Any designer—regardless of industry or skill set—needs a portfolio to showcase their work. A portfolio helps clients or employers visualize what you will do for them, because they have an example of what you’ve done for others. This resource will build their trust in your abilities.
You can—and should—create an online portfolio, but that’s not all. To truly showcase your work, you’ll need a printed portfolio that creates a tangible interaction and makes you more memorable. This checklist reveals the 5 print materials your portfolio needs and why they matter.
It should be obvious that portfolio contents need to be protected, but a surprisingly large number of designers incorrectly package their portfolio. They simply laminate pages, use plastic binding, or staple pages together. But this creates a flimsy portfolio and sends the message that you’re cheap.
3-ring binders offer the protection your portfolio needs to stay looking great for a long time. Binders can be made of materials ranging from ultra-durable plastics to sturdy paper, so you can choose the best material to optimize your portfolio’s security. If you’d like help exploring more great design options, you can always contact Company Folders. They offer many types of binders and provide a wealth of design options to showcase your work.
An amazing exterior is a great start, but what’s inside your portfolio matters even more. When choosing samples for your portfolio, ask yourself three questions:
- Who will look at this?
- What do I want them to learn?
- How do I want them to respond?
Maybe you’re a recent grad who’s ready to start winning clients; you might need to use hypothetical samples to show potential clients your design skills. Maybe you’re looking for a new job with an agency; in that case, it’s best to use only the professional designs you’ve done—not the Photoshop art you make for fun.The more you tailor your samples to your audience, the more effective they’ll be.
Convincing someone to look at your portfolio is great progress toward a connection, but the battle isn’t won. Potential clients and employers will look at multiple portfolios before making a final decision. So why not make it easier for them to contact you than the competition?
Business cards are one of the best tools for this. Their compact size makes it easy to carry multiple cards at once—perfect for multi-person meetings. And despite being small, they have plenty of design potential. You can create a custom business card that resembles a piece from your portfolio to help people make that mental connection.
Business cards are great for keeping in touch, but people often want more information about you and your products. Brochures provide those details in a tri-fold layout; their six small panels are perfect for presenting information in a logical order.
Your brochure can include information about your company, yourself, or your past experience. It can also describe your products or showcase your areas of expertise. The key to a good brochure is to use a clean, easy-to-read design with relevant, hi-res images to help illustrate your main points.
“Sample stories” are made of an 8 ½” x 11″ paper that provides extra information about your samples. This includes details like when you created a piece, what and who it was for, and anything else that will help potential clients or employers decide to hire you. When you get creative to present these stories, you’ll make a great impression on them.
You can also include case studies or testimonials as part of your sample stories. These resources will help people know that you’ve got a long line of happy customers from the past—making new people more likely to trust you in the future.
There’s one more thing to remember when creating your portfolio: all these different pieces should work together as part of the whole. They should use consistent font and color choices; you can even add a series of related or repeated images to tie the design together. The more consistent your portfolio, the more professional you will appear and the more likely you are to land your dream job.