5 Elements of a Strong Design Portfolio

December 18, 2013 General, Graphic Design

5 Elements of a Strong Design PortfolioYour portfolio is the storefront display of your brand. It should draw your audience in and say, “Isn’t this amazing? Don’t you want more?” Keeping a strong design portfolio on the Internet can help prospective clients or employers find you, review your work and ultimately offer you work. Here are five things employers usually look for in design portfolios.

1. Uniqueness: Does Your Work Have a Distinguishable Voice?

Take a look at your work. How would you describe your specific design style? Designers who find a focused niche that hones in on a certain style, art medium or product tend to be more successful than those who try to excel at everything. It is better to be excellent at two things than mediocre at five.

Determining your niche can help you produce more focused work. This does not mean that all your pieces look the same, but that people can look at your work and know that it is yours. Exhibiting consistency in your work can demonstrate strength, passion and ambition.

2. Versatility: Does Your Work Demonstrate a Flexible Skill Set?

Although this component may seem contrary to the first, it is really a matter of balance. No matter what career niche you find yourself in, you will likely end up doing more than one thing. A logo designer will still need to know how to translate branding into Web design, letterheads, business cards and signage.

A great way to diversify your skill set without spreading it thin is to pinpoint two specialties within your design niche. You might say, “I am a graphic designer specializing in layout design and illustration.” Graphic design is an incredibly vast field — know your strengths. Show that you have skills that are transferable across a variety of media.

3. Attention to Detail: Is Your Work Polished?

A polished portfolio communicates your ability to self-edit. A visually stunning portfolio can be made famous by its details or be ruined by its small mistakes. Make sure your portfolio is free of spelling errors, inconsistent spacing, uneven elements and disproportionate scaling.

4. Impact: Does Your Work Communicate a Clear Message?

Some of the most impactful design pieces are simple, clean and bold. Remove distracting elements that muddle the core message of your work. Creative restraint can display maturity and confidence. According to entrepreneur Andrew Chen, “Simple products aren’t only better designed, they’re easier to market, too.”

5. Professional: Is Your Work Marketable?

A few indicators of mature work are:

  • Tasteful combination of typefaces and colors
  • Ability to cater to different clients
  • Use of different techniques
  • Unified design elements communicating the core message

Including case studies or context for your projects can also demonstrate an essential design skill: your ability to think creatively and strategically.

Your portfolio should be curated intentionally; not every piece of work needs to be included. What is your niche? Who is your ideal employer? The answers to these questions will help you create a strong design portfolio that highlights your creativity.

Photo credit: stock.xchng