How to Create a Traditional Graphic Design Portfolio (Yes with an actual case)

How to Create a Traditional Graphic Design Portfolio (With an Actual Case)

create a traditional portfolio for your graphic design career

After a close examination of the Internet, I have had a hard time finding any useful information regarding putting together a graphic design portfolio. Consequently, I have decided to put together a series of articles related to creating not only a digital portfolio, but also a traditional portfolio as well. In this article, I will not only go over putting together your graphic design samples, but also I will relay to you how to photograph your finished graphic design pieces, make slides, digitize pictures of your graphic design pieces, make postcards, mailing your portfolio, placing your portfolio on CD, promoting your work and more. A portfolio is one of the single most important resources that a freelancer, especially a creative one, can have in his grasp, so please come back every week to see each issue.

Why Do You Need a Portfolio, Book, or String Book

Writers might call them “string books”, artists might call them a “book”, but in most cases, they are called “portfolios”. In what kind of situations would you need to have a portfolio? If you are a graphic designer or other creative professional, a portfolio is a MUST. A portfolio is a collected sample of your work and there is no better way to showcase your design talents. In this respect, I would say that a portfolio is for everyone in all lines of work, but especially for creatives and freelancers. A portfolio is a professional way to share projects that you are familiar with to a prospective employer. In the past, only graphic designers, artists, and writers moved from job to job. Now, most of us only stay at a job a few years before moving on to a new position. A portfolio is a perfect way to showcase the multitude of projects you have worked on in your job experiences.

As I have said earlier, graphic designers must have a portfolio. After initial contact with an employer, he or she will probably insist on seeing samples of your work. Depending on the situation, the employer might want:

How Might an Employer Want to See in Your Freelance Portfolio

(1) Online Portfolio
(2) Drop-off Portfolio
(3) Portfolio Review
(4) Mailing Portfolio

All clients are different, so you should be ready for all scenarios when you are applying for a graphic design job. I will now summarize each scenario, and later on I will go into each option with much more detail.

(1) Online Freelance Portfolio

An online portfolio is a must these days, especially if you are preparing for an online job hunt. An online portfolio is very similar to a traditional portfolio, except with many perks. (For example, images can’t get wet and damaged when they are stored in an online portfolio.)

The ease of viewing an online portfolio, in comparison to traditional methods, makes this a preferred method in most cases. Employers are always in a hurry these days, and waiting around for a mailed portfolio usually doesn’t cut it anymore. So I suggest placing samples online somewhere, even if it is just through a free service.

In some cases, employers might search through potential candidates on freelance or portfolio sites. You should try to get yourself on as many online directories as you can. The more sites that you are listed on, the more likely that you will be found. At the end of this portfolio series, we will list sites that you should try to get listed on. (Try allfreelance.com for a large list of freelance jobboards.)

(2) Drop-off Freelance Portfolio

Yes, I am talking about dropping off your precious baby. Dropping off my portfolio has never been my favorite thing to do, but some companies insist on doing business this way. Additionally, some art directors will only look at books on certain days of the week and specific hours of the day. You might also have a scheduled hour that you need to pick up your portfolio.

If the art director is impressed with your portfolio, an interview might be arranged. Otherwise, you might have inserts within your portfolio with critiques of your work. Use the critiques as a learning experience. Most likely, the art director knows what he or she is talking about. You might even land a job with this company at a later time if you take advice from the hiring hand. Later on in this series I will go over with you how to set up your portfolio for drop-off.

(3) Freelance Portfolio Review

A portfolio review is essentially an interview where you present your portfolio. Unlike the “drop-off” scenario, here you will need to present not only your talents but your social skills.

Make sure that you are confident of your talents and leave behind a good first impression. Take these suggestions with you:

- Rehearse First.
- Be on Time.
- Dress for the occasion.
- Shake interviewer’s hand firmly with the opposite hand that you are holding your portfolio case.
- Don’t sit until a chair is offered.
- Address interviewer formally.
- Look employer directly in eyes when speaking (not in a creepy way).
- Try to weed out the “ums”.
- Bring all materials that are needed, such as your portfolio, extra resumes, references, business cards, pen, paper, etc.
- Pass out business cards at the end of the interview.
- Thank the interviewer.
- Stand out from other candidates and send a “Thank-you” card.

(4) Mailing Freelance Portfolio

“Ahh!! This is even worse than dropping off my portfolio!!” Don’t worry, everything will be okay. You won’t be mailing original artwork. Instead, you should duplicate original artwork. There are many ways to do this:

- Tearsheets
- Photostats
- C-prints
- Photocopies or Printing
- Transparencies
- Photography
- CD or Disk

I will go over all of the above later.

