graphic design portfolio tips

Graphic design is a massively competitive industry with a wide range of talented individuals. If you want to land your next gig, you might want to consider creating or updating your graphic design portfolio.

That sounds just fine in theory, but how exactly do you do it? What are the key elements you should include in a graphic design portfolio, and how do you knock it out of the park?

Glad you asked! If you’re looking to get an edge on your competition and stand out from an otherwise bland stack of portfolios on a potential client’s desk, then you should find the content below quite useful.

Here’s how to do it:

Pick the projects you’re most proud of


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you should showcase your best work. That being said, it can be hard to determine what should be considered as the best. After all, you created all of these designs, shouldn’t they all be included in your graphic design portfolio?

The short answer is no, they shouldn’t all be included.

The long answer is that you don’t want to flood whoever is viewing your portfolio with hours and hours of content to go through. You simply want to pick your best, give them an idea of what you can do, and leave it at that.

The simplest way to pick the best is to pick the projects you’re most proud of. Sit back and think about the projects that stand out the most to you. Pick the ones that you really enjoyed creating, and are proud to show off to anyone and everyone.

If you actually enjoyed the project, then the finished product will show it. These are the projects that you really want to show off.

Use detail in your graphic design portfolio

A lot of people often confuse being detailed with just adding a ton of words under an image. These two ideas are not the same.

portfolio detail

With a graphic design portfolio, less is more – meaning you want to be detailed, but in as few words as possible. Talk about your thought process, your inspirations, and your goals for each project, and then pair those words with images.

The combination of words and images will help you be detailed without having to write an entire essay for each project. Because, let’s be honest, nobody wants to read dozens and dozens of pages if they don’t have to.

Speaking of images – use your best ones

For the sake of your graphic design portfolio, you’ll want to use the very best images you have. You can even use a few different images to get your point across if you have to.

graphic design portfolio pictures

Most graphic design projects are done on a computer screen, so it should be fairly easy to grab a quick image or two whenever you need them.

It could also be really beneficial to document the design process. Take a few pictures to go with the text describing your process. Showcase how you tackle a project, and provide images of some of the steps you take to bring a project to completion. Context is the key, but remember to be conservative with your word usage.

It’s also worth mentioning that you should keep a database of these images for quick reference. You never know when you need to update your portfolio, or a client might need a few extra images to seal the deal. Keep them close and ready to go.

Show your work in action

Seeing your design on a computer screen is one thing, showing how it’s used is another.

If you designed a logo or a T-shirt, show it off in the real world. Take some pictures of the logo you created hanging on a sign above a coffee shop, or a happy customer wearing the design that you worked hard on.

graphic design portfolio logo

Using pictures like this gives context to your work outside of the portfolio it’s showcased in. It gives the viewer a different perspective on how your designs are used in the real world, and can be used to inspire whoever is reading your portfolio.

Variety is vital

This goes for any portfolio, but especially graphic design. Show off your best work, of course, but try to show off a couple of different styles.

The easiest way to land a job is to show them that you’re really good at a few different things. Be diverse in your decisions and show them your skills.

Make your contact details easy to find

Your portfolio is not just a book of cool designs, it’s a contact form.. more or less. The whole point in submitting portfolios is so that the person receiving them will eventually offer you the job. It would be kinda hard to do that if they have no way of reaching you.

Make your contact information easily visible. Whether it’s a dedicated page, or a section carved out of an existing page, the potential clients/employers should have no issues finding your email, phone numbers, websites, or submission forms pretty much instantly.

Make it mobile friendly

If you have your own portfolio website, you should definitely look into optimizing it for mobile users. Odds are that at least one of the people who receives your portfolio will view it on their phone.

mobile friendly portfolio

It might sound a little difficult, but hear me out. Think about all the websites you visit on your phone. Have you ever been to one that isn’t mobile friendly? How badly did that frustrate you? Now imagine a potential employer experiencing that same frustration.

The easiest thing to do is to make sure that everything that needs to be clicked or tapped on is large enough to interact with properly. This means that buttons should not only be a respectable size, but that they should also be positioned properly.

In addition, you’ll want to give plenty of space to finger scroll. Make sure that nothing is in the way and could be clicked accidentally.

Keep your graphic design portfolio updated

This one is a little self explanatory. If someone looks at your portfolio and sees the latest project being dated at 2014, it really doesn’t come off well.

An updated portfolio shows consistency, and consistency shows sought after work. Again, you don’t have to add every single project you’ve ever done, but you should definitely add recent ones, and the ones you enjoyed doing.

Have someone else look at it

You’ve looked at your portfolio a thousand times by now, so it’s probably old news to you. Having someone look over your portfolio with a new perspective is a real eye opener sometimes.

graphic design portfolio help

Even if your content flows perfectly, you have beautiful images, and the contact information is perfectly visible, you never know when the formatting is off or you have a simple typo.

Get a reaction and a few different opinions on your portfolio, and try to organize it based on the information you receive. A poorly organized portfolio usually means poorly organized work habits, and that’s not good at all.

Graphic design portfolio examples

We all need a little creative inspiration every now and then, so here are a few graphic design portfolio examples that stood out and grabbed my attention easily:

graphic design portfolio example

Josh Miller, a graphic designer in Australia took a very vibrant approach to his portfolio. It’s bright, interactive, and just plain funky. It shows of his creative sense of style, and it’s still simple enough to navigate easily. It makes for one of the best graphic design portfolio examples.

graphic design portfolio preview

What makes Mike Kus’s portfolio stand out so much is the fact that you can see all of his chosen projects right on the main page. You not only get a preview before you click on it, but they’re all laid out in a grid so you don’t miss any detail.

These are just a few graphic design portfolio examples. No doubt, there are plenty out there to choose from and to draw inspiration from. Before you really start to dig into your portfolio design, do a little research and find as many graphic design portfolio examples as you can.

Using templates for your graphic design portfolio

I get it, you’re a busy person. But don’t worry, you still have options. Luckily, there are lots of other people that are in need of a portfolio just like you, and don’t really have much time or knowledge to dedicate to it.

Flipsnack is a free online portfolio maker that offers loads of different portfolio templates that are waiting for you to simply plug your information into. Once you button it all up, you’re ready to send it. You can even save it and print a physical copy to take with you in interviews.

But, if you’re feeling froggy, you can also create one from scratch, and distribute it in the same way. How you design your portfolio is all up to you!

Your next step

graphic design portfolio steps

Once you’re happy with your graphic design portfolio, your next step is to send it out! Keep in mind that you should be ready at any moment to change some things up if you need to. Remember that this is a competitive industry, so jump at any chance you get to get an edge on the competition.

Keep it updated, clean, and creative, and your next step could take you to high places.

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    About Zach McDaniel

    Car geek, self proclaimed zoologist, and snake charmer on the weekends.