Portfolio, Contents


The portfolio as the single most important employment tool. Supported by an effective résumé, strong recommendations and interviewing skills, the portfolio or “book” is your ticket for admission into challenging, creative positions. It offers hard evidence of problem solving and answers the “show-me” demands of employers. The creative portfolio needs to be exceptional to spark a positive response. It must demonstrate how you think and communicate your thoughts while positioning you above the hordes of job seekers in competition for the most desirable positions. Your book must clearly articulate your uniqueness and connect your talents with the needs of a potential employer. Your creative portfolio holds the power to make each interview a special event. It must identify you, enhance your credibility and project an honest profile of your capabilities. It should clarify your problem-solving skills and technical knowledge. Above all, the creative portfolio needs to demonstrate your promise and potential for growth.

By considering the portfolio as a distinct design problem, you are encouraged to develop an appropriate solution unique to you. Grouping and hierarchy are your keys to visual organization. Your portfolio is only as strong as its weakest piece. Aim for 12–15 quality pieces instead of 15–20 average ones. If you have work that will require an apology or excuse, redo it and correct the weaknesses or leave it out. Careful consideration should be given to the sequence of pieces in the book. Ask yourself what the effect of each potential ordering might have—logical, impressive or surprising, perhaps.

Include brief descriptions of your work. Develop a consistent format for doing this. An example would be for each description to reference the following:

  • purpose or requirements of the project
  • target audience
  • your concept
  • design analysis/what you did to meet the assignment requirements or client needs

One approach is to think of your portfolio as a musical score or story. In either case create a sequence that has a modulated flow built around your strongest pieces. Like music, your portfolio can unfold with a dramatic opening, establish a compelling melody and lead to a powerful conclusion. As a story, consider adding a brief introductory paragraph or two. This would be similar to an overall artist statement or introduction of yourself and what you want to accomplish as a designer. At the end of the portfolio also consider adding a concluding statement—a summary of your strengths, a thank you.

First and last pieces are the most important in any sequential ordering and deserve your special attention. Start and end with your very best pieces.

The Optimum Portfolio

Specific areas that should be represented or demonstrated within your portfolio are:

  1. Strong typographic skills
  2. Strong layout and compositional skills
  3. Variety of imagemaking skills
  4. Technical skills and expertise
  5. Conceptual thinking
  6. Process and idea development
  7. Knowledge of design production
  8. Impeccable craftsmanship, neatness and presentation
  9. The relationship of form to content
  10. Unique, creative design solutions
  11. Campaign or Series Development
  12. Production Techniques as Related to Design
  13. Historical Reference/context
  14. Client-based design
  15. Design Research
  16. Group Collaborations that Showcase your Responsibility or Involvement

All projects should be executed with impeccable attention to craftsmanship and precision. All projects should be accompanied by a brief description which includes the primary objectives of the design brief or a class assignment. Do not include published pieces, even if you have them, if they are not of high standard. A good student assignment is better than a bad professional/published/printed one.

Visual Identity—Entry level

School assignments should exhibit a well-rounded sense of design in general—typography, logo/trademarks, publications, posters. This is one area to show a broad range of talents as well as the ability to work within formulas. Present a balance of free-form and strictly formulated work.


  1. Letterhead/Business Envelope/ Business Card trio
  2. Brochures with covers and interiors display.
  3. Conventional and unconventional typography.
  4. Examples showing applied use of your visual identity.
  5. Multipage design.
  6. Miscellaneous school assignments showing a range of imaginative solutions.

Additional samples might include:

  1. Complete annual reports or any part that was worked on.
  2. Logo trademarks including letterheads and design guides.
  3. Newsletters in-house publications and other collateral materials.
  4. Special presentation kits.
  5. Exhibition or display work.
  6. IDEO visual presentations for corporate meetings.

Book Design—Entry level

School assignments should exhibit an ability to design book jackets and interiors. Emphasis on typography, photography, an illustration is important. Samples should exhibit both formal taste and conceptual acuity. They do not have to be published works, but should be fairly professional comprehensives produced as color prints.


  1. The majority should be book jacket designs including front, back, spine and inside flap panels on a range of themes, both fiction and nonfiction, exhibiting typographic and pictorial skill and talent.
  2. A few an interior book pages
  3. Multi-page Design

Additional samples might include:

  1. Additional book jacket designs on a range of themes, fiction and nonfiction, exhibiting a variety of printing techniques.
  2. One or two speculative projects, self-generated comprehensive, to show range of conceptual ability.
  3. Interior book pages.
  4. Two or three entire project including the interior pages, cover design, and dust jacket.

Information Design—Entry level

Show drafting, technical drawing and conceptual strengths with symbols.


  1. Charts
  2. Maps
  3. Graphs
  4. Symbol Sets
  5. Directional Signage
  6. Multi-Lingual Design
  7. Grid

Advertising Design—Entry level

The street advertising is a multimedia industry, in designers And art directors are sought after for print, television, an online work. A typical advertising design portfolio is not very different from a general graphic design portfolio, yet there must be due emphasis on ads and promotional materials.


  1. To complete campaigns three or more ads showing headlines and visuals, including logo, print advertisements, and collateral material. Additionally, show the product, if that was part of the school problem.
  2. Single ads or posters for different products.
  3. Marker drawn story boards, to show technical skill.
  4. Web example, whether or not done for an advertising project.
  5. Design as an aspect of an overall marketing plan.
  6. Display type copy writing—slogans, titles, headlines, etc.


Environmental Design —Entry Level

Graphic designers who work in this area must have two and three-dimensional acuity. And effective portfolio shows a variety of typographic and problem solving skills, as well as an ability to design effective wayfinding and navigational systems.


  1. Two sign Ideas.
  2. 2 to 3 drawings of signs, banners, etc. in the context of the environment.
  3. 1 to 3 coordinated sign systems.
  4. Billboard
  5. Storefront

Additional samples might include:

  1. One speculative campaign.
  2. Any work that exhibits prowess with three-dimensional media
  3. Plans for signage or wayfinding systems.
  4. Kiosk
  5. Themed Environment
  6. Real or prospective exhibition or event design materials.

New Media Design—Entry Level

This remains one of the fastest growing areas for the graphic designer and therefore the standard for good work is fluid. Those looking for jobs in web design, interface design, app design, kiosk design or other forms of interactive media are encouraged to present work in both printed and digital forms to at once show the quality of the graphic interfaces and the intelligence of the navigational system.


  1. Various print out versions of user interfaces.
  2. Working prototypes.
  3. Links to sites already up and running.
  4. Photographic and illustration styles.

Broadcast Design—Entry Level

This area includes any kind of film video or television based media. Also motion designers also engage in web or other interactive design, others do not the emphasis should be on film or television title sequences, television interstices, bumpers, videos, and other related practice.


  1. Print out versions of on-screen designs.
  2. Screen grabs.
  3. Flash media or other external drives featuring motion graphics, animation, pencil tests, etc.
  4. Two or three storyboards.
  5. Working prototypes.