Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to content Skip to navigation

Portfolio Preparation

Whether you are a designer, illustrator, photographer, or artist it is important for you to have an effective way to show your work and talent to potential employers or clients. The portfolio is a crucial part of the hiring process. It may not only get you an interview, but it also may clinch a job offer.


  1. Developing Your Portfolio
    1. Selecting samples
    2. Organizing Items
    3. Customizing Content
  2. Portfolio Format
    1. Printed Portfolios
    2. Online Portfolios
      1. Find the Right Online Solution
  3. Showing Your Portfolio

Developing Your Portfolio

As any marketing professional will tell you, packaging counts. And that's especially true when it comes to your portfolio. Although creating a strong portfolio may seem like a daunting process, it doesn't have to be. Check out How To Create a Great Design Portfolio infographic.

Selecting Samples

The first step is deciding which pieces to include - the goal is to select items that best represent your core strengths and industry experience while showcasing your creativity, technical ability and range.

  • Use feedback from faculty or creative industry professionals to select your best work
  • The samples should be of high quality
  • Show your range, but do not include everything you have ever done in your portfolio. Select pieces that are relevant to the employer or gallery you are approaching.
  • Include a sample of work in different stages to show your progression of ideas and how you solved design problems
  • Alternate solutions to demonstrate creative versatility (optional) are good to include.
  • Include eye-catching items that highlight your ability to think strategically, communicate complex concepts, utilize multiple software applications and solve real-world problems within the framework of a client's objectives.
  • As necessary, replace outdated samples with more recent items, especially if they showcase new skills.

Organizing Items

If properly organized, your portfolio will demonstrate to clients how your skills will meet their needs and how they can profit from hiring you.

  • Use consistent graphic theme – color, type, size
  • Create a title page with your personal contact information:
    • Who are you? “ex: Jane Doe”
    • What do you do or want? “ex: Graphic Designer/Developer”
    • Where do you have experience? (resume)
    • How do I get in touch with you? (contact info)
  • Review, assemble examples, and develop a sequence for your work. Start with your strongest and most favorite work
  • Include a caption with each piece
    • Keep it short and simple
    • Include project title, your role, technology/process
    • Can add a 2-3 sentence description
  • Once you have developed an effective portfolio, it should take little effort to update or customize it
  • Don’t forget the final image leaves a lasting impression

Customizing Content

Ultimately, your portfolio should resemble a well-written resume - it should be relevant and easily customized. Always match your qualifications with the unique needs of the potential employer. Researching the company's website, learning about its history and the various products and services it provides, and any material it produces (e.g., brochures, annual reports, design samples), will help you identify which of your talents will best serve the company.

Portfolio Format

Printed Portfolios

Traditionally the contents of a portfolio have been presented using color copies, 35mm slides, or examples of publications (tear sheets).

The most common type of portfolio is the simulated leather, multi-ring portfolio with pages that allow inclusion of loose samples. This has the advantage of keeping your work in sequence and well protected. Avoid large, "student" size books which are too big to fit on an art director's desk. Most artists choose 8 ½ x 11, 11 x 14, or 18 x 24".

Other types of portfolios include an attaché case or executive style case, which gives you the advantage of including 3-D works. One more option is a plain colored box, which can easily accommodate loose pieces and 3-D works and has a more modern look to it. If you are a fine artist and your work is too large for a portfolio, bring slides and a few small samples.

There is always the option of creating a unique portfolio book or case that matches your style. One photography student, after taking a bookbinding class, made a hardcover portfolio book and slipcover from scratch matching the look of her photography style, letterhead, business card, and website.

Online Portfolios

All artists and designers are using technology to showcase their work. (You can let employers know you would be happy to provide high quality printed work or slides upon request – if applicable to your field). Your online portfolio holds the advantage of showcasing your services 24/7, enabling potential clients to find you with just a few clicks. Make sure it clearly conveys who you are and the services you offer, and provides complete contact information.

Your visitors will want to know about the person behind your website. A brief professional biography gives clients a snapshot of your qualifications, experience and expertise. Do not include personal stuff!
The primary reason anyone will visit your online portfolio is to see your work, so give them enough to look at - but not too much - and organize your pieces strategically. Be sure you have permission to post any work that belongs to clients or employers.

The first thing they should see (without scrolling) is:

  • Your Name and Contact Info (Link to printer-friendly resume )
  • What you do (Example: Motion Graphic Designer, Illustrator, Interior Designer)
  • Big Image of your work – start off with something strong. First image may be the only image they see, so pick a good one!
  • Simple design/format – it should not distract from your work
  • A short description of each piece (title, provide the client name (with their permission), your role in the project, the date, and any software or special skills used
  • BIG images (start at 800 X 600)
  • Scrolling through the work is preferred. You risk irritating visitors by showing too many samples or requiring clicking
  • Screenshots of work (for web site designs)
  • Attention to detail – spell check all text!
  • No errors/dysfunction. Ask someone to take it for a test drive. Make sure your online portfolio can be accessed using a variety of platforms and browsers before directing anyone to your site. See if it is intuitive. Also, check that all URLs you post are still active and displaying your work.

Find the Right Online Solution

You can create a unique portfolio and you don’t have to be a web designer. Find technology that you feel comfortable with (for example, blogs are a great (free) option, just use the ability to upload photos and text to suit your needs (you are not going to use blog features). Remember, it is about showing off your WORK not the portfolio.

  • Behance: a comprehensive portfolio tool that not only hosts your work but also helps you book future work. RIT has a dedicated Behance Gallery! Once you are a member, visit and then click Login.  Use your existing AdobeID associated with Behance, fill out your RIT credentials, and you're in! Visit our page about Behance for more information.

  • Your web site hosting company may provide templates, galleries
  • Professional associations often offers their members, as a service, the ability to add their work to their site

Showing Your Portfolio

Your initial contact may be with a resume and some samples, but after a potential employer or buyer sees them they may want to see more of your work. Some firms have a drop off policy or set up appointments to see your work. Because things can get lost, it may be prudent to include only duplicates that can be replaced if you are not present for the review and show originals when you can be there. Label your portfolio with your name, address and phone number. Tuck a couple of your resumes in the front.

When presenting your portfolio, allow your work to speak for itself. There’s no need to explain each work as the interviewer goes through it, unless prompted. Be prepared to answer questions about your work. Feel free to take notes along so you can easily answer questions about budget, time frame and any problems you faced and solved. If you are a fine artist, you might talk about the evolution of a concept or how one piece relates to other pieces. It doesn’t hurt to rehearse what you would say about each piece!

Do not depart without leaving a resume, business card (optional), and a sample for them to remember you by. "Leave-behinds" should complement the work in your portfolio and be interesting or functional enough so that the client will keep them or display them and not file them away. Be creative when you prepare these. Your only limit is your imagination, and your imagination is your most important asset as a creative professional.

Be prepared to show your work in different formats – laptop (with fully charged battery), printed pieces, and/or online.