The most important part of your online identity – your portfolio. Showcasing your best and most recent work should carry a heavy importance, as this is the primary goal of your portfolio. There are many other factors that go into a well-presented portfolio, such as organization and uniqueness that will help stamp your personality all over your portfolio.
A well-thought out portfolio should have a beginning, middle and end with some sort of flow between each piece. Place your best and most recent pieces at the beginning of your portfolio so visitors get a good impression of the kind of work you do right away. It’s important you make your work prominent – this is the reason why possible employers or clients are on your site in the first place.
Focusing on simplicity and easy navigation will help you in organizing a portfolio that is much more effective than distracting visitors with unnecessary graphics and text. If your portfolio is clean and well-presented, it reflects your communication skills. Many employers will appreciate a simple and clean website with a streamlined navigation and work presentation.
Only Show Your Best Work
When you’re just starting out with very few pieces in your portfolio, it can be tempting to publish everything you’ve made, whether it’s practice or actual work. When it comes to your portfolio, you should be doing the opposite and only hand-picking your best work. Although it’s hard to leave some pieces out, never publish practice or tutorial work. This doesn’t show what you are capable of doing on your own. Squarely focus on promoting work you’ve done that’s in line with the kind of job or clients you’d like to work with in the future.
Never publish practice or tutorial work
Displaying Your Portfolio Pieces
How you display your portfolio pieces is completely based on personal preference, but there are some ways you can present your portfolio that will make it easier for employers to view your work. I wouldn’t recommend only using snippets of your work. For example, your Dribbble account should not be used as your main portfolio. Dribbble is a good website for getting feedback, but it doesn’t show your designs within context.
Always make sure you link to high-quality, full-view images of your projects with an option to view the live version (if applicable). This gives visitors the ability to view your work full-scale with all the details.
Give Your Work Context
Slapping up examples of your work on your portfolio won’t do the job. Include a small description of your role on the project and how the work you did ultimately helped your client grow their business. Ask yourself these questions when writing a description of your work:
1. What problem did this piece solve?
2. Why did you design this the way you did?
3. What role did you play in the design/development?
If you can, get some testimonials from former clients about how good a job you did on the project and what it was like to work with you. This will give readers insight into how you work with clients and the type of design solutions you provided them with.
Don’t Have Work to Show? Don’t Sweat It – Yet
“How can I get work when I have no experience?” I hear this a lot from students and it is a legitimate question for concerned job-seekers and recent graduates. As a design student, there are always projects that you can proactively create for yourself to begin adding to your portfolio.
What are you passionate about? What are some of your interests? Could you make a website for it? Design an app? Even if it’s for a fake client, you’ll be able to add these pieces to your portfolio. These personal projects are great opportunities for you as a student because it can lead to your first paying web design job, while at the same time, allowing you to work on something you enjoy.
Everything you work on, should progressively get better. If you learn a CSS trick or discover a new Photoshop shortcut, count that as improvement. Every designer goes through that frustrating phase where they feel their work “isn’t good enough.” It takes time and patience, but sometimes, “good” is good enough to land you a job.
Don’t do spec work. Spec work could be an entire book on it’s own, so I’ll keep this short. Please do not work for companies or organizations that require your services for free in exchange for “exposure.” Even as a design student, you need to defend your worth. Working for clients that want your services for free, is like evaluating your profession of a designer at $0. Getting actual clients can be a thrill for a student, but if your gut is telling you they might be ripping you off, they probably are. If you want to get a better idea of when you should, or shouldn’t, work for free, check out this great resource: Should I Work For Free? If you’d like to learn more about spec work and the dangers it has on the design community, please visit this website: Anti Spec