A Client's Perspective on Crafting a Portfolio

In the competitive world of creative professions, your portfolio serves as a visual resume, a testament to your skills, and a key to unlocking career opportunities. You’re really interviewing with your portfolio before you’re interviewing in person. Making a good first impression is critical. Hiring managers will look at your portfolio to decide if they want to talk to you.

There are some essential elements of creating an effective portfolio, both from an overall, big picture perspective and tailored to specific roles within the creative industry. Review your portfolio to see if it includes these key attributes.

The Big Picture

Personality Fit. Clients often prioritize personality fit when selecting creative professionals. Demonstrating professionalism, teamwork and a touch of fun in your portfolio is important. Avoid focusing solely on before-and-after visuals; demonstrate your contribution to projects as well.

Relevance and Adaptability. While big brand experience is impressive, prioritize showcasing recent and relevant work. Design trends evolve quickly, and clients want to see that you're keeping up with the times and adapting to new ideas. 

Quality Control. Perhaps it shouldn’t need to be said but, since you’re in the design business, you can’t afford to make mistakes. Quality is crucial in building a trustworthy portfolio. Pay attention to details like spelling and grammar, images and overall functionality of the site.

Thoughtful Layout. Maintain a clean and visually appealing layout. Avoid overwhelming visitors with excessive content on the homepage. Visual and UX designers should organize by client, making navigation seamless (after all, this is what you’re good at, right?). Copywriters should organize by category.

Align with Company Style. Research the company you're applying to and ensure your portfolio aligns with its style and industry. For example, technology, pharmaceutical, finance and retail all have different styles and voices. Hiring managers want to see that you understand their business.

Personal Website. Host your portfolio on your own website with a custom domain (e.g., Investing in your own domain name shows professionalism and a seriousness about your craft.

Tailored Resume Links. For specific roles and/or industries, tailor your resume with direct links to the most applicable portfolio pages. Direct the hiring manager to your most relevant work first. 

Handling NDA Content. If your portfolio includes NDA-protected work or password-protected content, provide necessary information upfront. If the hiring manager has to come back to the recruiter, it slows down the hiring process and makes you the candidate look unprofessional.

Tips for Specific Creative Positions

UX Designers: Storytelling and Case Studies. Go beyond visuals; showcase your impact on projects with case studies that highlight problem-solving and your design process. Incorporate before-and-after visuals and articulate your thought process. Clients appreciate a touch of creativity so bring your personality to the portfolio. Demonstrate a broad understanding of design principles, not just limited to user experience.

Graphic Design and Motion Design: Personality and Technical Skills. Hiring managers want to see your ideation process and creative workflow. Infuse personality into the portfolio, showcasing a range of design styles. Use colors and design elements to visually express your understanding of design principles. Showcase fun and creative projects to highlight your love for design. Demonstrate proficiency in working with established design systems.

Copywriters: Style and Content. Unlike designers, writers should organize their work not by client but by content, especially if you have a diverse range of work. Categorize work by style, industry, headlines, social content, taglines, etc. Break down your portfolio into categories based on the job you're applying for. Ensure that the content aligns with the specific interests of potential employers.

Creative Directors and Art Directors: Leadership and Project Management. At a director level, it’s more about leadership than creative deliverables. Provide detailed descriptions of your role and project oversight. Include project scope, timelines, budget information and end results. Use before-and-after visuals to showcase the impact of your leadership.

Your portfolio is not just a collection of work; it's a projection of yourself and your understanding of design. By following these guidelines, you'll be better equipped to make a lasting impression and secure that next great creative job. Remember, your portfolio is your ticket to the interview, so make it count.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Written by
Scott McClung
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