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Organizing Graphic Design Portfolios

How to Arrange Your Samples

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Once you have your samples and your portfolio case, the next step is deciding how to best present those pieces within your graphic design portfolio.

Arranging the Order of Graphic Design Portfolio Pages

Deciding what order to present items in your graphic design portfolio can be a challenge.
  1. Best First, Last
    One rule of thumb suggests placing your very best items first and last. Unless you are walking them through pages one at time, a typical reading pattern is to glance at the first few samples, then thumb through to the back. The best first, last method ensures clients or employers see you in the best possible light.

  2. Group by Type of Publication
    One organizational method is to group like items — all business cards, all brochures, all logo designs. Or, if you do multiple pieces for a client then group everything for each client/project together.

  3. Group by Skill / Technique
    You may choose to group samples by the type of skills required such as placing all four-color work in one area. Grouping by style is another possiblity — grouping conservative pieces and technical examples in their own sections of the portfolio.
    "The format depends on a combination of your personality and that which you want to accomplish. You must organize your portfolio so that it clearly shows your strongest skills as they apply to the new position." Brian Mairs, former About.com Guide to Job Searching - Canada

If you fasten samples to the graphic design portfolio page — a good idea if the pages tend to slip around or fall out — include a few loose copies of each piece as well. Potential clients or employers may wish to handle items, especially folding pieces, items with die cuts, or pieces with unusual papers. If interviewing with two or more people in the same meeting, the extra pieces allow the others in the interview to view your work while one is flipping through your graphic design portfolio.

If you know in advance what type of work the employer or client is most interested in, tailor your graphic design portfolio to their needs. You can rearrange the groupings or order of items or exchange one type of sample for another. Graphic design portfolios are not stagnant. Change them as the situation warrants.

"If the client wants you to design a new identity package, don't show them things that don't pertain to identity. If you can do it, find similar 'success' stories about your work that relate to what they're trying to do." Steve Fleshman, Founder/Creative Partner DR2

"For some clients I think they can relate better looking at materials that represent the same kind of service or product. It shows that I as a designer could make a bunch of similar businesses look different or unique." — JDELCOR

If your graphic design portfolio has a large number of pages or sections, using tabbed dividers is one way to help you or the client quickly locate the specific samples that interest them most.

Some of these same guidelines would also apply to Web portfolios. The Web offers further flexibility by making it much easier to present your portfolio in a variety of different methods including animated (good for showing off 3D work too), slide shows, downloadable PDF files, and single pages linked from many different categories.

The format for your actual Web portfolio images is normally GIF or JPG or PDF.

"The best thing to do is to scan your finished works to put up on your site. While you can place PDFs online, and that's probably not a bad idea, it' easiest if people can view your work with no barriers. Judy Litt, About.com Guide to Graphic Design

Your Assignment
Even if you have very little to use, create the beginnings of a graphic design portfolio. Get a folder and start filling it with samples of any existing work you have done. Make up a few pieces if needed. Take what you have and try grouping it in different ways as previously described. Look at what you have and think about the size of portfolio case you will need (even if you don't plan to purchase one yet).

Once your graphic design portfolio is ready, you're now ready to put it to good use.

Next Article > Using graphic design portfolios

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