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Planning Portfolios

by Taylor Slattery | April 14, 2022

For creatives, portfolios are like monuments we build to ourselves. They serve to showcase our abilities and document our past accomplishments. For clients, prospective employers, and other creatives alike, our portfolios serve as our first and often only point of contact, and we want these people to be impressed when they look at them. A good portfolio should communicate not only our technical abilities but also impart to the viewer a sense of our personality. We want to inspire enough curiosity in the viewer to leave them wanting to learn more.

It’s often advised to trim the fat from your portfolio, leaving only the best and most current representation of your skills and the type of work you like to do. By including only your best works, and those you enjoyed creating, you can ensure you are making the right type of first impression that will lead to similar sorts of work opportunities. Think of this as the first filter for finding clients that are a good match.

But what if you’re a multidisciplinary creative? Both freelance and studio work alike can lead to one having to wear many different creative hats. You may have experience working with a wide range of clients or experimented with different types of design in your free time. So how do you go about showing this experience while keeping a curated, focused portfolio?

The answer is simple. You build multiple portfolios. Showing all of your different abilities and facets paints a more complete picture of you, but can also leave clients and hiring managers scratching their heads. The greater variety of the work presented, the less clear it becomes as to what exactly you contributed to each.

Say for example, brand design is your forte, but you also enjoy designing packaging and you’ve got some motion design chops. To demonstrate this, you’ve peppered in animations here and there for logos or social media content and packaging designs are featured throughout the larger projects in your portfolio. While anybody hiring for a brand design role would be happy to see that you’ve also got motion skills, your ability to craft brand identities would be less relevant to a motion-specific role. The same goes for packaging design. This particular configuration of your portfolio is only suitable for one type of job.

Put yourself in a hiring manager’s shoes and show them exactly what they would want to see. If you’re applying for a motion role, have a dedicated reel that highlights your skills. If you’re applying for a packaging design role, cut out all of the brand voice and positioning strategy and focus on the more specific, technical aspects of packaging.

You don’t necessarily need separate sites for each discipline, you just want a more curated selection you can easily link to for job applications or emails to clients. Creating different pages on your portfolio site to house each portfolio will do just fine. That way you can still have a page where everything is displayed together in full for those who are curious.

Remember, the job of your portfolio is to alleviate concerns, instill confidence, and dispel any doubts visitors may have in your ability to do exactly what it is they need you to do. Hiring managers and client’s time is valuable, and if they’ve already made the effort to take a look at your portfolio, you need to capitalize on this opportunity. Make it as easy as possible for them to find what they’re looking for and answer any questions they may have up front. After seeing your portfolio, the only remaining question they should have is, “when can you start? “.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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