Graphic Design Portfolio

Graphic Design Portfolio

You've worked on some graphic design projects either for paid work, school assignments, or on your own. Now you need to showcase your talents so you can land a job or sell yourself to clients. You need a graphic design portfolio...

Why Do I Need a Graphic Design Portfolio?
A graphic design portfolio is a showcase of the talent and creativity that you have to offer to who ever is looking at it. It needs to show that you are creative, but also reflect your attention to detail.

How Much Work Do I Show?
The general tendency for a student is to show as much work as possible. Just as long as it looks pretty good, right? They think that these designs are miles ahead of what they could do before they were in the program, so they include it. This is a huge mistake. I've seen many pfs watered down and ruined because they chose quantity over quality. Rather choose 12 strong designs over 12 strong and 12 so so designs. The employer will remember the 12 average designs the most. Those will stick in their minds and your chances go down the tubes. You might as well walk out. (Please don't though. LOL)

What Kind of Graphic Design Portfolio should I Create?
There are 3 main kinds of graphic design portfolios that students generally create. One that is printed, one that is online, and one that is on a DVD or CD.
But which one is the right one to create? How do I know I'm choosing the right one? The best way to approach this dilemma is to create all 3. Yup. 3 of them.
You see, some employers want to touch and feel and interact with printed media, some want to have a DVD that they can plop into their computer and view, and some don't want to be bothered with a stack of portfolios, so they prefer a website where they are one click away.
We'll be exploring all 3...
But let's start off with the print graphic design portfolio
1) The Print Graphic Design Portfolio...

This is the one that has been around before we got into all of this Internet stuff, and is still the kind of visual showcase that quite a few clients and employers want to see. At least those that are into print output. What do you include? Only your best. I know that sounds like a no brainer, but often students will put quantity first over quality and ruin it. Yes, you need to show that you can do things well, but not by flooding it with items that are good but not great.
What should all of this stuff be presented in? A good idea is to have some sort of coiled book/case where you can add and take out pages as you need them. Black seems to be the color of choice, which really sets off the samples with some strong contrast.
Make sure that it has a nice cover like leather or something professional looking. The example on the left here gives you an idea of what to look for. The pages should turn easily, and the book itself should be big enough to give some breathing room for your samples.
As mentioned earlier, look for something that you can add or take out pages. This way you can customize your portfolio for each kind of job that you apply for. Applying for a job that requires a lot of photo manipulation skills and not much typography? Put in more samples that reflect your strength in Photoshop and take out some that you think are just fillers. That is not to say that you just focus on one thing. You should be showing that you are well balanced... But this way you can put a stronger slant on the PF to really showcase what they are looking for. That is if you know what they are looking for. Try and find this out before you walk in there so you can be well focused. ; )

Next up, we'll look at the Online Graphic Design Portfolio

2) Online Graphic Design Portfolio
The technology aspects of a graphic designer has changed quite a bit in the last 10 years. Therefore the requirements and expectations have changed as well. This applies to your portfolio. The Internet has flooded into our homes, into business, and anywhere else one cares to look.

It is essential in this day and age to have an online portfolio. So what will you need? Website space is a good start if you plan on presenting it on your own site. You can get free space at places like Yahoo, but then you have to display banners which will with out a doubt interfere with the design and flow of your site. Paying for a hosting service gives you a clean slate to work with with no banner ads. Hosting your portfolio on your own site will show that you are taking things seriously and that you have the technical know-how involved in setting things up. Any hack can put a website on Geocities.
It's also a very good idea to obtain your own domain name like Once you have this domain name, you can use it also for e-mail. So once you own your own domain, you can create an e-mail address like Add your new custom e-mail address and website address to your business cards, letterheads, resumes, portfolios, and anywhere else you can. You now have a VERY easy way of people reaching you.

The Design....

The layout and design of your web Graphic Design Portfolio should be easy to navigate, and once again show off your samples. Having too distracting of a website can take away from your work. Make sure there is strong, clear navigation on EVERY page so that the viewer knows where they are, where they can go, and how to get back to where they were.

A technique that most portfolios employ is the use of thumbnails for your samples. These are small versions of your samples that can give the viewer a preview of what they are about to click on. This gives the viewer the feeling that they are in control, rather than you dictating what order they are to view things. I know that some will want to dictate this order, but it seems to bother those employers that are short on time, and want to see the samples that THEY want to see. There are many employers that will want this freedom, so I'd stick to it. As for the actual samples, they should be no smaller than 300 pixels wide, and no bigger than 800 pixels wide. Many tend to stick around the 600 pixels wide range. Keep the image samples themselves to 150kb or less. Remember that not everyone has high speed Internet, and making people wait is a sure way to frustrate the viewer.
Did You Just Flash Me???

The use of Macromedia Flash has really become a trend for portfolios in the graphic design realm. More so for multimedia and web design specialists. Most web browsers these days (Shall I just say Microsoft Internet Explorer) will show Flash right off the bat, so you don't have to worry too much about companies in related high tech fields not being able to view your Graphic Design Portfolio presented in Flash. Keep in mind however that more traditional companies focused on print, typesetting, prepress, photography, and other more traditional media might not have the latest browsers installed. It's better then to use a straight up html site where anyone can view it. Although it is more work, often there will be 2 options on a site. "Click here for the Flash version of this site, or click here for the html version of the site". This gives you the more creative options of Flash without alienating those who cannot or do not want to see a Flash site.

Let's continue on to the Graphic Design Portfolio DVD or CD
3) The DVD Graphic Design Portfolio...

(We'll be using DVDs in this article, but you can just as easily use CDs)

A great cheap way of showing off what you can do is by sending out a Graphic Design Portfolio DVD. What do you put on the DVD? The easiest thing to do is to simply slap your website on so they don't have to be connected to the Internet. Just make sure that it is obvious how they open the starting index page. Call the starting index page something that will be obvious like portfolio.htm or something along those lines. Also keep the rest of the files and html pages in subfolders so the only html file they see when they open the DVD will be the one they need to click on.

Stick to the same rules mentioned in the online Graphic Design Portfolio. Keep in mind though that there is no longer an issue with Internet speeds to view your stuff because they are just opening your portfolio up, so your image file sizes can be a bit larger. DVDs are more ideal for big files like animations and video due to the storage capacity.

Make the look of the DVD a lot nicer by buying a CD/DVD labeling kit that allows you to print up nice labels and inserts for jewel cases. Of course to create your own DVDs, you will also need access to a burner. These are cheap these days, and many people have them.

Create All Three.....
If you can, you really should be covering all of your bases and creating all 3 types of Graphic Design Portfolios. The print one is good for sitting down in a relaxed environment and talking about each sample. This is the kind you will most likely be showing at the interview (unless of course you are a web designer or work with multimedia.) The online version or DVD is often the one where the employer or client will view at their own leisure. Often the employer will let people know the kind of samples they expect to see.

Having these three Graphic Design Portfolio options in hand will enable you to take these challenges head on. So go to it. : )

Copyright 2004 A Digital Dreamer.

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