Portfolio for creatives

Yesterday we had PPD session on physical and online portfolio for advertisers, graphic designers and web designers. It reassured and confirmed a lot of things I was unsure of.

There is no specific number of pieces of work that should be in a portfolio. But the average is around 8-12 pieces and around 6-8 projects (in one project there can be more than one piece). However, in the end it’s the quality of work that matters and not quantity.

The first piece of work or project you put in your portfolio should be your best and strongest work. It should have that “wow” factor. Also, it’s important to end strong as the last page of your portfolio tends to be left open while you talk afterwards. The rest of your portfolio should also be strong. Meaning you should be comfortable and confident with every single piece of your work that you put in there.

In your portfolio, there should be various types of work, unless you choose to specialize in a certain kind of area. For example, choose different kinds of clients, utilize different styles, etc.

When choosing work, you should also keep in mind to choose according to the type of agency you’re applying for.

Also, your portfolio should reflect you. Put some personal work in, something that can show them a little about you.

If you have done some relevant work on your placement, you should put it in. It doesn’t have to be the best campaign or design in the world.

One essential thing is to spell check. Errors will really stand out and it makes you look like a sloppy person. (Having mentioned that, I would like to state that the presentation the tutor used to present this had at least two grammar/spelling errors.)

You should always keep your portfolio current and up to date. When you are working on a placement, keep updating it. Wherever you work, you should keep all the files so you can use them whenever you want to update your portfolio.

You should also pay attention to details, as in the layout, etc.

When buying your portfolio case, bare in mind that the style and format reflects/affects what is inside. There are no rules regarding the portfolio case. You don’t have to spend a fortune on it. In the end, it’s the work they are looking at. Here’s a list of site you can check out for portfolio cases:

All your work should be protected with sleeves or laminated.

Most professionals prefer A3 to A4 format, as it retains more details in design. A3 is not too big and not too small. No one would want you to crowd their studio space up with your A1 or A2 portfolio. However, half-size is the lowest you should go when reducing the size of your work. If you have to go smaller than that, don’t show it.

When putting together and designing your portfolio, approach it like a design job. It is yours after all. Treat yourself like a client. Think about what you want. Think about different designs, grid and layout, while making sure it is consistent. Try using InDesign if you can, as it makes your job easier.

Think about the different types of work that you have (TV campaign, print campaign, package design, branding, etc.), how you want your work to be seen, and how you want each page to look.

If you want to brand your portfolio, it is your choice. But if you choose to do it, make sure you keep it small and subtle. The focus should always be on your work.

Also, think about titles and project description. Keep it short and to the point. Sometimes you won’t get to be there when they look at your portfolio and explain everything. Make sure all the necessary information is there. Keep the labels consistent.

Background color should be neutral color, like white or light gray. If your work has white background, don’t use black background. Draw a frame around it instead. Use 0.5 pt and make it 75% instead of completely black.

When you decide whether your portfolio should be portrait or landscape, look at your work first. When arranging your work, never mix landscape work and portrait work in one spread. Always think about consistency.

Make sure to put spacing around your work. It draws the eyes to your work.

Hawaii Design website has a very nice way of showcasing their work.

It is also very important to be able to talk about your work. You should know everything about every single piece of work you put in your portfolio. They might ask you what typeface you use for one piece, and make sure you have an answer. One tip is to write down everything about every piece of work and read it through before going into an interview.

The more you practice, the better you do in an interview. Talk through every piece of work, over and over. Talk to someone. It might be awkward in the beginning but it helps eliminate uncomfortable feelings. Also, make sure you don’t ramble. People you meet tend to be very busy and make sure you don’t waste their time.

Networking is essential. It is nice to know a lot of people you can go in to show your portfolio to. Most creatives like to give honest opinions. When you go in to show your portfolio, don’t talk too much. You are there to listen and only talk when asked a question or to explain something.

Be punctual. Always get there on time. It’s also nice to make friendly eye contact, and show that you have done your homework.

Be prepared. Find out the address and phone number of the agency in case you get lost. You can even go down there before the interview to make sure you know exactly where it is. Bring a copy of your CV or business card, to have something to leave behind. Bring a notebook and a pen to take notes when they give advice. If your work is digital, bring backup files.

Mostly, what agencies look for are logical thinking, creative understanding, talent, and personality.

When it comes to online portfolio, it is the first contact you have with the agency and you won’t be there to explain anything. If they ask you to email them a digital or online version of your portfolio, don’t send all of the work you have (send four or something). Give only samples. So when you actually go in for interview, you’ll still have something else to show and talk about.

When making an online portfolio or a website, know your goals (freelance work or to get hired) and your target audience. It will determine the tone of voice. The focus should be on the content, and shouldn’t be distracted by the design.

An example of how to title each section is:

  • Portfolio: your work
  • About: your bio
  • Contact: should be easy to find
  • CV: not necessary

You can also categorize your work, according to the type of media, for example. Work is the main focus, and don’t overcrowd.

Keep your website simple and easy to navigate. Again, don’t show everything you’ve got.

Here are two books that the tutor recommended:

“How to Create a Portfolio and Get Hired” by Fig Taylor, Laurence King Publishing

“How to be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul” by Adrian Shaughnessy


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