As a graphic designer, your portfolio is vitally important. Yet no matter how polished your design work samples, the way in which you display your work must be equally strong. 

Your graphic design portfolio serves as a practical way to house and highlight your work, but can also serve as a nod to the very organizational skills and creative abilities you’re showcasing. Whether you’re revamping your portfolio or crafting it from scratch, the following tips will help you present your work in the best possible light and improve your chances of landing your dream role.

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What makes for a stunning graphic design portfolio?

Whether you’re presenting work digitally, in print, or both, you will need to make several critical decisions: Namely, what to include and how to present it. 

Select work that showcases both your expertise and creativity. The pieces you include should demonstrate your technical finesse with specific types of design and your experience working with relevant design programs. It’s also helpful if you include pieces that feature an artistic style and point of view that is distinctively yours. Doing so can provide a clear picture of who you are as a designer and what differentiates you from the competition. 

Be mindful that less is often more: Use discernment when selecting your samples and include no more than 7-10 recent pieces (within the past few years) that best represent your abilities. Fewer samples tend to be more visually enticing. Clear focal points and a clean layout will eliminate distractions and can prompt more thoughtful consideration from prospective employers or clients. While it might be tempting to include a laundry list of samples, distilling your body of work down to a carefully selected collection will show your skill sets and design perspective in a more deliberate way.

Add context: Your visual samples will do the heavy lifting. But be sure to provide meaningful context in the form of succinct descriptions. What problems did you solve? What positive results were achieved as a result of your work? 

Tailor your graphic design portfolio to the job you want: While the “less is more” approach is helpful regarding the number of samples you show, the range and depth of abilities you feature will depend on your area(s) of expertise and career goals. Some graphic designers are generalists; their portfolios might touch upon various industries and types of work (such as branding design, web design, product design, environmental design and others). Designers seeking specialist roles in a particular industry, however, will want to center their portfolio around the primary areas in which they shine.  

Strategically place your best work: When all is said and done, your portfolio should feature the work you’re most proud of. A smart strategy is to begin and end your portfolio with your two strongest pieces. Don’t be afraid to include a non-client piece as well if you strongly feel it best captures a specific ability or interest.

How to organize your portfolio

Once you’ve decided what to include in your portfolio, the next step is to set it up. When organizing, keep in mind who your audience will be and the story you’d like to tell. 

Organizational approaches include:   

  • By category of work: This format is ideal if you have varied experience and need to separate work in print, digital, branding, environmental design, and more.  
  • By industry: If your experience spans across different industries, this format may be useful in displaying your knowledge of different markets such as healthcare, education or tech.
  • In chronological order: This type is often best for entry-level graphic designers and can be an effective way of demonstrating growth over time.

 Best practices for digital

  • Provide downloadable info: Include your contact information and add your resume as a downloadable PDF.
  • Diligently check your work: Images should be the appropriate resolution and load quickly. Written content should be concise and error-free. Ensure all links work; always test (and retest) before sharing your portfolio. Check that your online portfolio is accessible on different browsers as well as on various mobile devices. 

Best practices for print  

  • Check your image resolution: Work should be printed at 300 dpi. This will ensure your work avoids blurriness and can be viewed as it was intended to be seen. 
  • Exercise creativity: Displaying your work on paper means you can play with different textiles, print finishes, paper weights, and more. Explore these options when possible and use them to your advantage.
  • Prepare and practice your presentation: If you’re presenting your print portfolio in-person at an interview, explain what the interviewer is seeing: Who was the client? What was the objective? What was the result? Why did you enjoy most about the project, and how did you answer a particular challenge? A thorough knowledge of relevant context, a passion for the project and the ability to tell a compelling story will add impact to your pitch. 

Some closing thoughts on graphic design portfolios

One of the most important things to remember is that how you present your work can rival the importance of the work itself. Your graphic design portfolio is one of your first opportunities to showcase your professionalism, communication skills, attention to detail and overall creative expertise. Keeping the above tips in mind will help you create a portfolio that serves as both a practical means to display your work and as a functional piece of art in and of itself.