How to create your designer portfolio

Designer Job

Whether you've just qualified as a UX or UI designer or are making a career change, your design portfolio makes all the difference to your employment chances. Learn about the world of design through Ironhack bootcamps where the projects you work on can form the basis of this portfolio. Or, if you're already established as a designer, look back over your projects and choose the ones that inspired you the most. These will form the backbone of your designer portfolio.

Previously, portfolios would have been physical pieces of work carefully bound as a book. Today, they're online and can be easily shared with a few clicks. This means prospective employers see many more portfolios than they used to so your work needs to make an immediate impact. How do you go about creating a design portfolio with this wow factor? Our Ironhack team has put together seven inspirational tips to help you do just that.

1. Aim for quality and diversity

Time and attention spans are short, and hiring agents have many applications to review so it's important not to overload them with a crowded portfolio. It should be compact, crisp, and compelling, delivering an exciting reflection of you and your work. Aim to include, depending on your experience, between three and ten examples of work. Go through your work with a critical eye, choosing pieces that you're proud of and that received positive receptions from clients. Aim as well, to show your range of skill. For example, a website designed for one company and an advertising project for another.

2. Bring examples to life with backstories

Images are central to your portfolio but they need to be injected with life. Brief accompanying texts should answer these questions:

  • What was your brief?
  • What inspired your idea?
  • What did your design achieve?
  • Did you encounter any problems?
  • If so, how did you solve them?
  • What would you do differently another time?

For example, if your design gave the client a measurable upturn in business, talk about it. If a project received a glowing testimonial, include it. Not every example needs to be a complete case study but pick one or two and use them to highlight your design process in full. Providing this extra information helps prospective employers decide whether you and your ideas will add value to their design team.

3. Make the portfolio "yours"

Once you've selected your best designs and created backstories, you need to put them together in a cohesive way that sells you and your work. You need to create your "brand". Think about how the different examples work together and then choose a consistent color theme and font that complements them. Avoid distracting movements or animations. Instead, let one image roll gently into the next.

4. First impressions count

Your portfolio's homepage is the first thing potential employers see. It should be as attention-grabbing as an album cover or movie poster. Easy-to-find and follow navigation links (such as "my work" and "about me") are non-negotiable but the layout and colors of the rest should give readers a clear idea of you, your brand, and your style. Have contact details clearly visible, ideally via a link from every page. Create a standout homepage and reap the rewards with a new career in UX/UI design.

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5. Showcase your work and skills with the right web host

Your portfolio is ready and now you need a platform for it, one that makes browsing a pleasure. To some extent, this choice of platform depends on your technical know-how. The most flexible ones assume some coding knowledge (HTML or CSS) while hosted websites such as Carbonmadeand Dunkedare easier to work with but have fewer customization options. If you have coding skills to show off and want a fully customizable platform, choose a self-hosted website or create your own website from scratch. Whichever route you take, ensure all images are resized correctly for your chosen template. Prospective employers don't have time to wait for oversized photos to download. Make use of tools such as TinyJPGto compress pictures without sacrificing quality.

6. Get it checked

During the creation process, you'll have looked at your text and images so many times it becomes easy to overlook errors. Ask someone you trust to check it. Does it look professional? Is it easy to navigate? Does it flow seamlessly? Finally, double (or even triple) check it for typographical, spelling, and grammatical mistakes. You're looking for employment and nothing damages your credibility and chances more than basic misspellings and punctuation mistakes.

7. Promote your work

Even the best-designed portfolio only produces results if people see it. Promoting it is essential:

  • Join an online design community (such as Dribbleor Behance). Other designers can see your work and give feedback. This improves your portfolio while creating a business network for you. Also, employers visit these sites in search of exciting new designers
  • Use social media. Publish links to your portfolio on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., remembering to keep the links updated. Friends and colleagues will remember your portfolio when they hear that someone is looking for a designer
  • Channel the "word-of-mouth" power. Show former and existing clients your new portfolio (especially if their work is in it!). Ask them to share it if they hear of a job opening.

Once you've created, launched, and promoted your designer portfolio be sure to keep it current. Schedule regular review dates in your diary for editing and adding your latest design successes. Taking an Ironhack UX or UI design bootcamp gives you the hands-on skills to succeed in the design world. The design projects you work on during your course can form the basis of your portfolio. You'll have a headstart when it's time to look for a new career.

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