As a designer, a solid portfolio is your greatest asset. Even if you hold a degree from a prestigious art school and have a stellar résumé with glowing recommendations, none of that matters much if you don’t have an impressive body of work to back it up. In addition to showcasing your artistic skills, your portfolio provides insight as to how you communicate as a designer and how much you know about basic design principles. Here are three tips for preparing your design portfolio that will ensure you make a great first impression during your interview:
First and foremost, your work should be presented professionally in both digital and physical formats. These days, it’s necessary and expected to have an online portfolio, as employers are generally not going to be interested in interviewing you unless they can see samples of your work ahead of time. If you are asked to come in for an interview, be sure to bring a physical portfolio that showcases examples of your work in a clean and organized way. Remember, your potential employer brought you in for an interview to see more of your work and learn more about your process and experience— not to be directed back to your website.
Your portfolio should be a collection of your absolute best work rather than everything you’ve done over the years. Somewhere around 8-10 pieces is a good place to start, although there is no magic number. Depending on the type of design position that you’re applying for, tailor your portfolio to feature the most relevant projects for that position. For example, if you’re applying for a position that is strictly editorial design, your portfolio should consist of your best work in that area. If you’re applying for a position that encompasses a range of design work, be sure that your portfolio shows range as well. Ultimately, the more your portfolio reflects the needs of the position that you’re applying for, the better your chances of landing the job.
As a general rule of thumb: when in doubt, leave it out. If you aren’t proud of a project or feel that it doesn’t do you justice as a designer, don’t include it in your portfolio. A small portfolio of impressive pieces is much more impactful than a large portfolio of filler pieces. Your portfolio as a whole should show great care, effort, and attention to detail, and the pieces you choose to include should be up to date, flow cohesively, and demonstrate a similar level of quality. When it comes to your work, you are only as strong as your weakest piece. Take pride in what you do and stand by your portfolio wholeheartedly— don’t ever make excuses for it!