How to make a great designer’s portfolio and the 7 deadly sins…

March 11, 2016

We’ve been recruiting for designers at Furthermore recently and thankfully our job advert worked in that we had a ton (read: 50) portfolios come through from prospective applicants.

Advertising on our fave job site, we chose “Digital Designer” as that’s the closest category for what we normally call a “Visual Design” role. It turns out there’s a million different descriptions for Designer roles and I’ve officially seen them all. We had UX/UI, digital, multidisciplinary, web, graphic and cross-disciplinary designers and breathe… creatives, illustrators, art directors and even a couple of concept artists, apply. Not one of them called themselves a Visual Designer. What’s up with that?

Anyways, I digress, the point I want to get to is, these people are designers. People who (hopefully) make beautiful, meaningful and useful things, everyday. There are a lot of designer’s out there and sadly some not very good portfolios to match. Having ranted about the current state of designer’s portfolios to the rest to the rest of the Furthermore crew, I thought the rest of you might appreciate some tips on how to make your portfolio stand out and some basic dos and don’ts.

  1. CV — do not use your CV as a place to show off your creativity. By this I mean, don’t make it look like a windows media player from 1997 or a bar at a dodgy cocktail dive in Portsmouth (don’t ask). We don’t need to see your fresh design skills mapped out in some crazy infographic that makes your eyes bleed. Keep it clean, on white, with a legible font. Highlight your work experience, skills and maybe include your contact details(!).
  2. Online portfolio — I prefer online portfolios for Digital designers. There are plenty of ways to easily create a nice-looking portfolio. Wix,Squarespace even Tumblr or Medium. Whatever you do, don’t useBehance as your main portfolio. The UI is messy, the UX is clunky. The showcase thumbnails are tiny. Argh. No. If you insist on sending a PDF portfolio (I get why sometimes you need to), make sure it’s not compressed badly and not too big and only show supplementary work that supports your online portfolio, or tailor it for the exact role you are applying to.
  3. Be relevant — If you apply to a role with a specific required skill set, like digital design, hook us up with a direct link to that part of your portfolio work. Make sure it’s your latest work, not work from 2000&late (unless you’ve created the most timeless piece of design since the dawn of the web). And whilst it’s good to see cross-discipline work; if you have more print experience than web experience then that isn’t always going to be in your favour (if you apply to a digital role obvs).
  4. Showcase your visual design in its best light. For example, don’t show five UI screens laid out in an isometic format and expect people to tell if it’s well designed or not. We’re happy to see designs in-situ and cross platform but we don’t just need to just see what is only “above the fold”. We need to see the whole thang. Every little bit of beautifully crafted detail. Whoever said the devil is in the detail was right.
  5. The best of the best — frankly if you’re not proud of it, it shouldn’t be in your portfolio. And please link to any live pieces of work you’ve created. It doesn’t matter if your design has been bastardised by your client’s content. If it still holds up and is usable then, high five!
  6. Bring your design to life — outline what specific elements you worked on and the processes you went through. If you created a logomark as well as the rest of the branding toolkit, present it as a set. Hell, if you were responsible for the high level identity design and the UI design, even better. Please note, we would love to see your sketching and workings out. If you made a prototype, share it. And tell us the story or concept behind your masterpiece, it’s as interesting as seeing your flat design.
  7. Have interests — If you’re lacking in work that supports your quest to become the next hot Visual Designer, make your own work, set your own brief, create and curate something (but don’t fill the design with Lorum Ipsum. Aiaiaiaia). If you’re into selling craft beer at the weekend or throw pots for fun, share that info too.

Furthermore, channel your inner Dieter Rams and remember…

“good design is as little design as possible”,

…. let the work in your portfolio speak for itself.

Now I’m off to go and have a cuppa tea and re-do our own website stat.

With love from

Hana Sutch is managing partner and chief ranter at Furthermore.

This post was originally posted on Medium, follow us here.

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