Putting your portfolio together is a daunting task. It will define who you are as a designer to potential employers, clients and colleagues. There’s no one right way to do it, but there are certainly mistakes that can be avoided. Here are six to watch out for:
Creating a killer print portfolio, but a lacking online presence
When you get to an interview, more than likely you’ll be armed with a print portfolio that you’ve poured your heart and soul into. However, chances are that the person interviewing you has already scoped you out online. Hopefully they found your Behance or Dribbble account, but, best case scenario, they’ve found your personal website. A personal website shows that you’ve put the effort into owning space on the Internet, and also that you have the know-how to get a website up and running. While a website might not be as vital for a print designer as it is for an interactive designer, it’s essential to have your work on display somewhere. If your work only exists on social media accounts, you’re going to have a lot to make up for – and maybe even a few uncomfortable questions to answer.
Lacking a cohesive personal brand
Having a cohesive personal brand not only shows that you understand the fundamentals of branding, but that you take yourself seriously. As a designer, you are the product, and you need to sell yourself to potential employers. Your personal brand should showcase your design skills, unique style and ability. Your portfolio, résumé, business cards, website and any other collateral should be unmistakably yours.
Including too many pieces
When I was in design school, I was taught to put my strongest pieces at the beginning and end of my portfolio, sandwiching the mediocre pieces. While this advice might be helpful to a new graduate who doesn’t have much work to show, I don’t necessarily agree. If a project is mediocre, omit it altogether. A few strong pieces are more valuable than 10 okay pieces. If you’re not confident in a piece, that’s likely to show when you’re asked to talk about it in an interview.
No matter how many pieces you decide to include in your portfolio, it must showcase a variety of skills. In the design world today, there’s no such thing as being just a print designer or just a web designer or just a packaging designer. You have to be able to do it all. Give each of your skillsets a fair share of your portfolio.
Not showing the “director’s cut”
As designers, sometimes we don’t always get our way. In a perfect world we would always be happy with the concept that the client chooses and the revisions they request, but that’s not always the case. After the client is happy and the project is finished, perfect the concept that you felt strongly about in the beginning and include that in your portfolio. This shows your personal style and preferences as well as your ability to make design decisions.
Not changing your portfolio to fit the company/position you’re applying for
Your portfolio is ever-evolving. Don’t hold your breath for the moment that it’s finished, because as long as you’re a designer, it won’t be. Even if you’re applying for a job in the same industry you’ve been working in, chances are the new company’s clientele or offering is different. You should customize your portfolio to best fit the work you would be doing for that company.