What should you do if you have no professional examples to place in your portfolio?

If you are in a situation where you don’t have any professional samples to place into your portfolio, then you obviously have a lot of work to do. You might be able to get away with placing classroom projects into your “book”, but you would have a much better chance with “real world” samples. Below, please find suggestions on building your graphic design sample-base.

Have No Previous Graphic Design Experience or Portfolio Pieces? There are several ways that you can build up your portfolio:

**Get a Great Portfolio Piece : First Time Give Away -

Offer your graphic design services for free first-time orders. Seek out small business owners and offer your services for free. Explain that if they like your services the next consultation will come with a fee. If the client likes your work, you might have found yourself steady work or better yet, he might refer people to you. Remember to always finish a project by asking the client if they know of any potential clients that you could contact.

**Get a Great Portfolio Piece : Donate ProBono Services to Nonprofit Organizations-

Volunteer your design services for free to local community organizations where you live. This is a great way to build up your portfolio. Look in your phone book for religious, educational, social, and political organizations. You can also try Volunteer Match. Most nonprofit organizations would be thrilled to get something for free considering their budget is probably pretty tight. Try to negotiate into the deal that as payment you would like to have your business name and phone number on the finished piece (and if you have a website url, this should be printed on the finished product too). This is very fair. This might be a great way to drum up business and get a great sample for your portfolio at the same time.

For example, if you offer your design services to a church. There are probably a dozen small business owners in the congregation. Maybe one or two will take notice and ask about you. Here are some articles about doing graphic design pro-bono work.

**Get a Great Portfolio Piece : Design for Friends and Family Members

Who better to help you than people that you love and trust? On a sheet of paper, write down all of your friends and adult family members. Do any of them own a business? Do any of them control the hiring process with the company that they work for? Volunteer your skills out to your friend or family member. Make sure not to get yourself into a situation where this friend expects you always to work for free. Explain up front that this is for free only with the first project. Again, try to negotiate that your business name, phone number, and website url are printed somewhere on the finished product. If your friends and family members don’t have any business for you, ask them if they know of anyone who could use your services.

**Get a Great Portfolio Piece : Hire Yourself First

Surely your own business could use your services so hire yourself. If you are a designer, you can create promotional materials for your business such as business cards, promotional brochures, letterhead, etc. If you are a writer, maybe you can write up promotional literature for your business. Of course, I don’t know what your profession is, but try to find a way to put yourself to work.

**Get a Great Portfolio Piece : Dummy Samples / Mockups

As a last resort, you can create fictitious examples of your work. This could work for all professionals, but I am more familiar with this in the design industry. Create dummy brochures, newsletters, logos, and other pieces to demonstrate your range of skills. If you can show a potential client with mockups that you have the talent that they are looking for, then go for it. (For Designers) Even though this seems such a waste of your time, you can use these documents as templates for real projects that you will have in the future. Here are some articles about creating graphic design mockups / dummy pages.

**Get a Great Portfolio Piece : Personal Things

For special occasions you can design your own cards. If you have a yard sale, you can design the poster. Even if a neighbor is having a yard sale or a party, etc. … why not ask them if you can design the cards or posters that go along with the occasion.

**Get a Great Portfolio Sample : Web Search

Do a search on the web for websites that you feel could use your service. Look for bad design layouts. If you consider yourself a web designer offer to redesign the website for free. If you are a graphic designer, offer to design this company’s brochure or flyers. If you are a web marketer, look for nice sites that are hard to find in the search engines. Look for bad copy if you are a copywriter. Don’t offer your free services out to everyone until you get a “yes” or “no” response; otherwise you might get ten “yes” answers.

**Get a Great Portfolio Piece : Write Articles

Write articles about your expertise and submit them to heavily trafficked web sites. Make sure that you are referenced in these articles. Something like this works best:

John Smith
Fake Company
Expert Web Designer
http://www.fake-company.com/
fake-company@server.com

Some web sites won’t let you have all of this information written as a signature on the article, but they will let you have a summarized version. If not, at least insist on your name and website address being added to the article.

**Become an Expert - There is a web site called All Experts (http://www.allexperts.com/) and a lot of similar sites as well. That is a great place to network. This site is a hub where people ask advice of experts. Take advantage of this marketplace where others in your field can ask advice of you. If these people are pleased with your expertise, you might receive future gigs from them.

