2011-04-07

Make a Great Portfolio Website

Designers need a portfolio. The reality is that a degree alone is not enough to secure work. A portfolio is proof of what the designer is capable. It is fashionable nowadays for all designers to have a portfolio website to showcase their work and abilities. There are some do’s and don’ts that are useful to know.

A portfolio website is part of the designer’s personal brand. That brand should be properly unified across all the media it appears in: the portfolio website, the printer portfolio, the CV, the business card and even the any covering letters sent. This attention to brand detail not only fixes the brand in the viewer’s mind, but it also shows potential employers that you have a keen eye for detail and can work well with cross-media design projects.

Brand around the designer’s real name. There is no better representation for an individual. Designers should not dilute the power of their name by trying to introduce a brand for something they are not. Do not use a cutesy name for the portfolio and say “work by X”. Name the portfolio as X then simply name “collections” within that overall portfolio. Naming with something other than the designer’s name dilutes personal brand further by making the site appear as representing a small studio.

Be upfront about what the designer is looking for. If the designer is looking for work in Delhi then they should say that: “looking for freelance opportunities or full-time employment in Delhi”. This helps viewers understand how they might relate to the designer.

Ensure that work is front and center on the portfolio. Design work should the main focus of the portfolio so do not bury it under layers of navigation. Have work on the first page of the website. Feature design collections in the first level of navigation. Have a brief text statement contextualizing each piece of work.

Contact details and a CV are good to have online but be careful how much personal information is being offered for free. A good portfolio website should help others decide that the designer fits their needs, decide that they like the work and decide to contact the designer.

The design of the website portfolio itself says a lot about the designer themselves. A good portfolio should be functional and easy to use. Ensure that any interaction is simple and each to use. Make sure that load times are snappy and quick. Consider avoiding flash and using HTML/CSS with perhaps some jQuery to add polish. Definitely do not have a splash pages.

Use a custom domain name and website for the portfolio. While many on-line communities have great portfolio abilities (e.g. Flickr, Behance, DeviantArt) these websites include too many other things that distract from the designers work.

(Another related eturnerx article is: Use the Internet to get a Design Job)