Re-Think the Format of Your Portfolio

With so many options for showcasing your work, spend some time thinking about what format is the best for you. The answer might not be what everyone else is doing.

1. Website

The most obvious solution is to create your own website. Squarespace, Wix, and more make it incredible easy to build a website and go live all in the same day.

Word to the wise, don't spend a ton of time trying to manually code your portfolio site if it's not necessary. Keep it simple and flex your web design muscles elsewhere if you are determined to show them off, unless you are a developer and really have a handle on what you are trying to build. 💪

2. Third Party Hosts

Third party hosts are prolific amongst users. Some offer wonderful features like job postings and ways to connect with other designers. Here are a few of the most popular:

3. Social Media

Social media is becoming a more widely accepted outlet for featuring work. It might not be the most professional, but working within their boundaries for pushing content can create unintentional awesomeness. (The idea is to stand out, right?) I'm thinking of using Instagram and creating grids of work, tagging clients (if they are okay with it), or posting videos of screen-flows. Pinterest boards actually showcase mobile UI perfectly. Tumblr also offers clean layouts and is pretty no-fuss.

Personally, I dig an unexpected way to view someone's work. It shows they think outside the box.

4. Private Options

If you have confidential client work, it might be best to keep your portfolio on the down-low. Most online hosts offer a setting to enable a password lock. If you want to be really slick, you can build a PDF and keep it stored in Dropbox to send out only when requested. I had never thought about this, but I have a friend who is a wonderfully talented designer and keeps her portfolio this way largely because she gets too many requests for freelance work. (Not the worst problem to have.)

5. Physical Portfolio

I'm not advocating dusting off your Trapper Keeper and stuffing a bunch of bullshit into plastic sleeves, but a unique physical approach to presenting work can be stunning. Some work really is best experienced in person, especially textural pieces (letter-press) or packaging designs.

Bottom Line
  • Keep it as easy as possible to access. Don't create unnecessary barriers for people to access your work. This might include cumbersome load times due to file/image sizes, download speeds, or resolution issues. Double and triple check your portfolio on different screen sizes and mobile/tablet if it's digital.

  • Keep it in One Place. Don't scatter work across multiple sources. Have at least one complete, coherent portfolio before putting work other places for fun. It is annoying to be directed to eight places to view the totality of someone's portfolio.

  • When in doubt, ask for feedback. Have one or a few people you trust check out your portfolio and give you feedback. Elicit commentary on the experience of viewing your work, not just the work itself.

Obviously, keep your portfolio up to date, but be open to changing the format of how it's presented. As you add content or elevate/change your career, it might be time to re-evaluate how you present your work.