**Message Boards and Chat Rooms - Message boards and chat rooms attract individuals in need of advice. Take advantage of this. Just make sure not to blatantly market your services. This might infuriate people and you could get flamed or kicked out among other things. The way to network in this situation is to be as helpful and knowledgeable as you possibly can. If you are in a graphic design message board and someone is baffled about how to use layers in Photoshop “¦ explain the process. You could maybe mention that you use Photoshop daily when running your design business. THEN at the bottom of the page use a signature. Find out about signatures below. Just remember not to spam, you have to legitimately post helpful messages on these boards..

**Signatures - Every email that you send out should contain a signature. A signature is at the end of your emails and should look something like this “¦

John Smith
Fake Company
Providing Professional Brochures at a Discount Price! http://www.fake-company.com/
fake-company@server.com

You never know who will need your professional services, why risk missing out on a potential client?

**Post Your Resume and Profile - Yes, posting your profiles or resume on the freelance and full-time job sites is a perfect way to network. We have a listing of freelance sites here. Listing your profile with Allfreelancework.com is where you should begin, of course. :-)


**Reciprocal Link - If you have a web site, ask for a reciprocal link from others in your profession or similar professions. For example, if you are a graphic designer, ask for reciprocal links from fellow graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, etc. I get more traffic to All Freelance from reciprocal links than I do from search engines.

**Introduce Yourself - Search and find other professional’s websites and email them. Introduce yourself and your services to them. Let them know that you are available for work if they ever need to outsource. Ask questions. How long have you been freelancing? Where do you find clients? What is your specialty? Would they want extra work you have in the future? Etc.

**Place your site in directories and search engines - It is good to get your name out in searchable directories “¦ this is much more preferable than to search engines that don’t really pick up any good matches. I recommend going to the following web sites to get listed

*http://www.dmoz.org/
*http://www.looksmart.com/
*http://www.mamma.com/

*http://www.yahoo.com/
*http://www.selfpromotion.com/
*http://www.overture.com/ (a pay-per-click search engine)
*http://www.kanoodle.com/ (a pay-per-click search engine)


For a listing of search engines to get listed in go to:

*http://www.searchiq.com/
*http://www.beaucoup.com/

*http://www.searchenginewatch.com/
*http://www.siteowner.com/dgdefault.cfm

Now it is time to put it all together. So how are you going to choose which samples to place in your portfolio?

How to Choose Which Images/Samples to Place In Your Portfolio

Hopefully you will have a large number of samples to choose from, but don’t worry about it if you don’t. Your goal is to choose 10 - 20 of your best samples. Think quality, not quantity. Lay out all of your work and decide which samples are the best.

Focus Your Portfolio Samples for a Niche Market

You should try to focus your portfolio for a niche market. Are you interested in working for an advertising agency, book publisher, newspaper, etc.? Different markets will expect different things from you. You might not be ready to choose a niche market yet, if this is the case you will need to rearrange your portfolio each time you interview for a job.

Make Sure There are No Mistakes in Your Samples

Once you have chosen which samples to include in your graphic design portfolio, you should look them over with great care. Make sure that there aren’t any errors or typos within your sample work. If there is even one little error, leave that sample out. You are trying to position yourself as a competent, skilled, detail-oriented professional.

Research Employer / Client for More Information

Each time that you apply for a position and you are called in for a portfolio review or drop-off, you should research the hiring company for more information. Normally a job ad isn’t enough information to find out what the employer is really looking for in a good portfolio. At the minimum, you will need to get the phone number, company’s name, and address. From this information, you can hopefully gain access to verifiable details about this business. From this information, you should do research on the Internet. If you are a web designer, You will need to find out if the business in question has a web site. What colors and style form do they use? Does this business have sample brochures online to download or have mailed to you? Does this company have any other job listings online? Take a look at all of their job ads, you might be able to see more of what this company is about.

Put Together Graphic Design Samples for Your Portfolio

Once you are more aware of what the hiring company wants from you, you will be able to put together samples that you can be confident displaying to the interviewer. Remember to only choose 10 - 15 samples. You don’t want to overwhelm the interviewer with too many samples.

What quality images should you include in your portfolio?

** Originals

- Whenever possible, you should include originals. When I say ‘original pieces’, I mean an actual finished product, like a brochure, catalog, self-mailer, etc.

** Tearsheets

- Tearsheets are pages torn from a magazine, newspaper, or other published material. If something of yours is published in a publication, purchase many of them so you can keep them for your portfolio.

** C-Prints

- Color Prints (also called c-prints) need to be produced professionally by a custom lab. Take a color negative or interneg to a custom lab and tell the rep that you want a full page C-Print. The quality of the C-print will not be so great because you are enlarging from slide size to full page size. I don’t recommend using this method, but if it is your last resort, go for it.

** Printouts

- Go to your local service bureau and bring your digital files there to have printed out. Printouts from a quality service bureau are very similar to printouts from a quality printing press.

