If you are interested in pursuing a career in a design related field, you will most likely be asked to submit a design portfolio along with your resume.
While your resume is crucial to showing your experience, the design portfolio has the capability of expressing your personality and your skills. Every design field differs and every candidate has different experience, but there are specific things to keep in mind when creating a design portfolio.
Since you will be submitting to a design firm, you must make sure that the portfolio itself is well designed.
If you are applying for a graphic design, product design or even architecture firm, the layout, format and construction of the portfolio will tell the employer more about your abilities than what is inside. Take some time to come up with creative ideas on how you lay it out, how you bind it, and how you present it to the firm.
Your initial contact with a firm will usually be through email, so be sure that whatever method you use to physically print the portfolio is scalable and can be digitized and emailed in a size small enough to fit into the employers inbox.
Don’t expect the employer to jump through hoops just to download your 200 MB file. Along the same lines, keep the physical portfolio of reasonable size — not too small to read it, but not so big that it becomes cumbersome.
Select primary content
It is important that your portfolio goes into enough detail on your best projects. The reviewer does not want to see a bunch of thumbnails of everything that you have worked on for the last decade. Instead, pare down your portfolio to include details about a handful of your best projects. Include as much information as you can to let them know that you have thoroughly thought through the designs.
If you are just out of college and only have school-related experience, it is perfectly acceptable to include work from school. Just make sure that the projects you include are well thought out and show your abilities through the whole design process.
If you are including work experience, be sure that you are clear about what your role in the project was. Ideally, you will be able to even out the content to show both theoretical and real-world project experience.
There is some debate about adding additional content. Some feel that additional content is unnecessary for the portfolio, while other believe it can be worthwhile to add it. I am in the latter camp, as I feel that including extra information about yourself can let the employer know more about you as a person and can help you get that extra point against other candidates.
If you are going to include projects that aren’t directly related to the job, make sure that they have some relevance to the position you’re applying for. Adding personal artwork, photography, or other artistic endeavors is certainly acceptable for a design firm application.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t include the resume. It is usually sent separately, and just takes up unnecessary space in the portfolio
- Do include all of your contact information on your portfolio in case it becomes separated from your resume
- Do try to make sure the resume and portfolio are both of high quality design and preferably share the same theme
- Don’t use all-color backgrounds, especially black. Ink is expensive, and using all-color backgrounds can ensure that the firm won’t want to print your portfolio to review
In a design profession, your portfolio is just as, if not more, important than your resume and could make or break the interview. Be sure to put a lot of work into it and make yourself as presentable as possible.