How to create a stand-out portfolio

Adelle King
Sarah Blythe
Team GradAustralia
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If you’re in the creative industry, or hoping to break into it, then you already know that your CV and resume likely won’t be enough on their own. While they tell people what you can do, and where you’ve done it, it’s your portfolio that provides the evidence by offering a representative sample of your best creative work.

There are few rules when it comes to how to present your portfolio—after all, it’s supposed to demonstrate your creativity! However, by following the tips below, you can still maximise the impact that your portfolio has when it lands on the desk of a dream employer.

1. Ask the important questions first

Before you get started on the presentation of your portfolio, it’s important to consider what you’ll include (and what you’ll leave out). This means asking a series of guiding questions, such as:

  • How many pieces should I include?
  • Which work best exemplifies my creative approach through an end product?
  • Which work best exemplifies the process of my creative approach?
  • Do I have an interesting variety of pieces in my portfolio?

Your portfolio should include examples of your strongest work—here, quality definitely trumps quantity. Try only to include relatively recent work (i.e. from within the last three years), and ensure that each work sample is consistent with your personal brand.

2. Online or hard copy?

Increasingly, young creatives are using online portfolios to reach prospective employers and collaborators from across the globe more easily. You may still prefer to produce a hard copy of your portfolio that you can take along to interviews or send directly to specific employers. However, if you do intend to get online—an especially popular choice among videographers, web developers, and other media professionals—it’s useful to survey your options. Some of the more popular online portfolio services include Behance, Adobe Portfolio, Wix, Fabrik, Squarespace, Cargo, Portfoliobox, and Carbonmade.

3. Show your process

A recruiter may love a commercial you’ve worked on and still want to know how long it took to create, or whether or not you stayed in budget or collaborate with other people. This data reveals a lot about how you might function as an employee—will it be an uphill battle to produce quality work or simply a matter of giving you a brief?

You needn’t leave recruiters wondering about the answer: tell them. Whether you only use one type of lens on your camera or prefer to write in 45 minutes sprints using a pad and paper, let them in on how you work. Do you set personal deadlines? Do you have output goals? There is no product without a well-considered and consistent process, so make sure that yours is clear to readers.

4. Engage your audience!

If the person reading your portfolio has already seen your CV and resume, it’s safe to say that they’re ready for a new form of (non-textual) stimulation. So get visual—make viewing your portfolio a compelling experience by including images, videos, interactive elements, storytelling, or colour. Make sure that your pieces cohere, and that one flows nicely on to the next.

5. Don’t fret if you don’t (yet) have enough

Andrew Kim landed himself a job at Microsoft by redesigning the company’s aesthetic across multiple products and suggesting a brand refresh. Other creatives have reimagined websites, designed newsletters, critiqued logos, and more—the point is that you needn’t worry if your portfolio still seems a little slim. You need nobody’s permission to start a new project today that self-servingly emphasises whatever you’re best at, whether that’s writing, or graphic design, or web development.