The Five Best Design Portfolio Tips of 2019 from “Sam Does Design”

Hey, I’m Sam and I design. Some of the more popular YouTube videos I make are for portfolios and tips for getting a design job done. For this exact reason, I wanted to write about the portfolios here so that I can share this information with you.

I’m the first to admit that I have limited real-world experience, with only two years of postgraduate experience to my name. However, now that I am sitting across the maintenance desk, I have already started to see patterns emerge in the large number of portfolios I see. It also means I can spot mistakes people make over and over again. In order to help you out, and keep me from going through another portfolio with mistakes from someone who doesn’t know better, I’m here to let you know EXACTLY what I’m looking for.

Using these 5 techniques is sure to enhance your portfolio and make it a pleasure to read. If you’re not sure what format your masterpiece should take, be sure to read my latest post on the pros and cons of PDFs, personal websites, portfolio websites, and print books. .

Tip 1: only show your best work

The real world is different from the university. As much as I would like there to be, there is no grading scale, work schedule, or graded grading system. This means you don’t get extra points for showing more work. In fact, you lose points for showing the fill job. I’m guilty of that too, but it’s only really worth showing off that work that you’re really proud of. Your portfolio is as good as your worst project.

Tip 2: Show the type of work you want to do

As I mentioned in my last article, a red carpet backdrop design company needs to see that you can design red carpet backdrops. Without seeing the job the company needs help with, they can’t hire you because it becomes a risk to someone presenting it. You need to show the business that you are already doing the job they need help with. If that means spending time on an unpaid personal project, it could make all the difference when you apply in your preferred design area.

Tip 3: World-build with a story

Each project should clearly show the problem it solves, how far the design and decision-making have taken in the process. I find the best way to do this is to imagine that every project is an article for a design website. This means capturing the audience with a hero photo in context at the very beginning, followed by “behind the scenes”, then ending with hero photos at the end. Without seeing the context initially turned, there is no clear direction for the “behind the scenes”. Without the “backstage” there is no substance. Without the final hero shots, there is no final. The use of this formula can be seen in my portfolio reviews over and over again.

Tip 4: Show, don’t tell.

While it’s important to explain the whole story, it’s standard in the industry to spend a maximum of 10 seconds flipping through an entire portfolio. Designers and hiring managers don’t have time to read the 100 portfolios they see verbatim. Paragraphs should be kept to a minimum at all times. It means showing your skills naturally through visual means and, in turn, integrating your skills into projects. From what I’ve seen, those with less experience will have dedicated ‘sketching’ and ‘rendering’ pages – showing a mishmash of projects and separating their portfolio of skills. It’s something that schools and universities can use to assign grades or verify that the job is done, but that’s not how the real world works. Your skills should be apparent and integrated into the narrative of your project case studies, which should be presented beautifully, with as little text as possible.

Tip 5: Compare yourself to others.

Can’t believe I just wrote this on the internet and feel like a horrible person for suggesting it. But this is the only time in life that you should compare yourself to others, because your employer will too. Ask yourself, would you employ yourself if you saw your wallet for the first time? How does it compare to 5 other portfolios? What can you do to improve yourself? You should review your own submission before the employer has a chance to be. As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic.

You can see how I documented the Gantri Weight Light throughout this article. Using these 5 tips I’m sure your portfolio will be the best it can be. Good luck!


Sam Gwilt is an industrial designer with an eclectic mix of skills. He graduated from Brunel University in London and worked for Paul Cocksedge Studio, specializing in bespoke lighting installations and international exhibitions. He now works with clients around the world at consulting firm Precipice Design, and also runs an Instagram page and YouTube channel – Sam_Does_Design – where he shares industry tips with the community.

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