A portfolio review can be one of the most nerve-wracking yet rewarding experiences of a designer’s career. Use these tips to head into a portfolio review with confidence and leave with a smile on your face.
Steps to Nail Your Portfolio Review
1. Organize with intent.
To draw in the reviewer’s interest and leave a favorable impression, keep your best work at the beginning and the end of the portfolio. Although every piece that’s included should be strong, keep your least favorites of the bunch within the middle.
2. Show variety.
Portfolios should represent how skilled you are in all forms of design, so be sure to include a variety of projects. Feature your best websites, brochures, business logos, and other marketing graphics and branding to show portfolio reviewers that you can do it all, and do it well.
3. Be open to feedback.
Get a second opinion from friends and colleagues and use their criticism to improve your portfolio. Show them pieces that you did not include in your portfolio and get their opinion about whether or not you made the best choices in what was included. You may be too close to your own work to see its flaws, so it’s important to ask others who may be more objective.
4. Show your process.
Don’t let the designs do all of the talking. Show reviewers how you took a creative brief from the client and transformed it into the final work by using notes or annotations throughout your portfolio. This way, reviewers can see your creative process and how well you interpret and work with direction.
Look through your portfolio from start to finish as if you were a potential client. What does the portfolio say about you as a designer? Are the included designs all projecting the same tone or mood? If so, provide balance to show that you’re a well-rounded designer. Use a mixture of serious and witty moods and colorful and black and white designs.
6. Analyze it regularly.
Make it a habit to go through and update your portfolio. The general rule of thumb is to only include designs that you completed within the last three years. When you include designs that were done outside of this timeframe, chances are the design trends that you incorporated will be outdated, and the portfolio reviewer will have a negative impression of your work.
7. Quality over quantity.
It’s important to include just the right amount of design projects so you can show who you are as a designer without boring the reviewer. Try to include a minimum of 10 pieces and a maximum of 20 pieces to effectively tell your story as a designer.
8. Include your own work.
A portfolio does not need to only include work that you’ve done for paying clients. If some of your best work has been personal projects that were designed for fun, include those pieces as well. Not all designers have had the opportunity to fill their portfolio with interesting projects that they’ve been hired to do, so create these opportunities for yourself by designing on your own time.
9. Include case studies.
If possible, include a case study or two about how your design helped a client reach their marketing goals. This will show the reviewer that not only are your designs effective but also that you’re a team player and invested in the business outside of your creative work.
10. Adjust as needed.
If you’re attempting to get a job with your portfolio, cater the pieces that you show to the position and company. A women’s fashion company will most likely want to see bright colors and fun designs, while an industrial company might prefer a more professional, straight-laced look.
Designers, remember it is important to have both an online and print portfolio. Online portfolios should be used to promote your work at all times, while print portfolios can be carried to interviews with potential clients.
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