This post was written by Elizabeth Garner-Foy

Your Professional Portfolio: Top Ten Tips to Make Your Art and Design Shine

In the fast-paced, competitive world of art and design, you have to be ahead of the trend and outdo your competition if you want to land that dream job. How do you do that? Yes, that’s right; your portfolio. The one thing that will really make you outshine your competitors, is a really shiny portfolio. Keep reading for our top ten tips on how to make a professional portfolio that shines brighter than ever before!

We also have some exclusive insider advice for you. Interior Architecture and Design expert, Joe Lynch, tells you how to prepare a professional portfolio that really stands out from the crowd.


1. Pick and Mix v3

1. your Professional portfolio: a Pick and Mix

One of the aims of your portfolio is to give a snapshot of your best work, so don’t be afraid to be picky. Many designers recommend selecting around 15 to 20 pieces if you’re going for a printed professional portfolio, and up to 30 for online. Once you have your content, it’s time to mix it up. Put your best foot forward by ordering your work starting with the best, and present it as creatively as you can, to draw attention to your strongest stuff.


Pick and Mix work for your professional portfolio

2. It’s all about high-res

It’s almost impossible not to be wowed by a large, clear, high-resolution photograph, so make sure your portfolio is full of them. Sharp images of your pieces will give your portfolio that slick, professional finish and, whether online or printed, high-res close-ups are also a fantastic way to capture the textures and depth of your projects so that whoever is viewing it will be able to fully engage with your work.


3. Professional Portfolio in Print

3. Get Physical

Finding work in the creative industries can sometimes be tricky, and you will get used to meeting lots of potential clients and attending lots of interviews. But never fear, your professional portfolio is here! While an online portfolio quickly and easily does what it says on the tin, any prospective client is more likely to remember your work (and you!) if they have held it in their hands. You might choose a neat booklet style, an innovatively designed binder, or even an elaborate box of wonders that unfolds intriguingly to reveal your work.

Get Physical with portfolio building

4. find your flow

Anyone viewing your portfolio will want to do it quickly and efficiently, so make sure your content is clear and navigation is as smooth-flowing and intuitive as possible. Your aim is to showcase a range of skills, styles and projects in a cohesive style. You could, for example, use the same styling for the cover of each project, a repeated background graphic, or the same heading font for each piece.


6. Brand Yourself with a Professional portfolio

5. Build your brand

The purpose of a professional portfolio is, of course, to showcase your work and talent. But you also want to go the extra mile and show that you have the art and design Xfactor by letting your individuality sparkle. Think about your brand – who you are as a designer, how you want to be seen and your design identity. If your portfolio displays a spectrum of different types of work pulled together in a sleek, coherent fashion, your design brand will be clear and memorable… and hireable! Find everything you need to know about building your own brand here.


6. All-Rounderv2

6. Show you’re an all-rounder

Your portfolio is a great opportunity, not just to show off your design skills, but also your other abilities that will make you a valuable part of any creative project, such as managing deadlines, working with budgets, good communication and marketing skills. Including evidence of these skills in your portfolio will give you the edge when it comes to employability.


7. All-Rounder

7. delve into development

As well as the final outcomes of your projects, your portfolio will really pack a punch if it displays your development process too. Show your thought processes and evidence critical thinking, and any potential client will have confidence in your ability to handle new projects in a well-organised, resourceful and professional way.


8. write about it

A picture says a thousand words, and while there’s no doubt that your work will speak for itself, accompanying your pieces with short descriptions to contextualise them will add that extra spice to your projects. Make sure they’re short and sweet, to enhance the visuals, not distract from them. It’s also a good idea to write a bio – emphasise all the wonderfully unique parts of yourself and your work and you’ll be sure to be remembered!


9. Make it Shine

9. Make it shine

You’ll probably spend lots of time selecting work to include and leave out, leave out and include – it can be difficult to be your own critic! Don’t worry, you have plenty of time to test out different layouts and combos. Try compiling your portfolio and then leaving it alone for a while. Have a tea break or look at it the next day to see it with fresh eyes. It’s the editing (and re-editing!) process that will give it that final shiny touch.


10. Ask a friend

When you’ve spent hours (and days, weeks maybe) looking and re-looking, editing and re-editing your portfolio and you can’t see straight anymore, ask a friend to look through it. Anything that looks out of place or doesn’t work when clicked will be spotted straight away. In these final stages, you will be able to make your last edits to polish your portfolio off with that final touch of finesse.

And just before you go, some words of wisdom on making your portfolio shine from IDI’s Academic Leader for Interior Architecture and Design, Joe Lynch.

“The aim of your portfolio is to communicate two essential principles; firstly, use the selection of work to demonstrate that you have a versatile creative ability – including the capacity to generate unique ideas and solutions, use spontaneous freehand drawing, and develop more refined and resolved individual output. Secondly, show through the coordination and control of your portfolio presentation that you understand the importance of attention to detail, and illustrate your ability to deliver a clear and contemporary visual statement.

Creating a portfolio in this way will showcase your individuality and communicate that you can be an immediate asset to any creative team. Making the right impact will provide you with a springboard to your next role.”

Want to pursue a career in the creative industries? Find out how to get started with an online degree in art and design with the Interactive Design Institute. Get in touch today to find out more.

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