How to make your digital design portfolio stand out, according to a Creative Director. | Advertising

Last March, we lost three customers in the space of a week to COVID-19: two large restaurants and one large retailer. Ugh.

Across the industry, we have seen companies hemorrhaging and countless talented people losing their jobs. Collectively, we took a deep breath and prepared for the worst.

But it didn’t get worse. The demand for the design and manufacture of digital products has increased dramatically during the pandemic. They are, after all, the ultimate social distancer. More than ever, perfecting your online offering is essential.

So in light of the economic hardships faced by many in our industry, we find ourselves in an interesting position: we are hiring. I posted an article on LinkedIn stating this fact, which has exceeded 30,000 views and over 500 interested applicants.

I got to work revising portfolios. And a lot of them. Here are nine tips for aspiring digital designers looking to stand out among the crowd.

1. You have 30 seconds.

And if I like what I see, you might have two more minutes.

Agency executives are busy. Getting your value into your wallet quickly is crucial. If it’s a maybe, maybe I’ll spend a few minutes digging a little deeper before passing it on to our design folks – who do pretty much the same.

2. Show, don’t tell.

Not only does writing your creative journey step by step now translate well, it also distracts from the work. Personally, I hate wallets with a lot of text. We are in a visual industry where images and videos speak.

3. Product, not process.

On that note, don’t fret showing off every step you took to develop a creative product or solution. Your wallet is just a door opener. We can talk about process in an interview.

Less high resolution Post-Its images, more high resolution, high quality design images. It makes you more beautiful and makes me look longer.

4. Slick sells.

If you are a visual designer, this is a no-brainer. But that still applies to UX designers, because visual design is an important part of the digital experience.

When introducing a client, all deliverables should look neat and professional. Don’t skimp on showing that you value it in your job.

5. User experience matters

In the vein of ‘show, don’t tell’, the user experience of your portfolio is also important. You can’t say you’re a crazy experience designer if your own site experience sucks.

And I can’t believe I have to say this, but make sure your wallet is optimized for mobile. We live in a mobile-driven world, and I review a ton of wallets on my phone in bed (yes, I’m that guy, and there are more like me).

6. Make your mark

Your brand matters. You must stand out in a crowd of hundreds. Make sure your portfolio shows your style and personality, not just your work.

Even your profile picture makes a difference. If you can’t craft an image of yourself that stands out, you will probably have a hard time designing anything that stands out.

7. Keep your side projects aside

To be frank, I’m not interested in seeing your watercolors or crochet side projects.

A few personal projects are okay, but if you’re not 100% committed to a career in this field, I’m starting to doubt you will get away with it.

8. Don’t rely on the basics.

This goes for job seekers in all fields: watch out for typos, misalignments, broken links, and glaring errors. Double and triple check everything. Ask your friends to help you with QA too.

I once saw a portfolio that said, “I’m a designer with great attention to detail. It’s a difficult time, thank you very much.

9. No is not the enemy.

No, that’s how we get better. Take every rejection as a learning opportunity. Ask for feedback – I’ll give it straight to you, it’s the least I can do – find out why you failed and adapt. Learn from your mistakes and bring them to the next interview.

There you have it, from a time-running CCO in his 40s, with questionable eyesight, poor posture (designing for a living does that for you) and a relentless passion for people, products and design.

Hope this helps.


Stephen Clements is Creative Director at YML


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