Hello fellow designers!
Whether it's freelancing or looking for a job at a studio or company, your portfolio is the first impression you will make to your potential client or employer.
Focus, focus, focus.
If there's one huge takeaway, it's to focus your portfolio on your best skill or the exact position/work you're aiming for. Are you a UI/UX Designer and you're looking to be employed as one? Only show your best UI/UX work with every UX thought process behind it. Are you a Graphic Designer hoping to gain clients looking for branding work? Show your best branding work!
Whenever we're looking to hire, our first thought when reviewing candidate portfolios is seeing what this candidate is best at. Does this UI/UX Designer candidate have projects that show comprehensive UX processes that inform their UI decisions? Does this Graphic Designer candidate have projects that showcase branding work with a well-written thought process?
What confuses us the most is seeing a multitude of categories from a Designer such as UI/UX, Illustration, Graphic Design, Photography. It begs the question - what is this person looking for? Sure, it may give the employer a huge range of what you can do, but if the portfolio shows a few snippets of various fields, it loses focus and it makes us think twice of what your expertise really is.
If you would like to showcase a range, perhaps you can fuse it within your portfolio pieces. Branding and packaging pieces can showcase your illustration skills if it's incorporated in the project. Your portfolio pieces can showcase your photography skills in the way the project is shot. Any websites for the branding project (or even your portfolio website itself!) can showcase your UI/UX skills! Everything is intertwined and it doesn't have to be separated to showcase your various skills.
What if you don't have enough projects to showcase a specific skill that you want to be employed in?
Make it up! Create a fictitious brand and go nuts on it. Create a branding system, packaging design, website design and even social media templates. A brand doesn't always have to be real in order for you to showcase what you can do.
Quality over Quantity. Always.
Along with focus, only show your best work. Never fall into the misconception that you need to show every single piece of work you've done in college and beyond. Put the work you're most proud of at the very top of your portfolio (as those get the most views), and choose other projects that are strong and ones you're confident about.
Show Your Process
Sketches, thought processes or any behind the scenes that show your process are great for employers and potential clients to understand how you work. These can be on your Instagram, your project page or a blog post.
Take note UI/UX designers: Showing your process here is very, very important. As UI/UX is customer focused, employers or clients would love to see how you think as you build out the product for a customer. Did you do any competitive analysis? User Research? Usability Testing? How do you approach the UX process that made the product better or effective? Showcase all of it.
Like it or not, designers have to be great writers as well - whether that's presenting concepts to a client, drafting up project proposals or even writing an email. We need to know how to write clearly and effectively, so hone your skills as a writer as well!
If you need a good resource, check out On Writing Well by William Zinsser.
If you have a job interview coming up, take a few days before your interview to go through your projects and practice how you will present them. Write out a script to organize your thoughts and practice it out-loud (yup, there's nothing wrong with talking to yourself!). Refine your script and practice it until it feels natural and easy.
Trust me, doing this will ease your nerves and help you feel much more prepared for any questions that the employer will ask you.
Tip: It also helps to have a separate page on your website or presentation deck that shows your process as you're speaking about the project. It helps to have visual aids and it can keep you on track on what key points of your expertise you want to highlight.
Taking the time and effort to create a well-thought out portfolio is well worth it, and it'll help you come closer to your win of landing a job or client.
Do you still have questions about creating a portfolio? Wish someone can take a look at your portfolio and provide feedback? We got you! We provide 1 hour portfolio reviews (for free!) because we know how hard it is to create a portfolio that is effective and memorable.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, portfolio/website and what job/client you're hoping to get. We'll reach out to you if we have time slots available!
Keep going, friends! You are doing great!