** Photographs

- If your original design is unable to go into your portfolio than you can take a quality photograph and place it in your portfolio. However, there is nothing more unprofessional than a shoddy photography, so you will want to do it right. We will cover photographing your work later in this series.

**Slide transparencies in plastic sheets

(20 per sheet, or loaded tray ready for showing) - This is a good way to display your portfolio if you are a photographer. Otherwise, unless the interviewer says it is okay beforehand, don’t assume that you can display your portfolio with slides.

**Chrome transparencies

- Chrome transparencies are very expensive and probably not worth the extra expense since you don’t need them. They come in sizes 4 x 5, or 8 x 10 and the clarity is amazing. Art directors seem to like Chrome Transparencies better than slides because they are easier to use.

**Laser Photocopies

- Laser color photocopies have come a long way in the last few years or so. I have actually seen laser photocopies that look better than printouts from service bureaus. Check out the color quality on local laser photocopiers. I know that you can find them at Kinkos, Staples, and Officemax, amongst other similar places.

** Screenshots

- It is difficult to place your website in a portfolio, but with the use of screen shots it is possible. Take a screen shot and then crop it in Photoshop. Take your files to your local service bureau to have your images printed out.

Examine What Pieces Define Your Skills and Capabilities The Best

Now that you have a better idea of what quality samples you should place in your book, take time examining what pieces most define what you are capable of at your ‘best’.

How to Shop for the Right Portfolio Case

Now it is time to shop around for a portfolio case. If you already have one, you can skip over to the next section. Either way, you might want to stick around for this section to make sure your portfolio case is worthy to display your work. Remember that your portfolio represents you and your capabilities, so please consider this when shopping around for a portfolio case.

Before Shopping for a Art Portfolio Case, Lay Out all of your samples

Before you go shopping around for a portfolio case, layout all of your samples. Measure the largest piece of work that you plan on including in your portfolio. Then add 4 inches to both the height and width of your largest sample, this will leave a 2 inch border around your largest sample. The height and width that you calculate is the minimum size that your portfolio case should be. Also, please keep in mind that larger isn’t necessarily better. A large portfolio case may become unwieldy and a burden, to say the least. Your book can be just as impressive small or medium as it can be large. My rule of thumb is not to go larger than 14 x 17. If you have a sample that is larger than this, consider replicating the piece and reducing its size.

Below I have detailed the differences between the various types of portfolio cases.

Classic Spiral Book
(Best for Beginners)

Up above, the Classic Spiral Book, has a black leather cover with spiral binding system which allows easy opening and page turning. This portfolio comes with a removable cartridge of 20 archival sheet protectors, and more can be purchased by 10s. This specific type of portfolio is good for professionals who want a specific order sequence for their presentation. To the left I have listed the sizes that this specific variety of portfolio comes in.
I suggest that beginning artists select the Classic Spiral Book for simplicity sake. Until you are able to perfect your presentation skills, it will be easier for you to dictate the order in which you present your work with this book. Many artists mount their samples against the black background page. Others just insert their sample behind the sheet protector, allowing the client to view the work more closely. I suggest that you don’t permanently mount your work on the black background page, simply because you will want to add to your collection as you gain more experience. However, you can always get more inserts so naturally it is your choice.�

Prat Elite Portbooks�

The Classic Spiral Book includes a pocket, which I personally like. Designers can place bulky pieces of work in this pocket. Photographers can place slides (within plastic slide sheets) in this pocket. Other items that can be placed in the pocket are disks, cds, resumes, reference sheets, annual reports, booklets, etc.�

For those of you who want to spend a little more money, the Prat Elite Partook might be for you. The Prat Elite Partook, covered in soft bonded natural leather, features a removable binder and strong spine-mounted handle made out of genuine leather. This one also has an inside pocket and includes 10 archival sheet protectors with black paper inserts. The manufacturer highly recommends this case for digital images. As you can see to your left, this portfolio case is pretty expensive. I think that the Prat Elite Partook is a bit nicer, but the Classic Spiral Book is just as professional as the Prat Elite.�

Prat Classic Easel Binders

The Prat Classic Easel Binders (to your left) are an amazing presentation tool. They double as both a portfolio case and a presentation stand. This is the most impressive of all of the cases that I am going to show to you. Depending on the size of the room that you are giving your presentation, you would place the easel stand on either the board room table or the client’s desk (If it is a really small room place the stand on your lap). You would face the samples outwards towards the interviewer. Since you cannot see the samples that you are showing to the client, I would suggest placing labels on the back of the previous page, in order to remind you of what the next sample page is. I have listed sizes and prices of this portfolio case to your left.�

Start Carry Cases
(For the Experienced)

For the more experienced professional, I suggest The Start Carry Case (pictured to the left). This is a kind of an attaché case for carrying your work securely. The rugged black laminated waterproof cover will protect your valuable artwork from the elements and rough handling. The reason that I only suggest this case to the experienced professional is because until you are able to perfect your presentation skills, it would be easier for you to display your work with a spiral book.

