10 Tips for Presenting Your Design Portfolio

We love poring over design portfolios to find the latest design works, up-to-the-minute trends and talented new designers. We then analyze and distill our discoveries into design insights and inspirations.

So, we see lots of portfolios! What saddens us is when brilliant work is presented poorly. It’s a missed opportunity to showcase work in a coherent and beautiful way for clients and the world to see. With so much talent out there, we want to make sure your work stands out among the best. Your portfolio should communicate the most important ideas about your projects and look great while doing it. Based on our own observations of some of the best of what we’ve seen, here are our top ten tips for presenting your design portfolio:

1. Give a good visual overview of the design project.

Clearly show your work in a way so the viewer can understand all of the components and the entire design. Avoid using:

  • only detail shots or “super artistic” images
  • too many exaggerated perspective photos
  • blurred images that obscure important details

Note: Blur is trending in photography these days and this visual effect seems to be pleasing contemporary audiences; however, your overall presentation must still be understandable and clear.

Overview of the stationery for Lucky 21 by Blok Design. Angelo Vito gives an overview of the packaging and web design he has created for the yogurt brand. This allows us to instantly understand the type of project this is.

Angelo Vito presents the packaging and website design he has created for Vakimu through one photograph. This allows us to instantly understand this project’s scope of work.

2. Aim to keep the visual language or logic consistent.

We see many designers who present a logo and stationery digitally, and then include one single picture of a textured pattern. You can show different appliances, but make sure it looks like the work of just one person and reinforces the project you are presenting.

For example, the presentation below showcases an overview of the branding work done for Emmanuele by Violaine & Jeremy.

https-www.behance.netgallery20032469Emmanuelle2.jpg 06a448af0fd0efced10412fa2639df471.jpg

The project’s presentation also features the details such as the logo below. The logo is presented in the way that reinforces the created visual identity for the brand:

3. When justifiable, add items that will help you show the scale of your prints, packages and other objects.

For example, use images of someone holding your poster, to show the size comparing to a human. This makes your design more perceptible and it also adds an interesting element to your portfolio.

For example, Ana Kovecses presents her experimental design for the American Airlines in a collage fashion below. Here we can grasp the size of the boarding passes and other elements easily because there is a mobile phone and the glasses which serve us as a reference.

Experimental design for American Airlines by Ana Kovecses. Here we can easily have a sense of the stationery's size by having the smartphone and glasses as a reference. To better show the posters' size, the designer shot the posters being held.

And here, the designer Ryan Len holds a poster he designed for  Transpire. We can much better appreciate the size of this work, isn’t it?

4. Communicate your design’s vibe by showing the mood or environment of your project with photography.

jugen-anagrama-portfolio-tips-my-visual-brief The photos of Gorky Park Ice-creams (packaging design by designer Anastasia Genkina) showcases the lightness and playfulness of the product and the designs. It inspires the summer mood, doesn't it?

Gerundio Lorena chose to present the postcards she has designed using an animated gif. Her dress style and the pace of the animation reinforce the playfulness and quirkiness of the postcards themselves. This allows us to get into the mood of this design even better.

Compose images and add pictures to better showcase your ideas. Below are some good examples that reinforce the spirit of the design work and the product itself.For example, when presenting the packaging design for Jugen, Anagrama adds some water splash into the presentation which sets a certain mood around the product and the design itself. Most likely it is related to what the brand and the product stand for. The photos of Gorky Park Ice-creams (packaging design by designer Anastasia Genkina) showcase the lightness and playfulness of the product and the design itself. It all inspires the summer mood, doesn’t it?Gerundio Lorena presents the postcards she has designed using an animated gif below. Her dress style and the pace of the animation reinforce the playfulness and quirkiness of the postcards themselves. It also allows us to appreciate the actual story in the cards better as it sets a sequence. With such a presentation, we can get into the mood of this design much better than looking at the static photos of the postcards, can’t we?

5. Be sure the picture or thumbnail representing your project actually represents your design.

For example, if you’re presenting a branding project for a company and use a picture of the company’s headquarters in the cover image, it will confuse the viewer. They might assume it’s about the architecture! You don’t want to create disappointment, so choose an image that represents the best of your design and the type of project.

For example, Robinsson Cravent shows the detail of the packaging design he has created in the thumbnail on behance below. This sets a good context for us. We know that primarily this is a packaging design project and we expect to find more details about it once we click on the thumbnail. Once you open the project you see more details of the work created:

Heist & Roth by Robinsson Cravents. In this example we see in the thumbnail that the project is about a packaging design. It is a clear image of the project, both in context as in visual presentation. heist-roth-portfolio-tips-my-visual-brief

6. If you’re showcasing an app or web design, include full screenshots of the design.

It’s fine to add some details to enrich your presentation, but keep in mind that images of half a screen can be confusing and won’t truly represent your design. That said, don’t leave out the details either! They bring clarity to the finer points. Also, you most likely don’t need a screenshot of every page of the website – pick the best and most representational.

For example, Cüneyt ŞEN from Turkey presents the mobile app he has designed for Dog Sleep in a few different ways. A few highlights: showing how the app looks in real life and then zooming into the finer details of the design.

Cüneyt ŞEN from Turkey present the mobile app they have designed for Dog Sleep in a few different ways. On the left, we can appreciate how the app looks in real life and on the right we see the fine details of this design.

 Michal Sambora presents the designs for the mobile app Ticket as an animated gif. This makes it really easy to understand how the app works. On the actual page on behance, this animation is enveloped within the mobile phone’s frame which gives it a proper context.

7. Be creative in the actual layout of your presentation.

The branding project for Pane Forno Italiano is presented in a very integrated way where all the project elements are actually merged into a layout tell visually tells the story of the brand itself. Check it out on behance. Meanwhile Curiosities by Epiforma is presented firstly in a fun layout, filled with movement. Only after going through the visual story shown in the project's presentation, is each peace of furniture presented individually.

Think about what you’re trying to convey – tell a story – and revolve the layout around that. Here are some good examples (from very simple to more complex) for your inspiration!The branding project for Pane Forno Italiano is presented in a very integrated way on behance. All project elements are laid out in the way that tells the story of the brand itself. We encourage you to check it out! Another good example is the way Epiforma presents its furniture Meanwhile curiosities below. All objects are presented in a playful layout filled with movement. The layout itself is like a visual playground, a visual story, just like the individual objects themselves.

8. Avoid repeating the same elements numerous times from different perspectives.

Instead, find the best image that shows exactly what you want the viewer to see, and then don’t repeat that element. Yes, your stationery is gorgeous, but just show the whole page once, not four times from different perspectives. It’s better to leave people wanting to see more than having them running through your projects quickly because they can’t wait to get to the end.

9. If possible, show the actual process of the making.

Tobias Hall shows himself designing the mural for Holiday Inn. One can appreciate the amount of time all this work took, isn’t it? Showcase of stationary design process on behance. One can appreciate the teamwork involved in creating this work.

This enables the viewer to better appreciate the efforts involved in creating the work and to get to know your  creative process. It builds more trust and  makes your portfolio be a true reflection of your work.

10. Your portfolio is your calling card, resume and gallery exhibit rolled into one.

Your portfolio is a reflection of who you are as a designer. Left: Beta Takaki’s portfolio.

Remember, you are a visual communications professional. Always use high quality images of your work. If it’s unintentionally blurry, the lighting is bad or the framing is off, don’t use it. Be rigorous in what you include – think quality, not quantity. Your portfolio is your calling card, resume and gallery exhibit rolled into one. It’s a reflection of who you are as a designer – make sure you’re proud of what you present. You never know who could be browsing!