It’s a big leap when you begin to send your portfolios and resumes out to agencies for job interviews. I know the difficulties of getting your foot in the door, and hoping that your work will stand out against the rest of the applicants. I also know what it’s like on the other end of that, being the one with the portfolio flooded inbox. Here are a few tips that I’ve found really push forward some of those junior level candidates:


This tip is especially crucial for designers right out of college. It may look cleaner to simply showcase images of your executions, but what we’re looking for is that you know how to creative concept, strategize, and articulate. This does not, I repeat does NOT, mean just describe the images we’re about to see. We know you used a sans serif and the color blue, tell us why you made those choices instead. You may be looking at mentors or senior designers’ sites for inspo on how to set up your own portfolio. You will probably notice that these creatives don’t write the “why” behind their work – this is because they have already established themselves in the field and after 10+ years in the industry it is assumed that these creatives know how to use critical and creative thinking to execute their work. 


Creative people have many creative outlets. However, your portfolio shouldn’t be the avenue to showcase these hobbies. If the purpose of your site is to get your foot in the door to a design agency, then use it to show your design skills. If we have to go digging through your site to find this work, and keep opening up pages about your embroidery, chances are we’re going to move on to the next portfolio. Don’t get me wrong, being creative outside of work is brilliant, but be mindful of when you want to show off this extra talent. Maybe there’s a link to your painting Instagram on your about page. Perhaps you integrate these talents and design a brand identity for the birdhouse painting side hustle you started. Could you leave a little cross stitch square with your info on it after your first interview? Keep the portfolio website as clear and straightforward as you can.


You made a really brilliant illustration for a hypothetical brewery that just released a new beer. You even threw the illustration into a mockup – it looks B O M B! You post it to your portfolio site as a standalone piece.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, what’s going to put you one step ahead of everyone else is showing how you can push it a little but further. Is there a second can from the brewery with a similar style but a new illustration? What about the box the cans come in? Can you make some promotional posters or social media posts? Even something as simple as extra swag items (t-shirt, koozie, coasters) would be a brilliant addition to show hirers that you’re not only thinking on the execution of one single piece, but you’re considering the whole brand and how your design will be pushed beyond your awesome illustration.


Think critically on this one. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who is sifting through tons of portfolios everyday. What is the journey when they come to your site? What is the first thing we see? Is this page doing something or is it just your name and an image? Do we then have to click through multiple times to take a look at all your work? Ideally your home page will be the page that lists out all your projects. If it isn’t, make sure that decision is intentional and theres a reason behind what’s replacing that as your homepage.
As you arrange your work on the portfolio page, are you listing them in order of what was most recent? If you’re really proud of a certain project and you feel it showcases the depth of your abilities – I would move that to the top so it’s more likely to get clicked on. Key takeaway here: don’t make the user go digging for your work.


A way to make your work seem more real and professional is to be very particular about the wording. As opposed to saying “We were asked to redesign the packaging of a candy bar in my design class.” Explain it as if it were a client: “Choco-box was looking to update their branding with their release of their new candy bar. The company was aiming to retarget millennials which is why….” This shows us that you are getting into the mindset (even if it is fake) of your client and the consumer and you’re again, designing with intention.
When you refer to a class or school project in a write up, it immediately indicates to us “this person is still in college, or just graduated” and could nix you out of the running on the spot (there are usually less openings for junior level creatives).  As a caveat to that, it would be wise to add a disclaimer towards the bottom of the page that says *Student work created at Soandso College*. This has to be done appropriately. Showcasing student work for a Starbucks project and acting like you really did work for Starbucks is a misleading. I would advise against throwing that in your portfolio as you’re setting your work up to be compared against people who have years on you in the industry.

Want some free feedback on your portfolio? 

Submit your site through the portfolio submission page.