An impressive graphic design portfolio is a must-have for visual artists seeking freelance work or steady employment at a big company.
Your portfolio serves several important purposes, from helping potential clients or employers get a feel for your style to giving viewers your contact information so they can quickly get in touch.
If you don’t have a definitive portfolio yet, or have one but aren’t getting the results you think you deserve, I’m here to help you change that.
How to make a graphic design portfolio
I’ll go into more detail later on, but here are some key factors to keep in mind when making a graphic design portfolio.
- Choose a format that complements your previous design projects
- Only include your best work
- Show off versatility with a range of different projects
- Don’t be afraid to let your personality peer through
- Pay close attention to first impressions (portfolio title page, portfolio cover design)
- Display social proof (awards, positive reviews, etc.)
Now that you know what to look for let’s look at the portfolios of some of the most famous graphic designers working today. Keep an eye out for how these artists put our tips into practice!
Graphic design portfolio examples
With years of experience and hundreds of projects under their belts, these graphic designers have proven that they have what it takes to secure contracts and make the art they want. See what you can learn from these graphic design portfolio examples!
Format: single-page animated portfolio website.
Aesthetics: playful, minimalist, hand-drawn.
Skills displayed: animation, motion graphics, illustration.
Considering her current position as design director at Wistia, it’s safe to say Jane Song knows what she’s doing. With simple hand-drawn designs and delightfully animated graphics, this portfolio briefly tells you everything you need to know about the artist.
You can learn from Jane’s portfolio the importance of knowing when to keep things simple. Jane’s work is minimalistic, straightforward, and effective. Her portfolio is too!
Format: multi-page website with individual project pages.
Aesthetics: sleek, modern, surreal.
Skills displayed: 3D modeling, photo manipulation, concept ideation.
With an otherworldly quality that is eerie, enticing, and beautiful all at once, the superb work of Danny Jones is fittingly displayed on a sleek and practical portfolio website.
Danny’s portfolio is an excellent showcase of his versatility. With design pieces that range from personal passion projects to work done for industry-leading SaaS giants, this portfolio makes it clear that Danny can handle any task you throw at him.
Sonja Van Dulmen
Format: scrolling digital gallery website.
Aesthetics: bold, vintage, sultry.
Skills displayed: art direction, visual design, brand design.
A famous graphic designer in her own right, Sonja Van Dulmen and her design studio went with a striking single-page design that oozes style.
While I could sing the praises of this dazzlingly beautiful portfolio all day long, the key takeaway here is the portfolio title page. Elegant, straightforward, and timeless; this is how you make a first impression.
Format: scrolling single-page website.
Aesthetics: pop art, hobo chic, bizarre.
Skills displayed: photo manipulation, product illustration, creative writing.
There aren’t many entities that can rival the sheer off-the-wall energy of Ryan Haskin, but his portfolio website comes pretty close. Right off the bat, it queues you on everything you need to know about one of the world’s most eccentric and famous graphic designers.
Ryan’s personality doesn’t just show through in his portfolio; it is his portfolio. If you ever have second thoughts about whether or not you should include projects that are a bit more off the wall, take a look at this portfolio!
Format: single-page website with individual project pages.
Aesthetics: charming, line drawn, cartoonish.
Skills displayed: illustration, animation, product branding.
While it might not be as in-your-face as the previous entry on our list of graphic design portfolio examples, the subdued but distinctively charming qualities of Linda Baritski and her work are immediately recognizable when viewing her portfolio.
Linda’s portfolio is a veritable masterclass in the school of less is more. With a small but undeniably tasteful collection of projects, it shouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to be sold on her skills as a visual artist and graphic designer.
How to make a graphic design portfolio
Now that you have a workable idea of what a graphic design portfolio looks like, it’s time to talk turkey. How can you make a portfolio of your own?
The most important thing to remember is that your portfolio is simply a medium for you to display your work. Don’t make the fit and finish of your portfolio format your focus; instead, prioritize selecting the suitable projects to demonstrate your skills.
Here are other tips from professional graphic designers to help you get started.
