The web is full of portfolios for graphic designers, web designers, photographers, artists, illustrators and other creative professionals. When building a new online portfolio, there are many factors to consider and decisions to make to set yourself apart and properly showcase your work.
In order to create the content for your site, you must know your goals. Some important questions to ask are:
- Who is your target audience?
- Are you looking to build a freelance business or land a design job?
- Do you want to get work in a specific field, such as music, or find a specific type of work, such as book cover design?
The answers to these questions will help determine the work you choose to present and the style of your written content, or the “voice” of the site.
Creating an outline of your content will let you focus on what to include on your site without being distracted by design. You can also start to think about the names for the different sections, though of course they can change later in the process. Common sections include:
- Portfolio: This is the showcase of your work, and is discussed more in later steps.
- About: This can be a bio and/or company overview.
- Contact: Be sure to make it easy for people to find your contact info.
- The Process: Talk about your design process, goals and how you deal with clients.
- Case Studies: In a case study section, you can focus on a few clients or projects and discuss the design process. This is effective for showcasing branding jobs or clients for whom you have done several related projects.
- Clients: A list of clients, often divided by industry or job type.
- Press: Show publications you have appeared in and any awards or honors.
- Resume: Depending on the goal of the site, including a standard format resume can be helpful to prospective employers or clients.
These are just a few examples of common sections. Developing new ideas, and presenting these sections in a unique way, is one of the challenges of designing a portfolio website.
Before selecting work to present, it often needs to be broken into categories. If you are presenting a small selection of work, one section may be enough. However, if you are presenting different types of work, aimed at different audiences, there are several ways to divide it for a better user experience:
- Type of Media: A common breakdown is separating your work by major categories such as print, web and illustration.
- Type of Work: Depending on your focus, present your work in categories such as book design, packaging, posters, business cards, brochures, etc.
- Industry: Show your work by industry, such as music, non-profit, entertainment, law, etc. This is effective if you focus on a few industries.
You can also offer your users multiple ways to browse your work, combining the methods above.
The work you choose to present in your portfolio is a key decision. Once you have determined how to present and categorize your design, choose the best pieces to include. “Less is more” can certainly come into play here, as potential employers and clients may be looking at many portfolios and not spending much time on each. Each work should be something you are proud of, whether it is a school project or a commercial piece. Even if you don’t have a lot to include at the start, you can expand your portfolio at any time.
Once you have selected your favorite work, it is important to present it well. For some pieces, displaying the final design as exported from your graphics software will do. For others, it may look best if you photograph it. Package design and book design are examples of work that will be more impressive if the user can see the actual finished product. Try shooting the products yourself, but consider hiring a professional photographer (or friend) if budget allows, as the quality of the pictures is as important as the work itself. If you know a photographer, consider exchanging some design help for photography.
They style of your written content will reflect your personality as much as your design. Decide what type of image you are going for, and write content to match. Again, consider hiring a professional writer to create, or at least edit, your content. Content includes project descriptions, bios, company background, and even how you word your contact page.
It’s time to actually start on the design process. Start with wireframes, which are simple line drawings of your site that set up where elements will appear on the page. Creating these first allows you to focus on layout without being distracted by color, type and other elements.
Using your final wireframes, create several designs. Treat this process as you would any project…tweak your designs until they are exactly what you want (in this case, you are your own client). Remember to consider unique methods for presenting your selected work.
Once you have finalized a design, it’s time to build a working website. If you are a graphic designer, but not a web designer, this may mean hiring a professional. Again, if budget is a concern, consider working with others that have different skill sets and exchange services. When the site is ready, you will need a domain name (website address) and hosting to get it online.