Design Career Series: 15 Tips for Creating a Design Portfolio

To this point we’ve covered some general job application tips, the resume, and the promotional piece . Now let’s talk about the portfolio. Here are 15 tips for creating a design portfolio:

ONE. This is your opportunity to get very creative.
If your promotional piece is a step up from your resume (graphically), then your portfolio is another step up. Consider full creative freedom here, while ensuring it remains clean and legible.

TWO. Continue the brand you’ve established for yourself.
The graphic style you’ve chosen for your resume, promotional piece, and anything else you’ve created to market yourself should also be expressed through your portfolio.

THREE. Decide how many projects to include.
Would you prefer to include a small number and go in to more detail for each project, or more projects with less detail for each?

FOUR. Include enough content to allow for a roughly 45 minute discussion.
45 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to discuss your portfolio during an interview. The discussion could go a little longer, or shorter, so this approximate timing will give you some flexibility either way.

FIVE. Include a variety of projects.
For example, my architectural portfolio consisted of:
– Multifamily residential.
– Medical interior design/build and multifamily residential for aging in place.
– Community institution including structural, mechanical, and building science details.
– Drawings I completed for the building permit of a single family dwelling during my time in a residential design firm.
– A team design/build of a community gathering space completed in Australia.

Really there is no limit to the variety to include, as long as you believe a project to show your best work and you can provide a rationale for its inclusion.

SIX. Create a logical story line.
Not only from project to project, but within each project. If organized carefully, talking about your projects during your interview will be easy. You won’t have to worry about forgetting talking points if every page provides a reminder of what is supposed to be said. Each project will provide a smooth transition to the next. Communication of key points within each project will be clear, allowing the interviewer to follow along with ease. Or, if someone is viewing your portfolio independently, it will make perfect sense to them from start to finish.

SEVEN. Begin strong and end strong.
Draw the audience in with an impressive beginning and leave them with a memorable climax.

EIGHT. Begin your portfolio with a general introduction.
Don’t just jump right in to projects, provide the audience with the context of your work. For example, in my portfolio I began with my design philosophy and a one page resume.


NINE. Provide a table of contents.
This way the audience has a basic outline of what to expect and can easily flip to projects that they may be most curious about.


TEN. Mark each project with a cover page.
Make the transition to a new project clear.


ELEVEN. Start each project with an intro page.
– Provide a title, the class or company with which it was completed, your instructor or supervisor, any partners you worked with.
– List the software or medium used.
– Provide the significance of the project. Why is it included in your portfolio? What skills did you learn through the project?
– Provide an introduction outlining what the project is about.

Project Intro

TWELVE. Show process.
From start to finish, walk your audience through the creation of your project.

THIRTEEN. Conclude each project with a summary page.
When you have reached the final page there should be a layout of all the important information so that if the interviewer would like to discuss the project further there isn’t an immediate need to flip back through pages.


FOURTEEN. Include a decent amount of text, but allow the important points emphasis so scanning is still possible.
The portfolio is your opportunity to get in to detail, but don’t forget that your audience is likely pressed for time. If you do include a lot of text, do so strategically so that the reader can choose whether they want to read every word, or if they just want to catch the basic idea. Using short paragraphs with obvious headers, or bolding key points can help.

FIFTEEN. Include a general conclusion.
This can be as short as you’d like and will offer a transition at the end of your portfolio.

Hopefully that’s enough to get you started! Any questions or further tips please add to the comments below or email me at


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Blair says:

    It’s awesome designed for me to have a web page, which is helpful iin favor
    of myy know-how. thaanks admin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dani Lalonde says:

      Awesome thanks Blair! Happy to help. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to see particular topics covered 🙂


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