10 Steps Towards a Quality Creative Portfolio

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    • 23rd August 2017

    Your creative portfolio- whether it's online or offline- is more than a collection of your work. It's an ever-changing showcase of the best you have to offer. Use our hints and tips to help you put together the right portfolio for your career.

    There’s a common misconception that your creative portfolio has to include everything you’ve ever done to show your full skill set. While it’s important to show a wide range of your skills and the work you’ve done, not all creative portfolios are created equal. Your creativity needs to be represented in a strategic manner to fully support you to land the job you’re after.

    Curate your work.

    magnifying glass on colours

    A creative portfolio should contain your best work; the most creative, successful, visually appealing projects you’ve undertaken. Since attention spans online are ever-shrinking, you need to have your best work front and centre.

    You should also be selective about what you include. Too many projects will dilute their impact and won’t hold most people’s attention. We suggest including between 10 and 20 pieces in your portfolio.

    Above all, keep your work fresh. Revisit your portfolio every six months or so, updating it with exciting new projects and removing any work that’s outdated or irrelevant.

    Think about the order of your work.

    heart drawn with fountain pen in notebook

    You want to make a good impression on anyone visiting your website for the first time. Besides having an attractive website, the project a visitor sees first is also worth considering.

    Try giving priority to any work done for large or famous clients. Alternatively, focus on a project you were especially interested in or passionate about. Close with your more recent work.

    Have a range of different projects and skills on display.

    hammer and tools on workbench

    Where possible, you need to show off a ‘complete family’ of design work. This means your projects cover as many different skills as possible- branding, illustration, web design and so on. The more skills you can showcase, the more doors your portfolio will open to you.

    You can also include less glamorous project elements in your creative portfolio. If you worked as a web designer on a project, for example, you can include wireframes or assets alongside the finished product. It all helps sell someone on your expertise… and highlights your suitability for their own projects!

    If your projects only explore a narrow band of typical design jobs, don’t panic. You use more skills than you might think in your work; organisation, communication, working to deadlines and budgets. Weave these into any information on your projects. This reinforces the fact you’re a professional.

    Put your work into context.

    drawn video script with notepad and pen next to mobile phone

    Most people looking at your creative portfolio won’t know the nuts and bolts of the projects you’ve worked on. Make things easier by giving them more information.

    Where you can, include early sketches and logo options that were rejected (to highlight your creative process), give an overview of the clients you worked with, how they marketed the project, what motivated your design choices and how successful they were.

    You could present this information as a case study to better organise it. However, make sure you keep it brief and let the images do the talking. This information is just to give a little more context to the designs you’re showing.

    By exploring a project from start to finish, you can better highlight the different skills you used. Many prospective employers will also be interested in seeing your design process first-hand.

    LA-based Adhemas Batista uses several different mockups to present his brand work for Esser Incorporada. The portfolio also gives a brief overview of the client and the work completed.

    Photograph physical objects properly.

    photographer behind a nikon camera

    If you have physical projects that you’re proud of like brochures and flyers, then photographing them is an excellent idea.

    To ensure you’re giving as much information as possible, take photographs at different angles and against plain backgrounds. Photograph the entire product before zooming in on specific features you want to highlight, like logos.

    If you only have PDFs rather than physical copies, don’t worry. Websites such as GraphicBurger allow you to layer PDFs over mockups such as brochures and books.

    Anticipate common questions.

    pink highlighter ticking off checklist boxes

    Since a creative portfolio advertises your services, take a leaf out of the book of some of the most successful advertisers out there. Put key information like where you’re based, how much you charge for your services and how to get in touch with you at the heart of your portfolio.

    To cut down any barriers between you and prospective work opportunities, add a ‘contact me’ form on your online portfolio.

    Keep it tidy (and easy to navigate).

    street sign

    Many online portfolios place large, hyperlinked images of their work front and centre, with as little clutter as possible. This allows your work to speak for itself.

    Moreover, the design of the site itself should be very simple. In many cases portfolio websites use just a handful of pages- if not even just one- to show their work, biographies and contact details.

    A great example of an optimised web design is Mike Kus. We discovered his work on Dribbble before visiting his website. He uses a very simple design with a single page that doesn’t distract from the visuals.

    Get testimonials to support your work.

    thumbs up from a business man

    Besides showcasing a wide range of projects, testimonials are the best way to sell your services. Ask clients or former co-workers to put together a brief testimonial about your work. Of course, make sure they know you’ll use it for your portfolio.

    If a client dislikes the idea of writing a testimonial themselves (often due to not having much time on their hands) offer to write one yourself before sending it to them for approval.

    Think about how you can stand out.

    lit lightbulb with more lightbulbs faded out behind

    Since portfolios are the norm for designers (and other creatives), you need to do all you can to make yours special.

    Social media is a must for building (and promoting) your personal brand. Fortunately, there are more avenues than ever for you to explore. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the obvious choices, but consider other more image-led websites as well. Instagram is, of course, a must for many designers and creatives. You also don’t want to be the last to join an up and coming image-led social channel. Peach, for example, is a journal style social media channel and encourages spontaneous drawings of what you’re up to. It could be a useful channel to show your sketching skills.

    Alongside your social media presence, you can really make yourself stand out with the help of a dedicated website. Having your own site allows you to arrange your work however you want, and show off your skills in web development as well. The Gloss website is powered by WordPress, which has proven itself as a popular and versatile website creation tool. You can also use websites such as Squarespace for simple, drag-and-drop website construction.

    Think about highlighting your skills on other websites, too. Dribble and Behance are two popular websites where people can showcase their creative work. Others have used bored panda to show collections of their projects and gained a lot of attention through this website. Whether it’s sharing comics or re-imaging popular characters in different art styles (Disney seems to rule here), the vote based community is not only a way to get attention and possibly even go viral, but also a way to get some honest feedback on your style.

    As a main takeaway, always use what you discover to shape your portfolio in positive ways.

    Don’t be afraid to include non-client work.

    oil paint tubes with paintbrushes and cloth

    If you feel it speaks well of you, don’t be afraid to include personal projects in your creative portfolio. These are an excellent way to demonstrate your own imagination. They are especially useful if you work on a freelance basis.

    If you have no projects to hand, you can show off your creativity in other ways. If you feel comfortable sharing them include links to your Pinterest and Instagram pages, or anywhere else you’re being creative.

    By following these tips, you’re well on your way to creating an amazing creative portfolio… or refining an existing one.

    Get a helping hand.

    Once your portfolio is ready, take the next big step in your career with Gloss. We’re always looking for new candidates to work with, and help you find creative jobs in Yorkshire.

    Visit our Contact page for more details.