Your design portfolio is your virtual shop-window the whole world can see. Your portfolio not only conveys what you have done, it shows what you can do for a prospective client.
A client is likely to scan your portfolio before deciding to contact you. It is very likely that the reviewer is evaluating other portfolios as well. So how do you ensure that yours stand out amongst the crowd?
In this highly competitive industry, it is not enough to have some excellent pieces of work under your belt — you must also display your work and show a lot of professionalism in doing so.
In my 8 years in the industry, I have picked up a few tricks about how to design a portfolio with a punch and a kick.
Tell a story
Most designers display a thumbnail of their portfolio piece and add a link to the live website. That, alone, is not enough to tell a reviewer what they want to know.
Tell the world about the experiences you’ve had whilst working on the project. Write a few sentences about the project, the people behind it and how it served the ultimate business objective of the client.
Focus on the deliverables that were expected from you at the beginning of the project. Let the world know how your work contributed to the success of the project and how it benefits the client’s bottom-line.
If you wish to, write about the hiccups along the way and how it helped you grow as a professional.
Your portfolio is not just a bunch of cropped images, it is a collection of experiences – and there’s a story behind every experience. Tell the story.
Create actionable steps for visitors
Once the reviewers have looked around, they would want to contact you via email, twitter or any other media. Make sure the contact options are easily available to all viewers. A simple actionable step to your inbox goes a long way.
Use strong call-to-actions to invite viewers to find out more about you and your services. Ask them to write to you and leave a comment. Ask for a job or a referral.
The people who are viewing your portfolio are likely people who are looking for a designer in their team. Show them what value you add to the company and why you should be hired.
Only display your best work
We have all designed something that we’re not particularly proud of. There were times when the client’s demands became the direction for the design, instead of your own liking, resulting in rather mediocre results.
There were times when the client employed other people to modify (read bastardize) my work. The masterpiece that I thought I created is no longer what it was.
It is easy to get carried away and showcase every little piece you have ever created. But think of what a prospective client might think of you when they see a mediocre or mutilated piece of work in your portfolio.
Not every piece is portfolio-worthy. Learn to let go.
Tag every piece with meta information
With each piece of work in your portfolio, display some key information such as:
- The name of the client.
- How long you have worked for the client.
- Your specific role in the project.
- What deliverables you produced.
Some designers even showcase what software they have used in the process. Customer testimonials are optional but they create a great bit of credibility for yourself in the eyes of the reviewers. Focus on the tangible benefits your client enjoyed as a direct benefit from your work, if you happen to have such information.
Show some personality
Your portfolio is an image your personality and your primary marketable skill. If your skill is User Interface Design, specifically for Web Apps, make your portfolio as clean, intuitive and usable as possible.
If you’re a Graphic Designer by heart, make sure your portfolio website speaks that language.
Bonus tip: A little Marketing knowledge goes a long way
The reviewers visiting your online portfolio are likely to be individuals whose sole focus is to deliver greater value to their end consumers. They will consider you, as a designer, only when they know that you care capable of adding more value to their products or services – which will, in turn, benefit their consumers.
Every piece in your portfolio needs to reflect how your services benefitted your client organisations. A little knowledge of marketing will help you gain insight as to how clients perceive their own companies and new hires.
For employers, even a new hire is an investment. When they hire a web designer, they will be making a significant investment in wages and overhead. As any businessperson would tell you, every investment is made to make a profit — a Return on Investment (ROI).
Your portfolio is not just for your own bragging rights, it is meant to influence prospective employers who need convincing. You need to convince them, through your portfolio, that you are capable of producing value and delivering a significant ROI for their businesses.