Portfolio tips

Here are some of my guidelines for portfolios to think about when gathering your work. When you are gathering your work, don’t neglect old projects. Sometimes a 2-D class project can be repurposed into a great poster or editorial layout!

– Include 8 to 12 of your very best pieces. Ask people to help you edit ruthlessly.

– Always have a web presence. I’ve had professionals say they will not even considering calling someone for an interview unless they have a website. Consider these sites to get one up quickly.

– Always have a business card at the ready with current information and an email address that is not school related or oddly named. Get a quality card to show that you care. Moo cards Vistaprint

– If you don’t know what industry you are aiming for, craft your portfolio as 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. This could be 1/3 editorial design, 1/3 illustration, 1/3 web, for starters.

– When dividing the work up, a good rule of thumb are the categories for the Addy awards. See here or the separate post. You can start with the student categories.

– If not dividing the work up, make a separate portfolio for each kind of job you want. Using the container/board method outlined below allows you to trade out and reorder work very easily for your physical portfolio.

Shooting your work:
When representing dimensional items like a CD jewel case or a brochure, having an interesting product shot is the way to go for representing the item in your portfolio. Set your items up in good lighting, such as diffused daylight, and shoot high resolution.


The Physical Portfolio

Are you buying a book?

Check here or Michael’s….

Or, these cool engraved books…

Or are you finding a really cool box or other container to use? (Recommended method!)

You can either (1) mount your portfolio pieces as below or (2) create another version of your InDesign document and format it to the size of your boards/pages. See the video for an explanation of this.

Use good quality black-core board or black-core foam board. Cut the edges neatly or have a shop do it. Always format your boards so that they face the same direction, i.e. landscape or vertical. Use spray mount or studio tack so that the mounting is flat with no ripples.

If you are mounting a single image on the front, use this guideline to place your image, making sure you leave space on the lower right or left for a consistent labeling technique.


Make sure everything is spelled correctly!!



My favorite way to mount work is to lay my labels and image out as a single print from InDesign, then print the work, mount it on the board, and THEN trim. That way, you don’t have to center your work or mount work and labels individually.

The PDF Portfolio

In InDesign, make sure the images for your portfolio are 300ppi. You can downsample the PDF in Acrobat to a friendly size, something like under 5mb. I am not a fan of creating an interactive PDF to showcase work; these are usually too large to email. Don’t forget to create (and spellcheck, and proof) a resume page, and include your contact info on every page in an unobtrusive format.