Crafting a Successful Digital Portfolio as a Creative Professional

Time to Read: 5 minutes

Digital Portfolio Guide Summary:

  • Where do I start? Do I need a portfolio?
  • What is the most effective portfolio structure?
  • How do I create a portfolio?

For anyone in creative fields, having a portfolio as a means to showcase your work has always been standard. However, as technology advanced, portfolios transitioned into the digital realm. Almost every creative in the industry now has a portfolio website to showcase their work rather than printed or original samples. While a digital portfolio website may not make sense for everyone, having some sort of digital portfolio can be crucial in your job search as a creative.

Where do I start?

Any creative must first establish their personal brand, because well, you are your own brand. If you are struggling to figure it out, ask yourself these questions:

  • What does my work stand for?
  • How do I want myself or my work to be described?
  • What colors do I like or do I feel represent me?
  • What are some key things about me as a person and creator?
  • Do I have any interesting defining features that make me memorable?
  • What style is my work?

Once you establish a personal brand that feels suits you, it is time to start on a resume, CV, and business cards. For any industry, having these three items is key, but as a creative, it is important that they all fall under your personal brand, including your portfolio. 

Do I Need a Digital Portfolio?

When applying to most creative positions, it is often necessary to have a digital portfolio, even for artists that produce tangible work. Having a digital portfolio is not only a good way to showcase all of your work in one place, but it allows you to quickly send off your work to multiple people with ease.

Often times, a portfolio is all a potential employer needs to see before selecting the candidate with the right skillset, meaning your portfolio is critical to proving yourself as a designer or artist. Even if you do not have a portfolio website, creating some sort of digital catalog to highlight your work is important to be competitive amongst other artists and designers. Some of the most common types of creatives that utilize digital portfolios are Graphic Designers, User Experience Designers, Art Directors, Copywriters, and Illustrators.

How Should I Structure my Portfolio?

There is no right or wrong way to set up a portfolio, but there are some things you should keep in mind that will help you put your best foot forward.

Most portfolios have 3-4 pages on the website that you navigate to through the menu bar. At the very least you should always have a Work and an About page.

Work Page

Your work page should showcase only your best projects, usually between 6-9 pieces of work. If you have multiple talents with sufficient work, for instance, Photography and Graphic Design, you can also create multiple pages to break up your work. That way, anyone looking at your site knows what they’re seeing when they click on each page, rather than being bombarded by all sorts of different work.

About Page

Your About page should have your photo along with a short, fun blurb about yourself. Employers can get a quick glimpse into who you are as a person through this description, so be creative and highlight key parts of yourself and personality. Also, be sure to include contact information and a link to your social media accounts and resume.

When it comes to displaying the work, there is no correct way. Most people use either grids, galleries, or large photos to showcase the work. The opportunities are endless for this part of a portfolio, but as long as your work is displayed clearly and effectively, how it is organized is entirely up to you.

So, What Work Should I Include in My Digital Portfolio?

No matter what industry you are looking in, most advise against including all the projects you have created in your portfolio, or at least not on the main page. Many employers hiring for marketing and creative jobs will spend less than a minute quickly browsing a portfolio, meaning you only have about 60 seconds to prove you are worth talking with further. Having too much will only take their attention away from the work you want them to see.

A great solution is to have a separate page on your website or in your digital portfolio with any side work you have done. This can include photography, paintings, quick doodles, embroidery, etc. Showing that you can be creative in multiple ways will make you even more desirable to an employer after they are already impressed with your main body of work.

    • Advertising (Art director, Copywriter)
      • Cohesive Campaigns – Having campaigns will show you can execute a campaign Strategy amongst multiple channels including Print, Social, Out of Home, etc.
      • Brand Films – Show that you can either write long copy or execute more than just a 2D project.
      • Creative and unique spins on simple ideas.
      • Example portfolios here: Page Halter, Alex Graber, Brielle Munizzi
    • Graphic Design Portfolios Should Include:
      • Branding   Shows that you can develop a strong brand indemnity carried across multiple channels.
      • Package design – This can be part of a larger project, but package design shows you can think about how your designs will be in 3D.
      • Layout design – Shows you have a great understanding of font & typeface pairings as well as hierarchy and grid systems.
      • Example portfolios here: Sam Hewa, Craig Black Shanti Sparrow 
    • User Experience
      • Show your Process – Instead of just showing a beautiful final product, show how you got there by doing persona and user flow research, sketches, wireframes, and even prototypes, if applicable.
      • Interface design – Show the final product and highlight why you chose certain layouts, colors, and interactions.
      • User Research – thorough research is required in UX, and including this is the portfolio will show you dove in to truly learn about the end-user in theprocess.
      • Example portfolios here: Nicolas Pellegrino, Pratibha Joshi
    • Other Creative Disciplines (Illustrators, Photographers)
      • Showcase a solid body of work for the market you want to go into (ie: commercial photography, or book illustrations.
      • Variety – while having a consistent style is important, showing a variety in subject matter, colors, or composition can make you more desirable.
      • Example portfolios here: Jennifer Xiao, Caitlin Worthington

How Do I Create My Portfolio?

Unless you are a master in HTML and CSS, be coding your website on your own may be intimidating. Luckily, there are many site builders that make building a professional-looking portfolio very simple, even for those that have no prior knowledge of website building. Below are some of the best sites for creating digital portfolios as well as the pros and cons associated with each:

  • Wix
    • Pros: Very easy to use for beginners with drag-and-drop editing format, user friendly, requires no knowledge of code, can use pre-existing templates or fully customize.
    • Cons: Low bandwidth, without paid-for plan their subdomains and ads are intrusive. 
  • Squarespace
    • Pros: a sleek, professionally designed template, backend is easy to use. 
    • Cons: Pricing can be expensive, editing, and adding content can be difficult.
  • Weebly
    • Pros: Free plan offers a lot of capabilities, easy to use, good subdomain.
    • Cons: Offerings and pricing for plans vary from country to country, ads scroll on side of page.
  • WordPress
    • Pros: Offer portfolio plugins for designers, creates responsive websites, professional themes.
    • Cons: Ads can be placed randomly in your content, so you never know where they will show up, can be hard to fully customize exactly what you want to do.
  • Webflow
    • Pros: Extremely flexible and customizable, allows you to do the front end of code without having to know all the back end.
    • Cons: Need to know the basics of code and web design, can be confusing and have a strong learning curve.

There are many other website builders out there, but these are some of the most commonly used. With any website builder, there comes pros and cons, but we have gathered the main few for your to find one that works for you.

In Conclusion

A digital portfolio is a crucial part of being a designer or artist. Whether you are an illustrator, graphic designer, or copywriter, having a digital portfolio to showcase your work to potential employers keeps you competitive amongst other professional candidates. In short, to make your portfolio stand out, be unique and creative, but keep it short and simple.

Lastly, Profiles marketing and creative tech recruiters are looking at digital portfolios daily (more like hourly). Enlist Profiles as your ultimate creative and marketing job search support!

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