Graphic design portfolio: 6 steps to success
Are you a graphic designer looking for a new job? Freelance visual guru seeking new clients? In any case, having an online graphic design portfolio is the best way to win new projects and showcase your work.
If you don’t have a digital portfolio or yours could use more of a wow factor, dive in. In this article, you are going to learn how to best showcase your online graphic design portfolio.
Pick the right platform
Regardless of whether you prefer WordPress (either built from scratch or constructed with the help of WordPress packages) or a template-based sitebuilder, the platform of your choice should offer various options to upload your images, add texts about your project and your resume/CV, and show off your best bits of work. A simple slideshow of past projects will hardly do the trick.
You only get one chance to make a fantastic first impression, so your website should carry enough weight to position you as the best designer for the job. However, it shouldn’t be overloaded with animation and flashy design elements so that it turns your potential clients or employers away. Your website should have clean and sleek navigation, carefully chosen fonts, and a neutral color palette.
Identify your target audience
Your portfolio is a reflection of your signature style, so it’s only natural for it to address your ideal client. That’s why it makes sense to start with a little visual research. Whichever field of design you’re in, gain visual inspiration from fellow graphic designers, brands, and collections of current design trends.
Generate some initial ideas for your portfolio by browsing through some of the best-known names in your niche, then visit websites of art galleries and events to absorb what’s in the air right here, right now. In this article, you can quickly browse the design trends du jour.
Once you’ve clipped enough snippets of the work that you like, consider creating a mood board. Here you will be able to put together the images, color palettes, typography, and textual content you like. Ask yourself what kind of ideal client you’d like to work for and what kind of projects inspire you the most, then build your portfolio website to work like a magnet for this type of work.
Focus on versatility
You don’t want to upload every logo you’ve created since leaving the design school. Pick only the projects that you are truly proud of.
Сhoosing items for your portfolio can be tricky. As always, quality should beat quantity. Your portfolio shouldn’t turn into a digital repository for every graphic design file on your hard drive. This is your chance to woo the potential customer with your very best stuff.
The key takeaway: If you include dull, unimaginative work, your potential customers and employers will think you are a dull, unimaginative designer.
When you are going through your stash of knock-em-dead samples, try to include a diversity of projects. For example, instead of displaying five websites that you have designed for five different fitness centers, display a website you created for a regional bank, a print ad for a non-profit organization, and then another one for an artisanal coffee shop. Try to cover as many niches as possible.
This way, by showing a diverse range of high-quality work samples, you will send a message that you:
- Have an impressive and versatile talent that allows creating beautiful designs, no matter what the story or the object.
- Have experience working with a variety of marketing and advertising media.
Consider the following good practices for choosing the images to showcase in your graphic design portfolio:
- Do showcase only your most astounding, truly amazing designs in your portfolio.
- Demonstrate the scope of your experience by including a variety of samples.
- Don’t include designs that are average or “good enough” quality, even for the sake of composition. Trust your gut feeling. If you are lucky to land a job, you will add a few more images to your portfolio. But….
- If you feel strongly about a series of images in your portfolio, use the following template from VistaCreate to present smaller images in an alluring way:
By segmenting your work into categories on your site, you guide your visitors looking for specific types of design so they can easily locate what they need. You want to send a message that you are capable of doing everything (and then a little extra).
Use textual content wisely
Alongside each portfolio image, try explaining the client’s goals and how your design achieved them. If possible, include a detailed summary of the results that clients can actually trace thanks to your design expertise.
Don’t just upload beautiful images to your portfolio. Tell your audience the story behind your designs. You can do it even by using a small header like here:
If feeling stuck for words, include at least a few words on these three topics:
- Your role: Did you manage the whole project, or were you working as part of a larger team?
- Your process: Tell your visitors how you came up with the design. This is a good place to talk about the client’s goals and how you worked to achieve them.
- Success metrics: Tell if the client was happy with the work or even add a happy testimonial. If you know your way with data, show some numbers comparing customer acquisition rates between the old and new designs.
At the same time, do your best not to say too much about your graphic design process. Overloading your site with large chunks of text can be a real turnoff for your visitors.
Avoid overusing professional language (a.k.a. jargon). Don’t assume your portfolio visitors will understand the significance of your design based on the visual impression alone. Remember that you’re not selling your expertise to fellow designers. Your visitors (and potential customers) may not have a keen eye for tiny details and visual intricacies that mean so much to you. They just need to know why the design is effective and how you made your visuals look so great.
For example, when displaying samples of logo designs, you don’t need to cover the page with a complete guide on how to design a great logo. Instead, tell your visitor how a particular online store improved its sales after incorporating the new brand identity (designed by you, of course).
Another important note about wording. Think about what your target market is looking for in a graphic designer. What would they type into a search engine? Once you have determined that, try to use those exact keywords and phrases in your labels and descriptions of your images and designs.
And at the end, make sure to proofread all content to avoid grammatical errors before publishing.
Optimize your images
Even the cleanest, most attractive graphic design samples will perform poorly without optimization. By optimizing your images and making it easy for your audience to view your design work, you will improve your portfolio website’s lead-generating potential.
To ensure portfolio images load quickly, remember to:
Resize images before uploading them to the website. Resize every image to match the space in your template of choice. When in doubt, full-size images of 700 to 900 pixels wide are a safe bet for most users.
Watch out for proportions. Don’t stifle down your site’s load time with oversized photos. When resizing your images, check for distortions and blurring as this can wreak havoc on how your designs are portrayed.
Compress every image: Even if you’re only using .jpg and .png files, you can usually shrink the file size without changing the image dimensions or sacrificing quality. Head over to TinyJPG and compress every image before uploading it to your platform.
- Resize and compress every image.
- Don’t upload giant images and expect your visitors to wait (and wait, and wait) for them to load. Most people will just click away and look for another designer.
Once you have assembled the collection of your graphic design samples and wordings, it’s time to build that online portfolio design website.
Building blocks of your website
When designing the structure for your website, think strategically. You are not building a site for a large corporation. In fact, all you need is a set of 4 pages: a homepage, a portfolio page, an About page, and a contact page. This includes text, images, and other media. Let’s take a closer look at what these pages should contain.
The first page your potential client lands on should grab your visitors’ attention with an eye-catching yet clean design. Think about a powerful introduction and place your most exciting graphic design image here. Make sure to include your name and the area of expertise but skip your full bio (save that for an About Us page).
Portfolio (a.k.a. Projects, My Work, etc)
This is the core of your online portfolio, so make sure to showcase it in the best way possible. Use the best practices we discussed above to make your portfolio page informative, eye-catching, yet easy-to-read.
About Me (a.k.a. My Story, A Few Words About Me)
This is where you present your bio, background, and provide essential information about your activities. Include any distinctive elements, such as your achievements and skills. Present your information in a fun and accessible way:
It can also be a good idea to clarify your current employment status. Consider adding a link to your resume/CV, possibly as a downloadable file.
After you’ve stunned visitors with your portfolio and enchanted them with your life story, make sure they can easily contact you. This page should contain a contact form, your email, phone numbers, and links to your social networks. It’s also highly recommended to repeat your contact details in your website footer, offering visitors a final invitation to get in touch.
Creating an online graphic design portfolio can take hours or weeks, depending on how much detail you want to provide and how deeply customized you want your website to be. If at any point you feel overwhelmed by the online graphic design portfolio process, remember the best thing is to keep it simple. Show people your best work, and try to make the viewing process easy. Just have fun with it!
➡️ Check some stunning graphic design portfolio examples in our article.