It’s time: you’ve amassed a body of work in your creative portfolio showcasing all your creative talents, but it’s a bit disjointed and doesn’t flow. You’ve always presented your work with multiple files including PDFs, jpegs or printed work and shuttled it all to and from interviews in your standard issue black portfolio bag. If that sounds all too familiar, it’s time you knew the truth: this alone is not going to cut it any longer. Throughout my fourteen years of reviewing portfolios, I’ve seen good, bad and great portfolios. Current industry standards demand that creative candidates have strong creative portfolios that stand on their own. By following these tips and avoiding the pitfalls of creative portfolio presentations, you’ll be well on your way to springboarding your creative career.

Keep it Short and Sweet

There’s a common misconception that creative portfolios should show all the work you’ve delivered throughout your career. I’m going on record to definitively say that this is false. That’s a hard no! Your creative portfolio should be succinct and hard hitting. Include your absolute best 8-10 pieces that you’ve created within the past five years.

Creative art portfolio

Pack a punch with your creative portfolio: include your absolute best 8-10 pieces created within the past five years.

If you’re a creative veteran – with upwards of five years under your belt – the work that you’ve created in your early career is still important. The idea of limiting your creative portfolio is to articulate your ability to be create current and relevant work. Additionally, you should have a verbal presentation or summary of the work prepared. Often you’ll be asked to talk through the specifics of the project, including your process and why you made the creative choices you did. By ensuring that you’ve streamlined your presentation down to the most important – and the most publicly and critically acclaimed – body of work, you’ll be sure to wow even the most reticent of clients encountering your work.

Show Your Range

Your creative portfolio should reflect the work that you’ve done in your career. Some creators have focused on one particular creative discipline, while others have had the opportunity to practice within various genres of the wider creative field. If you’re the type of creator that’s had more focused levels of experience, then naturally your creative portfolio should showcase your ability within that discipline. Take as an example someone who works with precise digital tools to create their work. For instance, if you’re a digital illustrator who’s mastered the pen tool, then show various styles of digital illustration in your creative portfolio. Can you execute in vector format, loose sketch style illustration, whimsical or realism? Show that. Show all of it. By indicating your skill set, you could be that much closer to impressing your next work partner.

If you’ve performed your creative work in a variety of areas, your creative portfolio should show a sampling of each area that you are proficient in. You’ll want to wow everyone who is checking out your portfolio with the breadth of you creative prowess. Sometimes, a creative professional has experience in one type of work but for multiple clients, and this can be what puts you over the edge when presenting your creative portfolio. For example, for someone who is a Graphic Designer and has strong digital, experiential and packaging experience, your creative portfolio should speak to that wide-reaching span.

Whether you are laser focused on one creative discipline or your creative reach is wide, it’s important that your creative portfolio showcases your range, ability and adaptability.

Stay on Brand

How good is your personal branding technique? Let’s pivot away from the work itself and towards the overall presentation of the work – your branding. I’m a firm believer in establishing and promoting personal branding, especially as a creator working to hone a marvelous creative portfolio. We’ve previously established that your resume should adhere to a specific set of colors, fonts and layout and your portfolio should follow suit. Personal branding shows that you, as a creator, take your creativity seriously and have a genuine interest in presenting yourself in the best way possible that communicates who you are. Another important aspect to pay attention to is the layout of your portfolio. Ensure each page has a consistent and clean layout including a short description of the work and your contribution or tools you used to complete the piece.

Put Your Portfolio Online

Where you house your creative portfolio is just as important as how your portfolio looks. It’s recommended that you utilize current and relevant creative portfolio sites like Artrepreneur, Dribbble or Behance. Those platforms make it very easy and intuitive to upload and organize your creative endeavors. Moreover, if you have the means and ability to create your own site, that’s a viable option as well! By showcasing your ability to create your own stunning website, you’ll only further impress anyone who encounters your creative portfolio – and better showcase your own personal brand.

ProTip: Take the attention to detail a step farther and add a custom URL. Custom URLs serve as a calling card tailored to your brand.

Creating a stunning portfolio takes time, commitment and a curatorial eye. With these tips, you’re well equipped to showcase your body of work in the best light possible. It’s time for your portfolio to shine! Even better – you’ll be one step closer to nailing your pitch presentation with potential clients and employers.

Have advice on what does and doesn’t work for a creative portfolio? Share your firsthand experience on how to create a stunning body of work in the comments below!

Brian Young
Brian Young

Brian is a Recruitment Manager for Creative Circle, the largest creative staffing agency in the U.S. where he implements talent acquisition and placement strategies to engage with and place top creative talent.

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