With The Start Carry Case, you will need to mount your work first on black foam boards or mat board cards. Mounting your work on mat board is explained later on in this series. Mounting each sample on an individual board allows the employer to focus on one piece at a time and this also protects the samples while being handled. Make sure that when you are finished with your interview to store away your art within either this case or a similar case to prevent damage from occurring.

You might want to shop around to find the perfect portfolio case for yourself. Keep in mind the pointers that I outlined above and you should be fine.�

How to Submit Slides or Transparencies to Art Directors

Artists are frequently asked by hiring art directors to submit transparencies and/or slides. For this reason, I feel it is important to cover this subject. As I am sure that you know already, slides are 35mm-sized transparencies that are contained within cardboard, matboard, plastic, or other material. Transparencies are normally 4×5 or 8×10 and are more expensive than making slides. Transparencies duplicate better, but are probably not worth the extra money.

Have a Professional Photographer Take Pictures of Your Work

When possible, have a professional photographer take shots of your artwork. (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND HIRING A PHOTOGRAPHER. IF YOU CANNOT AFFORD ONE, TRY HIRING A COLLEGE PHOTOGRAPHY STUDENT OR POSTING A JOB OPENING ON ALLFREELANCEWORK.)

If you don’t have the extra cash to hire a photographer, you will want to keep a few things in mind before starting your photo shoot:

1. Making even little photographic mistakes could diminish the beauty and professionalism of your graphic design samples.

2. Buy, borrow, or rent a standard 35mm SLR camera with a 50mm normal or macro lens.

3. Buy, borrow, or rent a standard tripod.

4. Buy, borrow, or rent a cable release. A cable release is an inexpensive and necessary item that eliminates unnecessary vibration.

5. Use 160 ASDA Tungsten Ektachrome film for the best results and choose an overcast day for your photoshoot. (Diffuse daylight is the best light source for this). If it is not possible to shoot outside, direct light is second best. The problem with direct light is that it could cause unwanted light reflection. TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!!

6. Make sure that your camera is clean by using a lens tissue on the lens and the body of the camera.

7. For a nice backdrop, purchase a roll of photographer’s seamless background paper (or a table cloth works as well). Attach the paper to the surface behind your image and on the table that your image sits on. As long as the complete background of your sample artwork is covered and there are no seams, you can use any material as a backdrop. I always suggest that black is the color that you use as a backdrop.

8. Place the sample graphic design piece in a way that it is level vertically and horizontally on an exterior wall. In order to keep your work safe, hang your picture under an overhang. Or if your image is small, you may be able to shoot your image from above. If your design piece is framed, you should take your imagery out of the frame. If this is not possible, at the minimum take the glass out of the frame to reduce reflection.

9. With your camera on a tripod, focus in on the sample design piece so that it fills the frame and there is the same amount of margin on all sides. Take at least five shots of each sample piece, each time choosing a different shutter speed with the f-stop at 11 or smaller.

10. Make sure to use a gray card to check proper lighting.

11. Take your slide film to a professional photo lab and have your slides developed. Let the photo technician know whether you want your film developed unmounted or mounted. It is easier to have the photo lab take care of the slide mounting or you can opt in to take care of it yourself. If you opt to mount your transparencies yourself, then you will want to purchase slide pages, slide mounts and special foil tape. Glass mounts are best for projection but they are not suitable for mailing. A good alternative is the plastic mounts. You can use the slide masking tape on the shiny side of the film to mask out unwanted areas of the slide.

12. Be careful not to fingerprint or smudge slides.

13. Pick the best slide for duplicating and mark ‘ORIGINAL’ on the slide so that you don’t get confused between duplicate and original slides later.

14. Make sure to label your slides properly.

When labeling your slides, you should either generate nicely printed label with your computer or with a black felt pen. On the front of the slide, you should include the following:(on the top of the slide)
1. Your Name
2. Title
3. Medium(on the bottom of the slide)
1. Size of Sample
2. Year or Date of CreationIt is important to place a red dot on the bottom left of the slide of how it should be viewed.

15. Place your duplicate slides in a single 11″x9″ clear transparent PVC slide sleeve for mailing or other intended purpose. Keep original slides, only send out duplicates.

