Cut the Clutter, How to Create a Professional Work Portfolio


Creating a personal identity seems to be one of the most difficult tasks for a designer. For some reason, it is infinitely easier determining how others should project themselves. Unfortunately, this is no excuse to have an outdated, unorganized, or overall weak portfolio. Find out how to improve your portfolio at the jump.

We are in a unique situation with current technology allowing us to advertise ourselves and our work to potentially anyone in the world. It would be a shame if we didn't take advantage of resources like Twitter, Facebook, Dribbble, LinkedIn, a personal website, Pinterest (Yes, I said Pinterest. Don't judge), a blog, etc. Previously, a designer's range of influence was extremely localized. Showcasing your work was very personalized, hence the physical portfolios. Physical portfolios do still have value, but they shouldn't be your only mode of presenting your work to the world. The world is a whole lot smaller now, and you have a lot more competition. In order to stand out, here are helpful bits of information you should know and/or incorporate in your own design portfolio:

You are Your Portfolio

With current technology, your life is a lot more transparent. Take advantage of that. You better believe that your potential employer is going to be looking into things like your Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, LinkedIn profile, and Dribbble shots. Without replacing an actual resume and organized portfolio, your web presence can offer up just as much, or even more, about your design capabilities and work ethic. So, if that is the case, make sure you using them. Your goal should be that your potential employer should have already heard of your work before you came into their office for the interview. If you do amazing work, and promote it in every way possible, employers will come to you with jobs, not the other way around.

Update Your Portfolio Regularly

Keep all your profiles up to date and consistent. If someone is searching and finds your first year design school projects, when you have been graduated for 3 years, that isn't the impression you are going to want to leave. Whether this is your web or physical portfolio, you should be showcasing your best work. Since you love design so much, you are constantly creating new and better designs, therefore you are going to need to be updating the work you have on display quite frequently. This is especially important on something like your website. Give people a reason to want to repeatedly visit your site. Direct traffic to your newest projects on your site by blogging about it, pinning images of the project on Pinterest, putting up shots of it on Dribbble, or tweeting a link to it on Twitter. My advice if you have accounts to all of these social media platforms: use them all. Shamelessly promote your work to all that you can possibly reach.

You Will Always be Judged by Your Weakest Piece

This simple bit of advice goes a long way. But of course we wouldn't include our weaker work in our professional portfolios…or would we? Us designers can have an unhealthy relationship with some of our work. We become way too attached to projects and decide to incorporate them in our portfolio. Either that or we feel that we don't have enough work to show so we include weaker work to make our portfolio look more full. Quantity is not better than quality in this case. In fact, if you don't feel you have much in your portfolio, deal with a smaller portfolio until you can include work you are proud to show. Viewers get hung up when they see a less than brilliant piece of design surrounded by brilliant design. It is hard not to forget that unsavory project, so leave it out.

Include the Type of Projects you Wish to Receive

Often times, designers complete projects that they worked really hard on, and did a good job on, but wouldn't want to repeat because it isn't the type of design they enjoy. If this is the case, fight the urge to include it. If you did an amazing job on it, either except the fact that you are good at it and pursue that type of work as well, or don't include it. Clients and employers will come to you because of what they see in your portfolio, so make sure it is showcasing the type of work you would like to receive.

Let Your Work be the Hero

Allow your work to shine by keeping the design of your portfolio clean and simple. If someone is coming to see your work, let them focus on your work and not clutter up the background. Don't clutter up your portfolio with distracting patterns, colors or gimmicky web functions.

These are just a few added things to ponder about when you decide promote yourself as a designer. With the ability to spread our work to so many eyes, comes the challenge of making ours stand out amongst every other designer out there doing the same thing. Keeping up a great portfolio is hard work, but completely worth it. Imagine clients and employers coming to you with work, instead of you trying to sell yourself to each of them. There are plenty of design jobs out there, but you have to be diligent and resourceful to obtain them. Best of luck to you.

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