Crafting the Perfect Design Portfolio

As a designer, sharing your work not only demonstrates your expertise and skills but also shows who you are as a creative. Building a design portfolio that accurately reflects your experiences and abilities is critical to landing a role that fits your skillset.  

What makes a strong design portfolio?

A strong design portfolio should capture not only your skills and personal aesthetic as a designer, but the breadth of your experience through a variety of content. Including various digital and print assets ranging from email campaigns, to motion and social media samples will display how versatile of a designer you are.  With social media and digital campaigns being a huge forefront in marketing, do not neglect print or out-of-home (OOH) advertising samples. Experience with creating OOH advertisements, in-store signage and other print collateral can be a huge plus, leading to a competitive advantage in your job search.  Inputting recent work to a portfolio is just as important as updating your resume. If you omit your most recent work in your portfolio, you are missing an important opportunity to showcase your expertise, growth and skill level as a designer! A portfolio that accurately reflects your creative aesthetic will ultimately help you to find the perfect position. If you are targeting a certain kind of position, it is okay to tailor your portfolio to highlight relevant experience and examples front and center. For example, if you are targeting roles in digital design, the hiring manager is going to look for design collateral such as website banners, landing pages, email, SMS campaigns and GIFs.  

How to organize your portfolio

Every designer is unique and will have a distinct portfolio to showcase; however, one of the most frequent questions we get is: How should I structure my portfolio? There are a few different options to consider when organizing your graphic design portfolio.

Organizing by job or client

Many designers choose to mirror their portfolio to their resumes by organizing their work by the company or client work. This is especially popular among design freelancers who have worked on shorter contracts for many brands. When you organize your portfolio by job, hiring managers may have to search to find specific relevant samples. On the flip side, clients can quickly see if you have worked for brands with a similar aesthetic.

Organizing by type of content

Another way to organize your portfolio is by assets and/or channels. For example, organizing by categories like social media collateral or email campaigns helps the viewer navigate through your site more efficiently. This is popular among both freelancers and designers who have worked with one company for a period of time. For hiring managers, this type of structure is helpful if they are specifically seeking a designer for a project-based need that is specialized.  

Organizing by industry

Many companies are seeking designers who have experience within a similar industry to their brand or clients. If you have worked across industries, this can work in your favor. Organizing your work by industry allows hiring managers and recruiters to see comparable work. For example, a fashion client will be more likely to hire a candidate who has worked within that industry versus a candidate who has worked in entertainment or real estate.  

How to pivot industries as a graphic designer

If you are looking to pivot industries as a designer, it is important to highlight your transferrable skills. Choose content from your current industry that is most related to the industry you would like to break into. If possible, highlight work that you have done that shows your adaptability and how your talent is applicable. Be mindful when pivoting into a new industry, as you may need to take a pay cut. At times, previous experience may not be directly comparable to the work you would like to shift towards. Being flexible with pay or job title can help you get a foot in the door!  

How to structure a portfolio if you are just getting started

For early-career designers, it is extremely important to have a polished and well-structured portfolio. You can showcase projects completed for school or other courses you have taken. You can even strengthen your portfolio by including personal projects if they are relevant to the line of work you wish to pursue. Any work that can represent your professional brand and aesthetic is worth including. We always recommend that early-career graphic designers, or designers hoping to make a career pivot, should take courses to gain practice with new software or design capabilities. Showing a commitment to continued learning stands out to employers and strengthens your skillset. Plus, many clients use particular design tools.  To find inspiration for your portfolio, try exploring other design portfolios that you admire. Coroflot, Behance, and Working Not Working are platforms that you can utilize. Those websites host designers and their portfolios.  When you are ready to build a portfolio of your own, Shopify,, and Squarespace offer premade templates and can be a great place to start.

Syndicatebleu places creatives and designers with top tier companies nationwide. With more than 40 years of experience in this field, we are experts in making career matches and do not stop our search until we make the perfect match. If you are interested in advancing your career as a designer, you can browse our range of open opportunities on our LinkedIn and Find Work pages.

Kelsie Kirchner

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Kelsie Kirchner is a Creative Recruiter on the Syndicatebleu team in Los Angeles. Kelsie studied at both Western Illinois University and the University of Mannheim majoring in Business Management and Administration. Prior to joining the Syndicatebleu team, she was an Executive Personal Assistant to a prominent CEO. In her current role, Kelsie enjoys speaking to and connecting with different people every day. She loves working with candidates who are positive, goal-oriented, and self-motivated, and especially enjoys getting to connect them with their dream jobs! Outside of work, Kelsie can be found traveling, hiking, and going to the movies.

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