10 quick tips to improve your portfolio

How much time do you spend improving your portfolio? Does it showcase your talents? Ensure you showcase your abilities in the best way with these top tips.

We've pulled together our top quick 10 tips for dusting off a tired design portfolio and giving it a good spit-and-polish. For a more detailed look at portfolios, both online and off check out our feature Create the Perfect Design Portfolio

01. All Killer, No Filler

Resist the temptation to bulk out your design portfolio with old or irrelevant examples of your work by having a thorough and ruthless clear out. And don't leave this until it's unavoidable.

02. Number of pages

You should aim to fill at least 20 pages of a physical folio, and at least 30 examples for an online space. You need to be able to show a healthy breadth of work together with a range of applications.

03. What's your job?

Only include design portfolio examples for a full-time position that are appropriate to the role. A creative director position, for instance, won't entail much artworking - if any at all - so don't include it.

04. All in the brief

It's vital to provide brief information, information on briefs, ah - you know what we're saying

Use annotations and notes to talk about your experience. Make it clear what the brief asked for in each portfolio example you include, and how you accomplished it.

05. All round experience

Employers don't just want to know you've got a good design eye. Then also want someone who understands budgets, meetings, deadlines. Make sure your portfolio shows you have these professional skills.

06. Case studies

Recommendations and real-life case studies go a long way in showing how professionally capable you are. Ask clients or employers for a recommendation, and write up case studies to accompany project.

07. Numbers, guides and bookmarks

Those viewing your portfolio - by whatever medium - will be pushed for time and energy, so make it easy to navigate by including page numbers and clear project titles for each portfolio example.

08. Getting to know you

Think critically and impartially about what your portfolio says about you. Is it too serious? Too flippant? Strike a balance that you believe shows off your qualities.

09. Tailor your examples

Not everyone agrees, but tailoring your portfolio usually helps

Tailoring is advisable. If a subset of your work is wholly irrelevant, or even poor by comparison, do you really want to be judged by it? If in doubt leave it out.

10. Self-starter

Self-initiated projects are certainly acceptable in full-time applications, and recommended for freelance work - especially for illustrators. But think about what other talents you might have as well. For instance, if you're a handy photographer or accomplished with coding, why not include examples of your shots or web designs? They're all more strings to your creative bow.

This feature was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 192. All illustrations by Simon Riviere

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