How to Create a Standout Design Portfolio

May 13, 2024Dianne Eberhardt

After finishing your UX/UI designer training, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice and dive into the exciting design world. However, nobody warns you about how hard it can be to land your first job.

The design landscape has transformed into a bustling arena. Courses, bootcamps, and online resources abound and competition is fierce. You might be talented but you will also need to sell yourself in a dynamic and ever-evolving market.

The upcoming article will give you valuable insights on crafting a portfolio that truly stands out and lands you that dream job or project.

What Is a Design Portfolio?

A design portfolio is like an open window into your creative process. It’s so much more than just a collection of pixels and layouts - it’s a mirror that reflects your skills, personality, and past experiences into one captivating story.

Think of it as a cover letter for designers. Recruiters want to step into your creative universe and be delighted by your work.

Crafting a portfolio is exciting because it allows you to introduce yourself from a visual and practical perspective.

What Are the Most Common Mistakes in Design Portfolios?

Recruiters and potential clients screen countless portfolios during their selection processes. Before diving into the details of creating a standout document, be mindful of these common pitfalls:

1. Poor Design

As a designer, your job is to stage for impact. Every hue, font, and button speaks about your creativity, so you need to pay careful attention and choose wisely. What emotions does this color evoke? Is the font your chose elegant or edgy?

There’s no one-size-fits-all portfolio. Your creation will be part of your personal brand and should align with your core values.

2. Non-relevant Content

There’s no magic recipe for creating the ideal design portfolio, but you can take this as your motto for guidance: show, don’t tell.

It’s okay to share part of your process but don’t overwhelm recruiters with long explanations. Make a curation of your best work and keep your texts concise.

3. No Updates

There’s always room for improvement and, as you gain experience in the field and specialize in a specific discipline, your portfolio should evolve to reflect that growth.

Remember, a well-crafted portfolio is like a dynamic canvas that showcases your progress and expertise over time.

Must-Have Elements of a Design Portfolio

As a designer, your role extends beyond creating compelling visuals; it’s about effective communication. And what better way to demonstrate your skills than your own portfolio?

  • Introduce yourself in a short bio - show what inspires and drives you.
  • Apply visual hierarchy principles like you’d include them in your designs.
  • Metrics matter! Quantify the impact of your designs.
  • Review your portfolio and keep it fresh to show you’re actively engaged in your work.

But wait, there's more to enhance your journey:

1. Curate Your Most Relevant Work

What it means: Wisely select projects highlighting your previous work and competencies.

How to do it:

  • Choose projects that align with the role you’re applying for.
  • Prioritize pieces that showcase your creativity, problem-solving abilities, and technical skills.

Extra tip: Starting as a designer can be quite discouraging, especially when crafting your portfolio for that first job. Luckily for you, we've thought about 5 ideas to kickstart your design career creatively and demonstrate your eagerness to thrive, even without formal experience.

2. Communicate Your Thought Process

What it means: Briefly explain how you approach different design challenges.

How to do it:

  • Include case studies for some projects.
  • Describe your process: research, sketching, wireframing, prototyping, and iteration.
  • Elaborate on important decisions.

Extra tip: Show your employers you’re human by adding some retrospectives about mistakes and failures and what you’ve learned from them.

3. Infuse Your Print

What it means: Add your unique touch to your work, conveying authenticity.

How to do it:

  • Define the aesthetic of your designs: Do you have a minimalist, bold, or playful style?
  • Select works that reflect your personality and specific interests.

Extra tip: Think of creating a personal brand like designing your own unique style that reflects who you are. This includes choosing specific colors, fonts, and icons you consistently use across all your professional documents, like your resume or LinkedIn profile.

4. Provide Project Backgrounds

What it means: Offer some context for each project. It will help potential employers better understand the problem you solved and the impact of your work.

How to do it:

  • Concisely describe the project’s background: client, goals, and challenges.
  • Explain your role and contributions.
  • Highlight any constraints or unique aspects.

Extra tip: This is the moment to show your user-centered thinking!

5. Display Diversity and Range

What it means: Demonstrate versatility by presenting different kinds of projects.

How to do it:

  • Include a mix of web design, branding, UX/UI, print, or any other relevant areas.
  • Show that you can adapt to different styles, industries, and audiences.

Extra tip: Content diversity can also include clients’ testimonies and recommendations from previous employers and coworkers.

How Many Designs Should You Have in Your Portfolio?

There’s no right number when it comes to projects you should show, but keep the previous advice in mind:

  • Convey diversity and interesting stories that reflect your personality and professional goals.
  • Ideally, choose between 2 (if you’re an absolute beginner) to 6 (if you’re a senior designer) projects.
  • Tell your experiences in an eye-catching, scannable way.

Let’s Collaborate and Create Impactful Projects Together!

At The Design Project, we specialize in crafting user-centered strategies for brands and companies seeking innovative approaches to communication.

By identifying pain points and designing digital products that cater to users’ needs, we create seamless and accessible experiences.

Our driving force? Business growth. We believe in achieving this through a blend of innovation and a user-first mindset.

Book a free discovery call and let’s unlock the potential of your projects together!

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

    Let’s build something awesome together!

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