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How to Make Your Graphic Design Portfolio

If you’re working steadily in a graphic design job or just starting to look for work, it’s always a good time to have an up to date portfolio. The hard part is to figure out how the pieces fit together.

I’ve already discussed the basics of what should go on the pages in Tips for a More Perfect Design Portfolio. In that article, I explain why to choose your absolute best work, how to use the work of others as inspiration, and how to use an unexpected twist to make yourself stand out. Building a perfect portfolio is a process that continues over and over again throughout your career.

How to choose a portfolio case

12 Steps to a Super Graphic Design Portfolio from Youthedesigner.com starts us off by telling us about the case. Choose carefully and consider how you want to present your work. Think about yourself in an interview or with a client. Find a case that fits a style of presentation that works for you.

My first portfolio was a leather case with sheets of thick photo paper printed pieces. Especially for interviews with multiple people, passing around the works in my portfolio and letting people handle them and really look at them had went over well. These were designs for magazine layouts and for advertisements so it mimicked the original experience.

For a later portfolio, I chose to use a 12 x 12″ scrapbook binder. It came with removeable sheets and a very slick looking cover that made for a very professional cover. Check out crafts stores and office supply stores for case and presentation ideas and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

How to present your portfolio

AIGA has a great article on “Presenting your portfolio by Steff Geissbuhler of Chermayeff & Geismar Inc. It’s both from the point of view of someone who hires designers and from a design who has been there himself.

How to choose what to present

Brian Scott writes in “How to Create Your Freelance Graphic Design Portfolio” that you should include your best work and only your best work. I agree. It’s better to show five perfect pieces than to show eight that include work that you aren’t happy with. Your enthusiasm about every piece in your portfolio has to be there.

Tips to Create an Effective Graphic Design Portfolio from Twit Taboo emphasized the importance of variety. Show off different concepts and skills in your work. I’d add that you should make sure that each skill is somehow relevant to the specific position and company you’re applying to.

Building Design Portfolios: Innovative Concepts for Presenting Your Work (Design Field Guide)

Building Design Portfolios by Sara Eisenman tackles how to build your portfolio and, for hiring managers, it tackles how to look at portfolios critically. It contains a series of interviews with leaders in the field, provides inspiration and shows real world portfolio.

Graphic Design Portfolio Strategies for Print and Digital Media

Graphic Design Portfolio Strategies for Print and Digital Media discusses portfolio building for graphic design students. How do you take your student work and present it for employers, graduate schools and fellowships? This book tackles that question with illustrated examples of successful student portfolios.

The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Portfolio Design

 The Graphic Designer’s Guide to Portfolio Design is another book helping students transition into becoming professionals. This puts the portfolio in the context of resumes, interviews, and cover letters

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

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Brian E. Young

I'm a graphic designer (portfolio), classical pianist and artist in Baltimore, MD. I host the Uncanny Creativity Podcast helping to demystify the creative process and creator of Funlooksfun.com, an online shop for apparel and games. Twitter: @sketchee

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