What Makes a Good Portfolio
Times have changed since we last shared our opinions on what will make you stand out from the crowd when looking for your next position in the world of Digital Design, so we asked Kate, our Digital Design expert, what it is that makes a Good Portfolio.
This is a question I get asked on a daily basis as a recruiter of digital creatives, both by candidates and clients. A portfolio is basically a window into the designers’ life, showcasing their best work and their abilities within design; it the first impression that people will make of a designer. Personally, I always look at a portfolio before a CV. A CV is only so helpful for a designer; it doesn’t give the viewer an insight into your capabilities as a designer. A compelling CV is still important; however the portfolio is ultimately what you will be judged on.
Each portfolio is different; the range of digital designers currently is vast and is constantly growing and evolving, whether it be digital campaign, web design, or UI. The purpose of each one is the same; to gain attention and show off the designer’s best work.
I review portfolios every day and what stands out to me, is a polished and easy to navigate site that showcases a designer’s best work and creative skill set. It should always contain quality, not quantity. The quality of work within a portfolio must show detail, care and craft throughout it; ideally showcasing up to date and relevant work. Far too many designers rely on a project or company they’ve worked for in the past, however in the constantly evolving market with strong competition, it isn’t enough to rely on older examples. Your portfolio must be frequently maintained and updated in order to compete with other designers within the market place.
In my experience clients rarely interview any candidates in the Design/Creative sector who are unable to showcase their work. When they open a portfolio you need to make sure your finest pieces (and most relevant to the job or industry sector you are trying to achieve) are the first thing they see. It is important that the layout is clean and simple yet still portrays your personality, and above everything else the work is accessible. The majority of clients would prefer to see a limited and carefully chosen portfolio, built from the candidate’s strongest pieces, as opposed to a portfolio containing work from 5 years ago that may be irrelevant.
When planning how to design your own portfolio think about your level and who will be reviewing the work; as I mentioned before, a Junior Designer’s portfolio will be extremely different to that of a Creative Director, Art Director or a Senior Designer.
A junior’s portfolio should show an ability to be versatile, with perhaps more focus on an area you are hoping to progress in. A mid weight’s portfolio should again show some diversity, however it should have more of a focus on where you’re at and the direction you have chosen to take. A Senior Designer, Art Director or Creative Director will more than likely showcase work that is focused on a certain style, whether it be campaign, digital product, mobile, or conceptualisation.
Alongside your portfolio, you will need a CV. A CV, although not as important to a designer as a portfolio, is still a key piece of information that must reflect your creativity, level and experience. It should contain easy to digest, useful information; too many CVs go for the ‘minimalistic’ look, just stating where that person was, and their job title. Although you don’t want to overcrowd a CV with information, it should contain a brief overview of each role; what your daily activities were, what clients you worked with, what projects you worked on, etc… It is vital to play to your strengths, and a CV is a great opportunity to do so, giving more insight into your capabilities, and your skill set.
Your CV should also display your creativity, although it’s best not to overcrowd it with illustrations and heavy typography, it is a good idea to ‘brand’ yourself; again making it stand out. This will help your CV to be recognised easily, and encourage the reader of it to remain engaged and want to read on. Your most recent employment should be first, as this is the most important and relevant information. It’s also a great opportunity for you to list any particular achievements within any projects or roles - such as awards won, pitches won, or for example how your project drove more visitors to the site.
If you need any help or advice on either writing a CV or building/designing a portfolio, I’d be more than happy to discuss further. Also if you are in a position where you review Designers and Creatives CVs and Portfolios, I would be very keen on hearing your thoughts and whether there is anything you would add.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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