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What makes a GOOD Portfolio

Young Professionals Connection Building a Portfolio

February 11, 2014

“Creative professionals should start and end their portfolios with only their best work.”

Whether you’re a graphic designer, a writer, a photographer, or a film producer, your portfolio is your bread and butter. It’s what gets you hired for a job, or it’s what gets you new clients. So, what makes a great portfolio? There’s really two separate directions you can go. Are you trying to get hired by a company, or are you a freelancer trying to get new clients?

Building a Portfolio…

…If You’re Trying to Get Hired by a Company

When a company is looking to hire you, they want to see two things. They want to see that you are really good at your practice, and they want to see that you are versatile because they may give you projects that may not be your specialty. Keep this in mind for later.

…If You’re a Freelancer Trying to Find Clients

On the opposite side, clients only care about one thing and that is how you can help their business. They want you to be good at the one thing they are hiring you for. It’s better to show what your specialty is and maybe a handful of samples of that particular thing or two.

Assembling Your Work

Make sure to have an online portfolio for potential clients or employers to view before deciding to interview you. The number of pieces can range greatly here from five to fifteen or twenty if you categorize them. The key is to not have all of your work online. You want to have a couple pieces up your sleeve to show the people who will interview you.

Only add work that you are proud of and can talk about. If you need to make changes to improve your work, then do so. Show work that has a story that you can tell and explain your thoughts behind it. 

Finally, once you get to the interview, you want to order projects in a certain way. Some people order their projects chronologically to show progression in your style and skill. My personal preference is this: find your 8-10 best pieces, then pick your best and second-best works. Place your best piece first to make a great first impression, and place your second-best piece last to leave the employer with a good impression. The work in the middle is where you should show a variety of skills in whichever order you see fit. Just try not to have similar projects back to back.

Adam Feller
Adam Feller is a graphic designer and the owner of Avidity Creative. Adam is on the board of directors for AIGA Iowa and an active member of AAF Des Moines. He often volunteers to review portfolios and resumes for design students and was a semi-finalist for an arts-related competition held by Scion.