What Makes A Good Design Portfolio?

George Little, Founder of CreativeBriefs.xyz
February 2023

First off, it should be noted that this is totally subjective. Just like everything else in the design world, a “good” anything can only be judged based on the context and what the design aims to achieve. In the case of a marketing, brand, or visual designer's portfolio, the aim should be to effectively communicate who you are, how you think, and how you will perform at the job at hand. Having a beautiful portfolio filled with beautiful work is table stakes; accurately communicating the “why” and “how” of each project is what really matters. Most importantly, I think younger designers don’t realize that their portfolio is a portfolio-piece in itself, ones whose primary function is to land you a job or gig.

Here are a seven helpful tips to consider when putting together your portfolio:

1. Your portfolio is your biggest sales tool.

This is particularly true for marketing and brand designers since the core of their jobs is to sell things to target audiences. In this case, the target audience is the hiring manager, and the thing your selling is, you, or more specifically, your abilities to help the design team solve problems. All of the work in your portfolio, and the way that you present it, can be seen as an example of how you’ve solved problems with other collaborators in the past and can indicate to a hiring manager how you might do so in the future.

2. Don’t forget the basics.

Every project in your portfolio should have a few basic elements to explain what it is. Each should have a title, a basic description, and an indication of your role or input on the project. It’s very rare that any project is done by one person alone (nor is it expected), however it’s important to indicate what aspects of the work you did, especially when showing lots of images that you may not have directly created.

3. Make images of your work for your portfolio.

One mistake I often see is people using the original graphics they made for a project directly in their portfolio instead of creating images that showcase their work for their portfolio. The difference is huge.

Your portfolio, just like any other piece of graphic design, has a format and requirements that will make whatever images you create look their best. The best way to showcase your work is to create a common format that can be used for each image of each project. This doesn’t mean that all of your images need to look the same; but having a common aesthetic, sizing, and proportions will lead to a more cohesive and well put together portfolio.

4. Use a case study method of explaining your projects.

This is a big one. Designers often suffer from explaining their projects as if everybody else is a designer. Often times project descriptions will discuss layout, font selection, in the weeds details about padding and stylization, or overly technical into, however, these only verbally describe the things that can be seen visually. And more importantly, these details are not what your target audience is concerned with.

Instead, craft your project descriptions to be no more than three paragraphs, and to be in a simple, digestible problem – solution format. Just about every project in the design world can be explained through this simple format.

First you add a few sentences about the context: who, what, why, all setting the context, which help to setup the problem, which is the next piece. The problem should be at the business, marketing, or real – world issue, that the client or stakeholder is trying to solve. And finally, the part where you look like a design hero: the solution.

This is the portion where you explain what you did and why, and most importantly, how it solved the problem for the client or stakeholder. This is the section where you can go into some detail about the different assets or collateral you worked on, or different choices that you made, and any resulting outcomes that may have come from the design work. Many times simple metrics like a bounce rates, number of clicks, or website conversions can help to strengthen the argument for your design work, so if you have any handy, be sure to include them as well.

5. Curate your work.

Less isn’t necessarily more but more certainly isn’t more. The ability to filter your work and be selective about what projects you show can have a big impact on driving home your value as a marketing or visual designer. Designers in this world often have to wrangle with loads of content coming from all sort of directions, and in loads of different medians, so having the ability to digest and present things in a clean and understandable manner is huge. Same goes with your work. Select projects that show how you work, not just that you make beautiful things - that’ll be obvious. This may mean that you have to remove or filter your projects depending on the role your going after.

6. Take advantage of the website format.

Almost all marketing, visual, and brand design roles that exist in the world today require a website-based portfolio, and for good reason. The old method of creating a PDF portfolio and uploading it is simply too tedious and cumbersome. Having been on the other end of the hiring process, software, like Greenhouse and Lever have made it much easier to submit digital portfolios seethem alongside other application materials like resumes or survey questions.

While this might sound like something extra that has to be created just to get a job, I encourage you to think about it as an advantage.

Instead of your portfolio existing in one format, you have the ability to craft pages, filter work, make galleries, and send special links specifically created for different roles or job types. You could create a page that only shows work you’ve done for a specific company, or you could create a gallery of projects that focus on one of your most desirable skills sets. You can even reference specific projects in your resume via the URL of the project’s page on your portfolio site. Additionally, you can track visitors to the site to see if your getting the traction you’re hoping for.

This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in web design to land a good job - remember many positions won’t require you to do any website design work anyway. Regardless, any designer, even if you have limited knowledge of web-design, can make a decent website portfolio with Wix or Squarespace.

7. Put your work before you.

When using a portfolio website to land a job, it might be a good idea to remove any photos of yourself from the home or project pages, instead, reserve those for pages specifically about you. The reason for this comes down to limiting any unintentional bias created on the part of the hiring manager when going through many portfolios. Personally, I try to avoid seeing what anyone looks like before meeting them for an interview. I’ve found that this method of avoiding human-bias allows hiring managers to focus on credentials and quality of work, which ultimately leads to a better, more diverse team.


Creating a portfolio to land your dream job isn’t a science, and frankly it comes down to the nuances of your interview, the way your resume’s perceived, and other internal company factors that you’re not privy to, like the needs and context of the role. But considering the tips laid out above will help you polish your portfolio and think more actively about the way you approach your next interview or job application. Good luck!

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Created by George Little