(Specifically a design or illustration portfolio, this is as far as my limited expertise reach.)  

I know for a FACT that you put in a helluva lot of blood, sweat and brain matter into the work you’re making. Creativity has been flowing through you, the ideas keep coming, your craft is growing stronger everyday. Oh my god, so inspired.

 

Don’t let a portfolio faux pas sell you short.  

 

I’ve done all the research (Translation: I have made some real janky portfolios in my time), and here I am to present my findings in a buzzfeed-style list. Just like a real scientist.  

 

1. Get rid of your inner saboteur

 

 

Have you ever been showing your work to someone and said something like: 

“Yeah, it’s a bit crap, but…” 

We’re thinking “They’ve definitely seen better, and if I don’t acknowledge that, they’ll think I’m naïve.”  

Instead, you’ve just planted the idea that your work is bad.  

REMEMBER: If it’s in your portfolio, it must have merit to you. Just state the FACTS. “This work is about ___ and I learned ____ by doing it.” You don’t need to have an ego, but you definitely don’t need to apologise for the work you’ve put time and effort into making. 

 

2. Keep everything in one place

 

 

Your portfolio presentation should not conjure up the phrase “Herding cats”.

If you’re planning on meeting someone in person to talk about your work, try to have all your work organised and easily accessible. By that I mean – avoid pulling 5 different sized sheets of rolled up paper, showing 3 pictures on your phone and 1 large tattoo on your belly. Have everything printed or mounted on similar sized sheets. If you’ve got some digital work to show, have it ready to go on a device, and make sure it works without Wi-Fi!  

If you’re showing everything digitally, have a presentation made up, or at least everything in the same folder. Again, feel free to show stuff on the internet, but be prepared with a back up plan! Internet access is a cruel mistress. 

 

3. Give your work context

 

 

If you’re working in design or illustration, I find it important to show how your piece would work in the real world. After all, rarely will any of your work be shown in isolation. It’ll probably be part of a campaign, maybe a book, perhaps on a website. Maybe it’s a tattoo on someone’s belly. You really like drawing, and you want to be an illustrator? Show me something your drawing could be used on and give it purpose. Otherwise it’s just A NICE BIT OF ART.

And on that note –

 

4. Show, don’t tell 

 

 

The images in your portfolio should be working hard to explain the context. Keep any blurbs short and sweet. Same goes if you’re talking to someone about the work – all that should be required is the elevator pitch. We are VISUAL COMMUNICATORS, the clue’s in the name. 

 

5. Have a beginning, middle and end

 

 

A portfolio isn’t for ALL THE WORK YOU’VE EVER DONE. It’s a curated selection, showing off the kind of work that you’d like to KEEP doing, and the work your audience is looking for. 

This is probably something you’ve all heard – put the heavy hitters at the beginning, middle and end of your portfolio so they really stand out. Never end with something that you know isn’t relevant to the audience looking at your work. However, if you’ve done something that you’re proud of that’s not all that relevant, you should still be able to show it off in amongst things. You never know when that belly tattoo may become significant.  

 

Motivational speech time:  

 

The most important thing is for you to keep making good work and showing it to people. You’ll get great feedback, meet great people and get better and better at your craft. Even if your portfolio is a little bit janky.