How to Plan Your Design Portfolio in 11 Easy Steps

Online design portfolios are essential to your identity. It’s the one place online where potential clients can go to read about who you are and what type of work you are capable of producing. There are many factors that go into a well-presented portfolio, such as organization and uniqueness. Planning out your design portfolio doesn’t have to be difficult. If you break it down into these 10 easy steps, it’s a lot simpler to wrap your head around.

1. Preparation

View your portfolio as a learning experience. Your portfolio is a showcase that’s all about you – this means you want to profile yourself in the best light possible. Especially for a design student or someone who’s just starting out, preparing your portfolio will be essential in your development as a professional.

83 Bits

83-Bits has a well-designed portfolio that showcases his work nicely.

2. Planning

Planning your portfolio is an important step. Ask yourself a few questions before you before that will help you decide what kind of direction you need to take with your portfolio:

  • What kind of clients do you normally work with? What’s your specialty?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How do you like to work as a designer?
  • Are you looking for more clients? Or a job?

3. Target Audience

Building your online portfolio is very much the same as working for a client – except the client is yourself. Just as with a client, you need to ask yourself some questions about who your target audience is. Are you looking to get more clients through freelance work? Or are you trying to land a job at an agency? Tailoring your portfolio to your target audience will help you gain more attention from the right people.

Portfolios to Get Clients
Many clients who are looking for a web designer are unsure of why they should hire you. For these types of clients, provide them with the “what’s in it for me” approach. This means you can give them a detailed explanation of how you work and how it will benefit their business.

Portfolios to Get a Job
For these types of portfolios, you want to exemplify your best work and the potential you posses. Giving employers insight into your personality will also provide them with a better idea of who you are and how you could potentially fit into their company.

4. Logo & Tagline

Your logo and tagline is the first step to crafting an effective portfolio. The combination of these two will often times be the most memorable part of your portfolio because it will help unify your brand throughout your portfolio and reflect your personal style. Making this part of your portfolio as unique and memorable as possible is the goal to helping you define yourself as a designer. Being able to portray the value that you can offer potential clients or employers, while still staying true to yourself and your aesthetic is the ultimate goal with your logo and tagline.


Meagan Fisher has one of the more memorable online portfolios because of her unique logo and tagline.

5. Your About Page

Your about page needs to have a specific purpose. Many times, first-time visitors to your site will be there to learn about who you are and what you do. Building a good about page can help build you credibility and trust as a professional. Sometimes, your personality can be just as much a deciding factor in whether they hire you or not, as your skill set.

6. Your Portfolio

The most important part of your portfolio are your work samples. Showcasing your best and most recent work should carry a heavy importance. A well-thought out portfolio should have a beginning, middle and end with some flow between each piece. Always include large, high-resolution images so that its easy to examine your work at full-scale. Also, remember to only include your absolute best work. If you have some mediocre pieces that you aren’t really proud of, you’ll likely get asked about them. It’s best to leave them out if you’re unsure.


BKWLD has a portfolio that is easy to navigate and browse.

7. Blogging

Blogging has many benefits as a designer. Especially as a young designer, blogging is a vehicle that can offer you a way to express your passion, work on your writing skills and build a platform for your career. Although blogging has many benefits, including driving traffic to your website and open communication with your visitors, it takes a lot of work to maintain and update a blog. Sometimes, having an infrequently updated blog is more damaging than not having one at all.

8. Contact Page

This page is sometimes overlooked on design portfolios, but it is an important point where people can get in touch with you. Since the visitor has already made a decision to contact you, this page should facilitate an easy and painless process of allowing them to reach you. Keep it simple – the longer the form, the less likely someone is going to fill it out. Your contact page should be the page that the rest of your portfolio works hard to make your visitor land on.

Eva Black

Eva Black uses a simple, yet effective contact form for her clients.

9. Marketing

Without an effective marketing plan, it will be difficult for you as a designer to maintain a steady stream of new clients. The best way to market your skills is to be active on sites like Twitter and Dribbble, where there are many scouts looking for potential talent. Maintain relationships with other designers; you never know who may be able to pass work onto you. Also, blogging for big design blogs is a great way to get your name out there.

10. Always Changing and Evolving

Your portfolio should be reflective of your current skills and talents. Always be updating your portfolio to mirror what types of clients you’re looking to get. You should revisit your portfolio every once and a while to check that you’re keeping your content fresh. Plus, your work will improve over time and your portfolio should improve as your skills do.

11. Practice Presenting

If you’re looking for a job/clients, you’re going to have to present your work at some point. Talking about yourself and your work is not something that comes easy for many designers. Look at it as a chance to improve your presentation skills. Eventually, this type of thing will become second nature. This not only works in interviews, but it can translate to making you feel more comfortable presenting designs to clients and co-workers later on.

About the Author:

Janna Hagan is a web designer from Canada, and the former .net Young Designer of the Year award winner. She’s also the author of A Student’s Guide to Web Design Portfolios, an eBook dedicated to helping students and beginners get more work with their design portfolios. She is currently freelancing and attending school for Business Marketing.

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