16. Include a slide sheet along with your slides (if intended purpose is to mail slides). A slide sheet is a list of information about the slides that you are sending. All information is listed in the order of the slides that are enclosed. You should list the title, medium, size, and price (if applicable).

If you decide to hire a photographer, make sure to make a good choice. It might be wise to make sure of the following:

1. Has this photographer ever photographed art?
2. Check References … do they pan out?
3. Do you like the photographer’s sample work? Make sure to look at his work before hiring him.
4. Make sure that you will own the negatives and the copyright after the work is completed. Sign a contract stating this.
5. How much will the photo session cost?

Prepare Your Freelance Portfolio for Drop-Off or Mailing

Many employers will not have time to see you in person, in this case many will ask for you to drop-off or mail your graphic design portfolio. This is not an unusual practice, especially when dealing with busy ad agencies. Additionally, some art directors will only look at books on certain days of the week and specific hours of the day. You might also have a scheduled hour that you need to pick up your portfolio.

If the art director is impressed with your portfolio, an interview might be arranged. Otherwise, you might have inserts within your portfolio with critiques of your work. Use the critiques as a learning experience. Most likely, the art director knows what he or she is talking about. You might even land a job with this company at a later time if you take advice from the hiring hand.

Never Use Original Pieces When Dropping Off or Mailing Your Portfolio

When dropping off or mailing your portfolio, original graphic design pieces should never be used. Duplicate your originals by either using a service bureau, printing color photocopies, Tearsheets, C-prints, transparencies, photography, or by other inexpensive means.

What Kind of Portfolio Case Should Be Used for Mailing or Dropping Off a Graphic Design Portfolio

It isn’t universally agreed upon whether a cheap plastic portfolio case should be used or whether a leather or upper grade vinyl should be used. On one hand, it is risky letting someone you don’t know borrow your portfolio. Will you ever get it back? Will they take care of it? On the other hand, you are trying to make a good first impression. It is much harder to impress someone with a plastic folder compared to a leather portfolio case. By rule of thumb, I always suggest using a nice leather or vinyl case for drop-offs, and a plastic folder for mailings. By law your drop-off portfolio is the liability of the employer. For this reason, the employer should take care not to damage or lose your portfolio. You still need to be careful, many employers still treat portfolios without any cares. This law doesn’t guarantee anything for mailed portfolios.

How Should You Mail Your Portfolio So it Stays UnDamaged

When mailing your portfolio, you will want to make sure that your presentation is received unharmed. For this reason, take great care in packaging your portfolio correctly. Place all of your samples within a plastic folder. On each side of your folder, place a piece of cardboard or foamboard in order to keep your samples from becoming wrinkled. Since you won’t be present when each sample is viewed, you should label each sample. Include a cover letter, a business card, and any promotional item that you feel is necessary. Completely enclose these items within bubble wrap or enclose it in a padded envelope. On the front of the packaging, write ‘PLEASE DON’T BEND, ARTWORK ENCLOSED’.

Always Sign Out Your Portfolio When Dropping it Off

When you are dropping off a portfolio, always remember to have somebody sign out your portfolio. This way you have proof that they are in possession of your portfolio if they lose it. If you plan to pick up your portfolio (some people just leave it for employers to keep on file), include a few samples that they can keep, such as postcards. If the art director is interested in an interview, you will know very shortly. Good luck.

How to Place Your Freelance Creative Portfolio Online

All of this article so far has been about putting together a traditional portfolio. We are going to now steer towards putting your work online. No matter what anyone tells you, even if it is your professor, getting your portfolio online is even more important than a traditional portfolio. In order to get this right, we are going to go over every detail in the process … including building your own web site, displaying your work on a portfolio site, or hiring a web designer to help you through the entire process.

Design Your Own Website AND Add Your Portfolio to Portfolio Sites & Freelance Sites for Maximum Exposure

I recommend that you design your own web site AND add your listing to portfolio sites. Why both? EXPOSURE!!! If you think about it, you will make sense of it all. The more places that you are listed on the Internet, the easier it will be to be found and of course this is what you want when you are looking for work. Naturally, you probably aren’t made of money. I will give to you the ins and out in the next few articles on how to find out which sites are worth adding your listing to. There are tricks and I have a lot of them to share.

DIGITAL IMAGES

In order to showcase your portfolio online, you will need to have your images on your computer. Furthermore, your images will need to be optimized for the web.

RESUME

If you are going to add your listing to freelance and/or portfolio sites, you will need to prepare a resume. You will be asked about employment history, educational background, your skills, and more. It will make things easier to have your resume handy so you can copy and paste items from your resume.

