios face today is how to present their work to potential clients, and in a way they can’t ignore.

Well, when it comes to creating a stunning portfolio, there are lots of ways you can achieve that. You can share your work on online websites like Behance (Carbonmade, Coroflot and DeviantArt, which help you showcase your work in no time, that too without any coding knowledge. All you have to do is set up an account, upload your works and hit Publish), create a folio, fill it with high-quality print-outs of the projects that you have worked on, get a website showcasing your creative awesomeness (just like Jorge Riera Flores’ or Sankalp Sinha’s website), or simply do something which is totally offbeat.

Keep these 10 pointers in mind the next time you start working on your portfolio:

1. Don’t forget your online showcase
When applying for a design job, make sure that the first thing you send out is the links to your Behance or DeviantArt account, or let’s say a well-designed personal website that showcases your work. In case you are not on Behance or DeviantArt and don’t even have a website of your own, then create an email-able-size PDF (under 5MB) with all your work. This would help the Creative Director understand your working style, and thus, call you up for the interview.

2. Keep yourself in the other person’s shoes
Think about the Creative Director who is hiring you. They may be having their own design needs, tastes, likes and dislikes, and you must present your work accordingly. Well, since you personally don’t know the person who is hiring you, it’s obvious that you would have to follow your gut and let your work speak for yourself. However, a bit of research about the company, or the Creative Director, would definitely help you work on your portfolio. You can then highlight the projects which you think will impress the Director in one go!

3. Show your versatility
When working in a big agency for several big or small clients, you get to work on a variety of projects. And it is an added feather in your hat since it shows how versatile you are. Therefore, make sure that your portfolio demonstrates your strong point. If you really want to get hired, it’s important for you to exhibit the different types of projects that you have worked on.

4. Let your work shine
No matter how you present your workㅡ print or digital format, make sure that its format or layout doesn’t overlap your work. Instead, it should support your skill. Stick to a single theme, and use a bold and minimalist design for your portfolio, one that really suits your creative personality too. Also, make a point that there are no awkward paper folds or loopholes in the software or website… everything has to be perfect. If you have an online portfolio, make sure that it’s easy to navigate and is optimized for both tablets and smartphone-viewing.

5. Include at least five of your best works
If you have worked on an array of projects, I bet you must be confused with which works to include and which to skip. Most designers have a messy portfolio, they tend to include all their projects that they have worked on in the portfolio.
Well, a cluttered portfolio is a real turn-off, so organize your work by different categories like branding, brochures, graphics, etc. The best thing that you can do is include at least five of your recent projects that you think would best describe you and your working style. But don’t go back more than five years, unless that project is actually worth flaunting. For each project include images of different aspects of the job, like ideation, brainstorming, sketching, etc.
Only put those projects on your portfolio that you really feel good about, and you think will show all the dimensions of your capabilities. In case there was an experimental project you worked on and that didn’t work out, but for you it’s one of the best works that you have done, you can also add it to your portfolio. It’ll be an interesting subject to talk about for the Creative Director.

6. Engagement is the key
If impressed, the Creative Director would definitely know if you are the right person for the job. They are likely to inquire about your work ethics, your achievements, your driving force etc. Try to be as engaging as possible. Next, they would ask you about your portfolio. Make sure you present it properly, and with utmost with confidence. Also, it is important that you don’t back out from verbal support. Tell them a bit about each project, what the client required and how you went about designing it, from the client’s brief to the final results. Also, don’t forget to tell them your thought process when you first started working on a project.

7. Share your design process
Instead of including images of each project that you have worked on in your portfolio, you can also include a few sketches, concepts or a few work-in-process or behind-the-scene peeks. This would help you effectively tell the story behind that particular project.

8. Keep your portfolio updated
As your design career picks up the pace, it’s important to keep your portfolio up-to-date and in sync with the latest technologies. It’s not just about adding new works or making your portfolio visually-appealing, but also showing the world that you are grooming up as a professional.

9. Show your will to learn
If you are just starting out and have nothing much to add to your portfolio, how about working on self-initiated projects? The Creative Directors would definitely love that. Moreover, your portfolio would serve as an evidence of your eagerness to learn and it would also give them a fresh perspective.

10. Share your hard-earned knowledge
If you are applying for a senior position, then the Creative Director is looking for more than just great design skills. They are looking for good judgement and leadership, and experience in key areas like ideation, art direction, responsibility, management and design capabilities too. Make sure that your portfolio speaks volumes for all that. Add your key skills like design software proficiencies, areas of focus and other expertise to the portfolio.

Bonus: Add client recommendations and case studies
As a designer, it’s hard to impress all your clients. However, if you have some clients who were actually impressed by your work, then don’t hesitate to ask them to write you a recommendation. These recommendations and case studies are a proof of your prowess.
Creating a portfolio is an art in itself. There is no doubt that your portfolio can make or break you. So if you really want to go up the ladder in the design domain, ensure that your portfolio is really kickass and different from others in the industry. So what are you waiting for, go fish jobs! Go fetch your dream job!