CCC: Graphic Design Portfolios

What makes a great online design portfolio?
A well-crafted portfolio is a gateway to opportunities. Essentially it’s your calling card. The better the portfolio, the juicer the role. How to make it great?
  • Keep Project & Brief Notes: A well-written case study that allows companies to understand your thinking behind the project is a really important component of your portfolio, since you’re not always present to explain.

  • Revisit Old Student Briefs: Revisit old student briefs you enjoyed working on, but could have done better. Spruce them up with your newfound knowledge and feedback from your lecturers and friends. Employers will never know it’s your second cut.

  • Cull, Cull, Cull: Don’t worry if your portfolio isn’t bursting at the seams. While it might be tempting to add filler content, less is actually more. Remember the average quality of your portfolio is brought down by your worst projects, so culling your portfolio back to your best projects only is definitely the way to go. Less is more — or as we like to say in the office ‘all killer, no filler’.

  • Give Credit Where Credit is Due: If you’ve collaborated on a project, it’s great practice to credit those you worked with — it’s not only the right thing to do, but it also gives more credibility to your own portfolio. In the end, there is nothing worse than being caught out claiming full credit for a project that an employer then discovers is not wholly your own work.

  • Get Your Work Professionally Shot: A beautifully shot portfolio will enhance your work. However, if you’re not a dab hand with the camera, don’t worry. The great thing about The Dots is that amazing photographers are only a click away.

  • Include a Resumé: In many of the larger companies, it’s Human Resource Managers who will do the first cull of portfolio, not someone within the creative department. So, even if your work is incredible, you might not make the shortlist unless you give them a feel for your background and experience, including where you went to university, your skills, past employers and clients.

  • Attend A Portfolio Masterclass: Sometimes it’s hard to take an impartial view on what should and shouldn’t be in your portfolio. That’s why we host Portfolio Masterclasses, as they’re a great opportunity to get your portfolio reviewed by leading creatives. Find out about the next class by following this page.

How to build a design portfolio with no previous experience?
“If your portfolio reflects nothing personal, then it might as well be someone else's”.
All the Creative Directors we’ve worked with have been massive fans of portfolios that include self-initiated personal projects. In the end, these CDs review hundreds of portfolios, and if they only include responses to university briefs, they start looking a bit samey. Including personal projects in your portfolio will not only help your portfolio stand out and reveal your creative thought processes, but will show that you’re a self-starter who’s passionate about what you do/want to do.
Below are some top tips on how to get the ball rolling on personal projects:
  • Create a Personal Identity: Let’s face it, your own brand is the most valuable brand you’ll ever work on and one of the only projects you’ll have complete creative license over.

  • Do an Internship: Internships are an amazing opportunity to get real-world experience, build up your portfolio of work and make contacts that can last a lifetime. If you are at university, ask if they have an internship programme. If they don’t, lobby for one! Also, more and more job boards have internship roles appearing. Obviously I’d recommend The Dots but hey, I’m biased. There are loads more out there, just Google “Internships” and take your pick. As long as they’re paid and well structured, internships are an amazing opportunity to get real-world experience and build up portfolio of work.

  • Enter Competitions: Competition pieces are a step above student work. If you don’t win at least you have some great content for your portfolio. If you do win, it’s an amazing way to get your work and name out there. Fantastic competitions include D&AD New Blood and Young Cannes Lions & Design Council Ones To Watch. But there are loads more, just check The Dots for updates.

  • Ask a senior creative for a Brief: Contacting a senior creative who inspires you and asking them for a brief is not only an amazing way to challenge yourself creatively, but if the CD likes your response they may even offer you a job.

  • Help out a Friend or Family Member: Friends and family always need creative services, be it designing their wedding or party invites, an identity for their business, a new website, some copywriting, social marketing tips, etc. You’ll not only get fresh content for your portfolio and resume, but also win major brownie points in the process.

  • Collaborate: Find a group of friends you love working with and start collaborating. Come up with your own passion project — be it an exhibition, a zine, a pop-up store, a product range, an installation, hosting a creative event — whatever goes really. It’s a great way to show potential employers that you are self-starting, with a true passion for creativity.

Some portfolio advice from Major Players:
More portfolio advice from Rosie/Major Players:

About me
The about me sectio­­n of your portfolio is of massive importance to us as recruiters and also your hiring managers. This section is one of the first things I look at in a portfolio and what it should do is paint a picture of you as a creative person. Therefore you need to take us on a journey throughout your career, talk us through your professional and personal achievements and how you have arrived at where you are now. Then express where you might want to be going moving forward.
When it comes to the work that you are showing in your portfolio, lead with your best or you’re most favourite work. It is really important you show the campaigns that really inspire you. We want to feel inspired as recruiters so by showing us this it shows your passion. It is an incredibly saturated market out there in the creative world. Therefore it is really important that you have work in your portfolio that sets you aside from the next creative.

What makes a really great portfolio is a blend of live and speculative campaign work. The live work is brilliant because it shows us what you are capable of, on a day to day basis, including all the work that has run. Also don’t be afraid to show things that haven’t run, as they might just be your best ideas but were not suited for that particular campaign. Or show off your speculative work that you work on outside your day to day. At the moment a lot of what we see is a lot of live work in portfolios, which can often pigeonhole people into a particular sector.

When it comes to your portfolio it is really important that you are giving your campaigns a sense of context. Outline your brief, outline what the insight might have been and outline the solution, all through copy. You don’t need to over saturate your portfolio with loads of content, however do give us a top line understanding of how you got that brief and how you arrived at that solution. Therefore each project within your portfolio should clearly articulate your idea.

Work in progress
It is great to have your beautiful craft on show within your portfolio, however please don’t be afraid to show us your rough ready raw scamps in your portfolio. This is so we can find out if you have that conceptual capability, to be able to run with an idea and take that right the way through.
How to create an online portfolio?

The Dots not only makes it incredibly easy to collate and showcase your portfolio of work but being a platform of 200,000+ community members it also makes your portfolio so much more discoverable to top companies and creative individuals alike.
You can upload imagery, videos, audio files and text, link to other sites, tag your collaborators and quickly create a clean, stylish and user-friendly online space dedicated to forming, refining and amplifying your professional profile

Some great design portfolios on The Dots:

Team Credits

Handan Brennah McGoldDay

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