Choose the right format
While the format of your portfolio shouldn’t be your primary focus, choosing a medium that compliments your body of work doesn’t hurt.
Most artists these days opt for the portfolio website option, which provides several advantages compared to other competing mediums. Tools such as Wix and Squarespace have made this option much more viable in recent years, even for those without web design experience.
Web-based portfolios are preferred by designers whose work exceeds the limitations of other formats. Animators, illustrators, 3D modelers, and web designers often choose this medium to display their skills, using the medium’s interactivity as a display piece.
Another excellent way to show your work is an interactive flipbook. Using this format for your digital portfolio is simple, easy, and inexpensive. You can even download it, share it as a PDF or convert it into a GIF!
Flipbooks are a great option for those who don’t have the time or money to spend dozens of hours trying to make a functional website and optimize it for search engines. With premade templates and drag-and-drop functionality, this format is probably the easiest option.
Creative networks such as Behance, Dribbble, and Zcool are also great ways to share your portfolio with the world. One great advantage of going this route is that you won’t have to invest any money unless you want to promote your work using paid advertising.
This option is perfect for anyone who doesn’t yet have the resources to purchase the tools needed to make a flipbook or website. Keep in mind that you can use any combination of formats you’d like; as long as you’re getting your work out there, it’s worth the investment.
Having a physical copy of your portfolio can also be helpful in some instances, but generally speaking, the leather-bound art binder is a thing of the past. It doesn’t hurt to have one, but you don’t want to rely solely on it to show your work!
Go with your best work
Graphic design is a job that doesn’t just recommend quality over quantity; it demands it. Your portfolio should only include work you are one hundred percent proud of, beyond any doubt.
This work should also be more or less commercially oriented. This isn’t an unbendable rule, but unless you’re working in a niche with opportunities for eccentricity, you might want to stay away from work that’s too shocking or avant-garde.
Show off that versatility, baby!
In addition to proving your skill as a graphic designer, your portfolio should also showcase some degree of versatility.
Most clients and employers want someone who can think on their feet and come up with graphic design ideas that are unique and outside the box, even if the requirements aren’t necessarily in your wheelhouse yet.
Showing a wide range of versatility is the best way to assure clients and employers that you have what it takes to meet these requirements.
One great way to show off your versatility is to include side projects, pro-bono work, and other less commercial projects in your portfolio. This will also add a pinch of flair, taking us to our recommendation: letting your personality shine.
Let your personality do the talking
While shocking your potential clients with dark or off-color work is typically a bad idea, take care that your portfolio isn’t too sterile or sanitized.
Try to find ways to display your personality in a way that isn’t problematic. Lighthearted, inoffensive projects are a great place to start, as these generally strike an ideal balance between fun, unique and professional.
Tailor your first impressions
First impressions can make or break your career. From how you dress to the words you use to introduce yourself, this rings true nine times out of ten.
This goes for your portfolio title page and portfolio cover design too! Ideally, the first thing that your clients see should be your masterwork, your seminal project. It should be bold, striking, and unforgettable.
Remember, simplicity is your friend. “Quality over quantity” is a golden rule, just like anywhere else. Eliminate clutter and let your best work speak for itself.
Dedicate a section to social proof
Clients don’t choose graphic designers based solely on qualifications. It’s true. That isn’t to say it isn’t a factor! Try dedicating a section to certifications, accolades, positive reviews, and anything else that affirms your skill and professionalism.
Social media is another great way to showcase your marketability and mass appeal. Try adding links to your social media, preferably in such a way as to be easily accessible but not the main focus of your portfolio.
Clients and potential employers prioritize skill when choosing a graphic designer, but most also prefer someone experienced, professional, and easy to work with. Social proof is a great way to reassure them!
That’s all, folks!
Hopefully, I’ve covered the basics and given you a rough idea of what to consider when putting together your portfolio. I wish you the best; get out there and create something!
Andrei Geist is a digital marketer working at Flipsnack. He spends most of his free time writing, cooking, and looking for lost guitar picks.