How to create a portfolio

How to create a portfolio

When you apply for a job there will be some subject areas and job sectors that benefit from use of a portfolio. Speak to your academic school to see if this is the case for your subject area.

Portfolios are used to showcase your work and to help to demonstrate your skills to prospective employers. Nothing impresses more than a beautifully presented portfolio at an interview, or makes an employer want to get in contact by viewing a professional online version. You need to adapt how you present your portfolio depending on the type of job you are applying for.

What should my portfolio include?

A good portfolio should have most of the following:

  • An up-to-date, focussed CV.
  • A list of your key achievements and skills: include any positive feedback you have received for your work to build your credibility.
  • Examples of your work with good documentation: place the best and most relevant work first and start and finish with your strongest pieces of work.
  • A variety of examples of work you have done: your main example needs to reflect your strengths, your creative approach and flair.
  • Items that show your thought process and development of ideas are valuable: e.g. a sequence of photos to show the progression of your design.
  • Production portfolios can also include budget sheets, idea pitches and marketing materials
  • Aim for quality, not quantity: employers will probably spend only a few minutes looking at your portfolio, especially at interview. Select you strongest work.

Physical portfolios

Some employers prefer physical portfolios that are tangible and create a lasting impression. Research the preferences of the employers you want to work for before starting your portfolio, it might save you time in the long run!
Having a physical portfolio has many advantages:

  • It doesn’t rely on technology and is instantly accessible. There’s no set-up time, which is great if you’re under a time constraint at an interview.
  • You can arrange your work in the order you want clients to see it, rather than having them click web links in a random order.
  • A physical portfolio can include anything that is portable! Anything flat can be folded into a portfolio, but you are not restricted to things that can fit inside the portfolio. If an item is too large to take to the interview take high quality photos of it to show to the interviewer.

Remember to keep to these guidelines:

  • Create a clear structure, including page numbers and a contents page so it is easy for employers to navigate.
  • Include a format and design that flows throughout your portfolio to create your own individual, personal brand, yet still keep the main focus on your work.
  • There is no right or wrong way to create a portfolio: be as creative or keep it as simple as you like. As long as you are passionate about it, that’s what matters!

Great examples of physical portfolios -

Online portfolios

Online portfolios can be created in a variety of ways, and are flexible to suit differing demands. They are easy to create, and have plenty of customization tools available to help personalize your portfolio.
Having an online portfolio has many advantages:

  • It is permanently available at all times and all over the world for employers to view: they might just find it by accident!
  • You can update it regularly to show your latest work and achievements.
  • You can include a link to it in your CV and covering letter.

Remember to keep to these guidelines:

  • Your portfolio must be of high quality: well organised and relevant with a consistent style and navigation on all pages.
  • Make sure your site is correctly formatted on the main browsers (e.g. Firefox, Chrome and Safari) as they may display your work differently. Remember that employers may view your portfolio via a variety of different platforms, so make sure your website is tablet and mobile-friendly.
  • You will need to pay a few pounds a month for your own unique website and domain name. Choose your website name carefully! There are many free website host providers available, however these usually restrict the quantity and size of content you can upload.

Great examples of online portfolios -

Using a Blog as an Online Portfolio

Blogs are fast becoming an easy way to showcase your work cheaply and effectively. Creating your own online presence is a great way to get your name noticed by potential employers, network with contacts and discover opportunities that could help further your career.

Create a killer online portfolio using WordPress -

Using Instagram as an Online Portfolio

In the creative industries Instagram feeds are to some extent now replacing CVs and portfolios. Successful Instagram portfolios may also include information on your activities outside work as well as traditional material. Creative directors now often use Instagram to vet candidates as they can get a taste of your personality as well as your artistic skills.

How to use Instagram as an online portfolio -

Portfolios for print journalism

  • Normally 6 to 8 articles is sufficient. Make sure they provide a variety of examples to show your adaptability: news, current affairs, features, editorials.
  • Include links to any blogposts or online articles you have written as well as examples of print journalism. Be aware that some online newspapers hide their content behind a paywall, so you might need to provide a PDF version in some cases.
  • Keep your portfolio current, especially if you are interested in current affairs and breaking news articles.
  • Provide your email address as well as social media links such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Make sure your social media appears professional and use it to your advantage by having a consistent online presence for employers to follow. (Could have a link to ‘Using Social Media in Jobhunting’ page?)

Many employers expect journalism portfolios to be presented digitally, either on a tablet or laptop that the candidate can bring to an interview. Here is a website that compares different online journalism portfolio providers:

Portfolios for design, animation and creative jobs

  • Go for quality, not quantity: one minute of highly polished animation or 6-8 well-finished design pieces will be more impressive than badly finished or rushed work.  It's ok if examples are collaborative as long as you highlight what you did.
  • Have a brand identity, so the same style pervades your portfolio, website, CV and blog.
  • If you need more material for your portfolio, consider undertaking projects for friends or charities, or working on mock projects such as designing or animating a new computer game, or producing a makeover for an existing website.
  • Upload animations or short videos to YouTube so your content is easily accessible, embeddable online and available for prospective employers to view at any time.
  • Play to your strengths, but try to show your flexibility and adaptability as a creator.
  • Try to provide a context for each example: brief description, where got the idea for the piece, what your influences were, how you went about creating the work, challenges you had to overcome. You may be asked to talk about these at interview.
  • You can also include articles about your work, reviews of it and positive feedback from previous clients.
  • For a creative CV give careful consideration to typography, design and format.
  • Include a downloadable or online CV with your portfolio. A PDF file is usually the best way to provide this, and include your email address as a point of contact.


Portfolios for architecture

  • Cater your portfolio towards the type of interview you are attending – portfolios for university interviews will be presented differently to portfolios for job interviews. If you are applying for a university course, it’s a good idea to check their website for portfolio requirements.
  • Research the company you’re contacting to find out their design style, and try to create an outstanding piece that suits their preferences. Hopefully it will draw them in to look at all of your projects!
  • Include as much of your professional work as possible to show your credibility as an architect.
  • Be self-critical and only include your best projects. Although every piece took you hours of work, three or four excellent pieces are more impressive that ten or twelve mediocre ones.
  • Be creative with your portfolio to display your abilities as a designer, but make sure your projects are the main focus.
  • Online portfolios are a great way to keep your portfolio up-to-date and it’s easy to email interested employers a link to your website. 4 free websites to get your Architecture Portfolio online:
  • Physical portfolios should include high-resolution photos and be finished off to a very professional standard. How to develop, structure and bind your portfolio:
  • Architecture portfolio Q&A with different employers -

Portfolio interviews and examples

At the interview be prepared to talk about the specific pieces that you are presenting on and the work of designers/writers/creators you admire. Make sure that you can confidently explain and discuss the items in your portfolio. You may be asked to talk about the context for your portfolio examples at interview: where you got the idea for the piece; what your influences were and how you went about producing it. You may be asked if you specialise in a particular area, or work on lots of different aspects.

Portfolio examples

Useful links

  • a great place to create a central hub for your online presence.
  • Dexigner online portal for designers, architects, illustrators, engineers, artists, and creatives.
  • Pinterest tool for collecting and organising things - useful for putting portfolios together
  • Tumblr post anything from anywhere, customize everything.
  • Instagram share your life with friends and communicate with employers and brands through photos
  • Behance the latest work from top online portfolios by creative professionals
  • Coroflot design jobs and portfolios
  • Creative Pool network for agencies, brands and individuals