The ability to express ideas visually and resolve issues for clientele is a combination of challenging, stressful, and fulfilling. Creative careers, in general, are often hard to acquire unless one can clearly demonstrate their talents and expertise.
As graphic designers, designing a well-thought-out and sleek portfolio is one’s most effective tool in a field where AI and other digital advancements are making it harder to get ahead. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graphic designers have only a 3% estimated job growth by 2031, making the field more cut-throat than ever.
Whether seeking clients as freelancers or pursuing an in-house position with a firm, making a graphic design portfolio to showcase your work could be the defining moment for a successful career.
While some graphic designers carry a physical portfolio with printed samples, many launch portfolios using an online platform, allowing them to highlight other design skills more efficiently, such as videos or typography. If you’ve wondered how to make a graphic design portfolio online, these seven steps should result in steady work.
1. Curate Your Best Work
Regarding curation, striving for quality work over quantity should be your goal. Selecting the pieces you received the most impressive feedback on or are the proudest of should be the cornerstone of your portfolio.
Prospective clients will likely only have a moment to peruse your website, meaning you’ll want to aim for no more than 10 – 20 of the best, eye-catching projects you’ve worked on.
Even if you’re creating a portfolio fresh out of college with little to no experience, it’s crucial to include polished design samples whether you redesign existing work or develop a mock project.
Likewise, your portfolio should demonstrate versatility by including logos, typography, videos, animations, and professional photos of products your designs have appeared in, such as clothing, accessories, drinkware, etc.
2. Pick Your Platform
There are several host websites available to build your online graphic design portfolio. A few things to consider as you decide which platform is best for you include:
- Whether you plan to use a website builder or want to code manually
- How much storage is available and the number of uploads, pages, and blogs allowed
- Website speed
- Possibilities for customization
Although websites like Behance, Dribble, and Coroflot are free, investing in a custom domain URL is preferable, especially if you want to exhibit a high level of professionalism to clients.
Regardless of the host website you choose, ensure it provides organization to include “About Me,” “Projects,” and “Contact” sections for visitors to get to know you and your work and send an email inquiry.
3. Write Out Case Studies
As a successful graphic designer, case studies will prove invaluable in complementing your designs. In fact, HubSpot’s State of Marketing Report 2020 found that 13% of marketers regard case studies as an essential facet of a content marketing strategy.
A well-written case study allows you to communicate a broader project scope with site visitors, including your design process from conception to completion. Engaging copy should touch on the project’s background and goals, your approach to research and creation, and any quantifiable results.
Increase visitor accessibility to case studies by including them on the homepage. You can achieve this in the following way:
- Creating a case study landing page using a client quote or testimonial
- Writing a call-to-action to view a particular project
- Including a CTA to a separate case studies page
Case studies also present an opportunity to optimize your portfolio’s SEO through titles and headlines, inserting HTML and keywords into images, and backlinking.
4. Include Testimonials
The primary function of your portfolio is to turn visitors into clients — a Testimonials page could be just what you need for successful conversions.
Prospective clients are more likely to believe others’ positive reviews regarding their experiences working with you on graphic design projects. Actually, 72% of online users feel that positive reviews carry more weight than anything a company or brand touts.
Gather as many testimonials as possible, seeking permission from the client to publish them on your portfolio. Include photos, videos, and scanned reviews or letters to support their satisfaction with your work.
You should also prioritize testimonials that avoid generic terms, such as “excellent” or “perfect.” Detailed reviews that dive into customer service, your unique skills, and their overall experiences deliver much greater insight.
5. Infuse Your Personality
In a way, your graphic design portfolio is like a resume. However, even recruiters look for applicants’ personalities to shine through on their documents.
Allow your portfolio to speak to your personality by visually representing your artistry. Do you lean into a specific color or style? Maybe you prefer black and white designs? Highlight those intricacies with the template, background, font, and title.
For some people, this might prove challenging, requiring you to reflect on who you are as a graphic design professional and human being. Yet, the rewards of newly interested clientele will be worth it in the long run.
6. Highlight Your Process
No two creative professionals work the same way, so it’s essential to present your process to prospective clients.
Visitors of your portfolio will be eager to know and understand how you handle obstacles and generate design solutions for overcoming real-life difficulties. They will also get a greater sense of whether or not you can meet their expectations for any given project.
An ideal place to incorporate your process is within your case studies. Explain how you brainstorm ideas and bring design concepts to fruition, always providing an extra layer of context.
7. Showcase Side Projects
Some design professionals may be skeptical of the effectiveness of including side projects in their online portfolio, but doing so highlights your ability to manage multiple tasks simultaneously.
Side projects also demonstrate multifaceted and fearless experimentation, including the ability to showcase digital art you usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise — this is especially true if you’re a beginner graphic designer.
Some examples of side projects include prior schoolwork, personal design projects, logo designs for friends or family, and other media samples.
Don’t Necessarily Strive for Completion
Unlike special projects or copy, graphic design portfolios require constant maintenance to ensure your curated work is up to date. As you build your career, you’ll want to include newer projects, case studies, testimonials, and social media promotion to help further your outreach.