Portfolio Advice for New Graduates
This year has been challenging in many ways, but it’s been particularly rough on new graduates leaving university with the hope of landing their first design job; opportunities, connections and general dialogue have slowed down as studios (understandably) batten down the hatches and focus on cashflow.

I remember being a new graduate like it was yesterday; I moved to London and worked for free whilst staying in a hostel near Euston Station. It was both inspiring and demoralising in equal measure, but what I lost in money, I gained in advice from talking to and working alongside designers in a studio.

So with 2020 proving to be an absolute stinker for new designers, I’ve compiled a list of portfolio tips I’ve picked up over the years. They are primarily aimed at new designers looking to work within a design studio, but they could also apply to graphic design portfolios in general.

01: Good ideas with good execution
Above all, this is what is universally looked for by most design companies when reviewing a creative portfolio - the ability to develop strong concepts and execute them well.

02: Start with your CV
There’s a chance your portfolio may not land in front of the most creative people in the company. Many firms have a HR team that pre-screen applications before sending them on to the senior creatives. They will likely look through your CV first, so make sure it’s at the front.

03: Practice what you preach
You’re a graphic designer so show it! Take the time to really design your portfolio. Think about layout, communication and clarity. Put the focus on your work and let that do the talking.

04: Less (really is) more
It’s always better to show a smaller number of great projects than a larger number of mediocre ones. Don’t be put off by only including a small number of projects in your portfolio as you can accentuate these much more.

05: Build narrative
Your portfolio is a snapshot of you as a creative. Make sure it tells your story when you’re not there to tell it yourself. Think about ways you can order the projects so they logically lead to the next.

06: Be honest
People appreciate honesty. Employers are no different. Be honest about what you did and didn’t do for the projects in your portfolio.

07: Include self-initiated work
It can be tricky to build a portfolio of projects without necessarily having a bank of client work to showcase. Self-initiated projects are a great way to showcase your process and skills without having to answer to a client.

08: Show your working
Remember secondary school maths exams? Where you scored marks for showing your working out even though you got the final answer wrong? The same applies with creative portfolios. Showing some early sketches can give an employer an idea of how you approach a design challenge.

09: Proofread, spellcheck, proofread again
Even though the focus of your portfolio is on visual material, never forget that grammatical errors have a huge impact on your portfolio. In short, they say one thing - that you have very little attention to detail.

10: Get some feedback
It’s easy to get caught up in your portfolio. You can spend hours, days, weeks working on it. Eventually one of two things happen - you will be happy with it, or you will start to hate it. Sometimes one follows the other. This is the time to get some feedback from a fresh pair of eyes. Send it to your friends and family. Make sure you share it with creatives and non-creatives alike as some of the best feedback comes from people outside of design.

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