Building the perfect portfolio is usually one of the top priorities for designers, particularly if you’re in the early stages of your career. After all, in the age of technology, there’s no better way to grab the attention of a potential employer or score clients than with a beautiful designer portfolio that showcases your work history and projects.
However, creating this perfect website design is no easy task, and you can’t expect your blank canvas to turn into a masterpiece overnight. That said, you shouldn’t be afraid to get started; putting even a few images of your work online is, at least, a step in the right direction.
It’s important to remember that the reason you’re putting together a template for your online portfolio will differ depending on your objectives and current employment status. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll probably want to use your portfolio to showcase your best work, ideas, and creative ability. It’s the ideal way to prove to potential clients that your work has been historically impressive, and is primarily your certification as a designer.
If you’re a student, your portfolio design will be geared towards landing that first role. You might not have that much in the way of completed project work, but that’s ok -- showing off what you’re capable of through your work is a close second.
Finally, if you run an agency or consultancy, you’ll be showing your work in more detail than you might on a personal portfolio. An explanation of concepts and technique used in certain case studies, strategies or reasoning behind some elements of your design, and some discussion on why you work with the client are just some examples of what you might include.
While the overarching purpose of the portfolio is essential, a few critical aspects of every portfolio can help it stand out from an ever-growing crowd. Here are a few suggestions for things you should consider adding to your online portfolio if you haven’t done so already.
You might think it’s not that significant, but your portfolio starts from the second a user sees your brand, name, website, or social channel. Having a consistent logo and tagline, or company name if you have one, is the quickest way for you to raise awareness within the design industry.
For example, designing typography for your name that you can use across your social media channels and website will help to build familiarity -- like illustrator Merjin Hos's personal website, pictured above. The tagline should then support the logo by offering a quick, punchy explanation of what you do. Not only does this make you stand out, but it showcases strategic graphic design skills that could come in handy for future work.
Think about your offering. What is that you do better than anyone else? What can you give clients that others cannot? It’s important to list, without fluffy language or persuasive marketing techniques, the services that you provide.
For example, if you’re a web designer with a particularly strong knowledge of CSS and a focus on web optimizations then you should say that. Feel free to include finer details about your skills as the more accurate you are in your portfolio, the more likely it is that you’ll be contacted by potential clients who are an ideal fit.
Don’t forget that if you’re promoting yourself as a designer, it’s often helpful to tell your potential clients or employers a bit about you as a person. What are your interests? What do you prefer to design? Are there any particular skills you’re currently learning about or want to develop in the future? There’s little point in you being approached by a fashion company to design their new luxury range website if you’re only interested in high-tech product design.
Parisian UX/UI designer Victoire Bouy presents herself clearly in her About section, detailing her location, strengths, work interests and whimsical personal likes. Future clients will have a clear understanding of her website and graphic design expertise.
BONUS TIP: You could also consider putting together a blog where you can discuss what you’re working on, what your current projects consist of, etc. It’s another way to promote your brand.
Splash out on the actual portfolio section of your website. This is your holy grail, your key to winning projects and getting that job you’ve dreamed of so don’t be afraid to boast. As far as you’re concerned, your work is fantastic -- show people that and prove that it’s true!
Your actual portfolio design is crucial as it can differ substantially depending on the type of design you focus on. Do you primarily create videos? Then you might be best to opt for trailers or short version of your video designs with a link to Vimeo or YouTube where the full version is stored. Do you primarily design websites? Make sure you’re using high-quality images or GIFs to show off specific features and animations.
Your portfolio section is also the perfect place to dive deeper into the process of your work. User experience designer Jon Peterson formatted his work examples as case studies, taking the time to detail the problem he went out to solve and the process of the overall project.
Even if you have the best portfolio in the world, people need to be able to reach you -- don’t make it a challenge for them after you’ve done the hard part of impressing them with your work. You can opt for a contact form, but it’s also wise to have your contact details listed as some people or particularly potential employers, may prefer to contact you directly.
As a designer, you should be familiar with the importance of good design and user experience, but it’s amazing how often people forget to apply that rule to their portfolio. Make sure your call to action (CTA) buttons are well-placed and function as expected. After all, how can you expect a client to choose you to design their website if you can’t create your own correctly?
Last, but most certainly not least, your social networks are the perfect opportunity to engage with your target audience, relevant agencies, and other designers. Slot them into your portfolio so that people can follow you and your work. If you’re unsure which social channels to use, you can check out our guide to social media for designers.
Overall, it's crucial to remember that your online portfolio is an extension of yourself and your professional work. Thus, every graphic, image, case study, social media account, and project should reflect your style and work ethic. By taking the time to get the tiny details right and presenting yourself confidently, you're sure to score the next big opportunity in no time.
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