YOUR STATEMENT

Many of the portfolio and freelance sites will ask for summaries of your services. Spend time writing this copy because this important copy is what will either sell your services or turn clients away.

SERVER HOST

If you are going to run your own web site, it is essential that you find a quality server to run your site. There are ways to determine which hosts are dependable and which hosts you should run away from.

WYSIWYG HTML EDITORS

Huh? What does that mean? WYSIWYG means ‘What You See Is What You Get’. There are software applications out there that are as easy to use as a Word Processing application. It is easy to create a webs site … however it isn’t easy to make a nice looking web site.

WEB DESIGN

Web design isn’t easy but with a few pointers, anyone can do it. We will cover the web design process including uploading to a server.

PORTFOLIO SITES AND DIRECTORIES

There are tons of portfolio sites and directories out there. We will let you in a few tips to make sure you choose the right sites to get listed on. We will even list our favorite sites.

HIRING A WEB DESIGNER

Can’t figure out how to design your own site. Find out how to find the right web designer for your site.

We will talk more about creating a portfolio presence online in our next blog entry.

[tags]graphic design portfolios, design portfolios, setting up a portfolio, portfolio cases, portfolio case, graphic designer, graphic arts, design, graphic design, web design, traditional graphic design portfolio, traditional portfolio, mailing portfolio, dropping off portfolio, mailing, drop off, art director, getting hired, slides, transparencies, photographing art, taking pictures of art, portfolio samples, portfolio article, tearsheets, originals, c-prints, printouts, photographs, chrome transparencies, offline portfolio[/tags]

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23 Comments

  1. Posted November 23, 2007 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I am a newly graduated graphic design student in the process of putting my portfolio together, and I found this information extremely helpful. Thanks! I do have one question: Is it ever appropriate to include descriptions of pieces on the portfolio pages? Obviously if you are showing the portfolio to a prospective employer in person you can describe the piece and your contribution to it, but if you drop it off or mail it, you don’t have that option. Or should the pieces simply be self-explanatory? I don’t want to do anything improper here! Thanks for your input.

  2. Rachel (an aspiring designer)
    Posted December 18, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for writing such a thorough article. I know that it will prove to be helpful to my future career.

  3. Posted January 1, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    As a newly graduated student, i really found your information on putting together a portfolio helpful.
    All the links you’ve provided are extremely helpful and i can say enlightening.
    I’m sure i’m not the only one who has felt this way, Thanks.

  4. Posted January 31, 2008 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Blimey. Very detailed posting. Nice to keep the traditions going, eh?! Thanks.

  5. Posted February 12, 2008 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    want job in industry but too old … can a beginner in 3d animation get jobs in sweat room giving all to projects …

    need job leads and money… does the industry have time for student with need of rent money and food…

    does one need his own gallery on line to find this job…

    give us city and address with some room for landing and take off time …
    i can come and work months on any projects and willing to follow instructions…report@rock.com

  6. Posted February 20, 2008 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Very nice work. All the stuff is very very nice. i love that.

  7. Deepu Varkey
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Iam a graphic design student of Limkokwing University, Malaysia. I have a project to design my own portfolio in this semester. It was a great help for me to understand the details of a portfolio. Thanks for your posting.

  8. yazwill
    Posted May 13, 2008 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    i think that this explanation is way too long…..how are you going to find people who have the time to sit and read this let alone start making the portfolio if you make it seem so boring

  9. admin
    Posted May 13, 2008 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I am sorry that you found it boring, but to do it right, you need to take the time to learn how to do it. If you want to get a good job, doing it the right way is essential. I know the article has helped a lot of people over the years, as this is the 2nd time that I have published it. Good luck.

  10. Mel
    Posted May 22, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much!! You have no idea how much this has help me!!! I’m a graphic designer and I graduated last year but I never had a portfolio, I really don’t understand why I didn’t have one. This was so informative and I have lots of work to do! Thanks again!!

  11. Dale Brooks
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    This has helped me a lot, I was recently made redundant from my graphics job and so had lost that ‘edge’ on how to get back into one. So this article has helped a lot and I will put all this into practise asap. Thank you!!

  12. Posted August 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Very comprehensive article and easy-to-grasp. I teach a Porfolio Design Class at California State University Northridge and thought you might also enjoy a recent overview I did that addresses this subject “in today’s economy”.

    If the PDF doesn’t come through, let me know. There are 12 of the years best Portfolios included, which are quite intriguing.

  13. kate
    Posted October 20, 2008 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    great pointers! really really helpful, thank you. i still don’t understand though- when applying for jobs online, are you meant to attach a portfolio to the email, or give the potential employer a link to your website? if sending an attachment, what kinda size file are we talking?

