Building or Re-establishing Your Design Portfolio

Leatherbound PortfolioA design portfolio is one of those living and breathing, ever growing items that need special attention and consideration. And it is still the number one way to get your work seen by others. Whether you are a seasoned designer or you are fresh off the new designer dump truck, you will need a portfolio in order to acquire clients or land a job. It is a roadmap of your skills and talent. Mine has undergone several transformations over the years, adapting to current technologies and new work.

If you have not created a design portfolio yet, consider yourself lucky to be able to create one in current times. In the past, portfolios were large and cumbersome. Items could slide around if you didn’t secure them, but you could not secure them too much because people would want to actually look at the piece, paper stock, print job, etc. And if you were unlucky enough to only have one or two copies of a piece, after too much handling they begin to look worn. Then the piece would need to be pulled from the portfolio, hopefully replacing them with something equally worthy of showing. Quite frankly, I used to be embarrassed pulling out my old huge portfolio. There was never a convenient place to lay it out due to size, and I would grit my teeth hoping that items were not completely out of place.

Screwpost PortfolioPhysical Portfolios

These days, there are so many choices for portfolios. Depending on what type of design work you do, you will want to design your portfolio to best showcase that type of work. If you are showing paintings and larger pieces, the large traditional portfolio is still a good choice. This type of artwork can be handled a bit more than printed pieces without falling apart after time. Or pieces can be photographed and carried in a smaller portfolio.

Now that there are smaller portfolios, print work fits nicely in them without sliding around. But, often employers want to only flip through the portfolio. I have finally converted mine to a bamboo screw post portfolio, small in size that fits into a zipped bag for protection. I can now tuck it under my arm. It is easy for anyone to lay in front of them and flip through. I am no longer embarrassed and can confidently show mine without worrying.

Online Portfolios

There are also many options for online portfolios. You do not have to be a web master to have an online portfolio. And unless you are seriously skilled in web design and/or programming, I do not recommend trying to design one yourself. You will be judged by how good your site looks, and if the site is really bad, even good work on a really ugly site will not look good. Sites like Behance, Carbonmade and Portfoliobox make it easy to build a portfolio of work giving the designer their own URL to send to potential clients and employers. And best of all, they look nice. I currently host mine on Krop.com as I work on designing my own site (which currently is feeling like a forever job). But it is quick to throw work onto prefab sites and have something ready right away. Mine has worked hard for me.

Behance Online Portfolio SiteLaura Malick Smith Online Portfolio at Krop.com

The question often arises of whether to have only the online or physical portfolio. I have both since I do both print and online work. BUT, I recommend having both regardless. More than likely, potential employers and clients will want to view your work prior to meeting you in person. And then bring your physical portfolio with you for the interview. I have some of the same work in both, but I try and keep both fresh and diversified.

My last bit of advice is to constantly add new work. Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself 10 years or more ago and think, what the hell was I thinking wearing that, or what is my hair doing? Well, times change and styles change. It is no different in design. Some work will always hold up, but a lot can really begin to look dated. And it is not unusual to grow as a designer. We all get better and our work improves. Remove the old, insert the new and fresh.

Your portfolio is your calling card as a designer and an extension of you. And it will be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal. Now go forth and build one!

LauraMalickSmith
Laura Malick Smith is the Principal Creative at ChikenSkratch Studio (formerly Digitaldemiurge). She has over 25 years experience in design including print, web and illustration, holds a degree from the Art Institute of Colorado and has been know to enjoy a lively discussion or two.
LauraMalickSmith
LauraMalickSmith


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