What do companies look for in a design portfolio?

Whether you’re fresh out of design school or building up your business, it helps to know what companies look for in a design portfolio.

Every designer needs a solid portfolio showcasing their process, passion, and finished design products. But how do you make sure your passion really shines through? And how many projects do you need to show?

No problem is too complicated to solve, especially when it comes to figuring out how to best package up your portfolio. In the video above, Chris facilitates a Q&A session with CSUN students looking to learn more about how they can polish their portfolios to land a graphic design job.

We’ll tackle some of the basics below.

Don’t Show What You Don’t Love

The word ‘passion’ is often associated with ‘love,’ and if you want your portfolio items to communicate your passion for your projects, you’ve got to make sure you love what you’re showing.

The energy you bring into a project can be sensed by the person on the receiving end of it. If you’re including something in your portfolio that you weren’t stoked to work on, or just don’t love, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Besides, why would you show something that you don’t like to get more of the same work? Designing becomes less of a passion and more of a chore when you’re constantly working on projects you aren’t passionate about.

Show Your Range

What kind of design work lights you up and gives you a natural rush? Find that one specific area of design, and show your range in that.

Let’s say your portfolio consists a variety of design projects, from web to editorial and layout. But you’re not passionate about any of those; you’re passionate about movie poster designs.

Create fictional movie poster designs for a range of movie genres and titles. Show the flexibility and reach of your skills. You’ll notice a difference in the overall design and how you feel while making it.

Go Beyond the Parameters

In a work or classroom setting, it’s typical to receive an assigned project. You’ll be able to tell right away if you’re passionate about the project based on the effort you put in.

If your boss or teacher tells you to make one logo in four weeks, show them four logos. Going beyond what’s expected not only shows the quality and devotion you put into the craft, but also your ability to produce.

Design doesn’t have to stop once you leave the office or school. It doesn’t have to stay in the confines of your job or field of study. You’ll carry your passion with you everywhere, and make the time to practice and refine it regardless of where you are.

Three is the Magic Number

What’s the sweet spot in terms of portfolio items? According to Chris, three has always been the magic number.

You don’t want to show too much, and you don’t want to show too little. Having three high-quality portfolio items establishes some sort of pattern in your work, and gives the prospective client or hiring manager a good sense of what you can do.

Make sure the items you’re including in your portfolio are relevant to the job you’re applying for, and of course, that they are really, really good pieces of design work.