  14. Umesh Dahikar
    Posted December 12, 2008 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Respected Sir

    Presntly i am working as Graphics Designer,I have more
    Experiance of Photoshop Cs,Corel Draw.I am working for totaly Print Media since last 4 years,So please Help me
    What can i do Exactlly.
    Thanks
    Regards
    Umesh Dahikar

  15. Heather
    Posted January 8, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you on the faxct that it is extremely hard to find any decent information on the internet about how to put a graphic design folio togather. i found this extrem,ely helpful. I was wondering though if you have any tips for me, i am trying to get into college to do graphic design, and don’t know how to put my folio togatehr, and what to include in it. Please help. thanks xxx

  16. aleajo
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    OMG! I have been searching the net and resources relentlessly to find help and tips on creating a graphic artist portfolio. You have no idea how this is such a help. You provided so much info… I can’t wait to get started. Thanks a bunch.

  17. Posted July 24, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    I, Ms. M. Lewis am a current undergraduate senior at (UTPB) or the University of the Permain Basin in Ector County, Odessa, Texas. I was just needing some information in regard to a string book and/or portfolio for the future. I am very interested in some type of career in journalism. Thank you for the information I’ve obtained so far.
    Sincerely, M. Lewis

  18. Titto Afone
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    portfolio make designer always love design

  19. Emily
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    This is great. Very informative especially for someone not in the field currently. I have a strong science background and am exploring graphic design for scientific purposes. I have many examples of figures and images I made for graduate school and am wondering if I need to put captions below my work!

    Thanks!

  20. admin
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Hi Emily,
    Unless scientific graphic design portfolios are different from standard graphic design portfolios, the answer is “no” as far as having to add captions below each example. However, you can attach a brief description of each piece on the back of your portfolio pieces. Hope this helps. :D

  21. hellothere
    Posted August 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Very informative, and resourceful article. Thank you.

  22. BB
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Hi, I live in So. California. This is some good information, But it still didn’t give me the answers i needed. I have over ten years worth of graphic design material and no portfolio due to the fact that i never needed one until now. The information i was looking for would essentially direct me on Which pieces to layout in my portfolio and in what order. 10-20 pieces would definitely not cover my vast range of capabilities( Vector art, Custom Logos(creating business identities from scratch), Animated Gif’s, Photo restoration, And much much more to say the least. I guess what i’m really looking for is how to arrange all my pieces and in what order. Do i start with an opening page of some type, followed by Vector logos, and then samples of artwork. I just don’t know where to start..
    I’ll try to check back for a reply but if i can get an email answer it would be much appreciated..

  23. Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    This is by far the most comprehensive Guide to prepping your work & portfolio case on the web.

    When I was in Fashion Design studies, I realized the lack of portfolio case options available to students so I started offering custom portfolio cases and I hope this resource will help out students a bit as well!

7 Trackbacks

  1. [...] (118) Send Your Portfolio to Publishers and Advertising Agencies. Make a CD or a mailable portfolio and send it to publishers and advertising agencies. You can even just send it to local agencies, print shops, other designers who might need help, and new or existing businesses. Read this article, it will tell you how to do it all. [...]

  2. By 120 ways to graphic designer self promotion on November 29, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    [...] (118) Send Your Portfolio to Publishers and Advertising Agencies. Make a CD or a mailable portfolio and send it to publishers and advertising agencies. You can even just send it to local agencies, print shops, other designers who might need help, and new or existing businesses. Read this article, it will tell you how to do it all. [...]

  3. [...] (118) Send Your Portfolio to Publishers and Advertising Agencies. Make a CD or a mailable portfolio and send it to publishers and advertising agencies. You can even just send it to local agencies, print shops, other designers who might need help, and new or existing businesses. Read this article, it will tell you how to do it all. [...]

  4. [...] (118) Send Your Portfolio to Publishers and Advertising Agencies. Make a CD or a mailable portfolio and send it to publishers and advertising agencies. You can even just send it to local agencies, print shops, other designers who might need help, and new or existing businesses. Read this article, it will tell you how to do it all. [...]

  5. By Removable Wall Decals on April 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Removable Wall Decals…

    I painted it all white and bought these large sports decals from Wallcrashers….

  6. [...] without seeming conceited or over confident. List the industries you have worked for and bring a design portfolio. Any kudos or awards received from clients should also be [...]

  7. By Recent graduate? on March 9, 2011 at 6:24 am

    [...] a great beginner’s graphic design portfolio. (If you aren’t sure how to design a portfolio, All Graphic Design has a great tutorial to help get you started.) Some jobs may not require a portfolio, but it’s [...]

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