design portfolio tips for black designers 1

Tips For Creating Your Design Portfolio

Laura Providence is an NYC based Creative Director that still believes in print design & has an unhealthy obsession with typography specializing in branding, editorial and packaging design for female-owned brands. Nicholas “NickyChulo” Fulcher is (also) an NYC based a Graphic designer and art director, making magic as part of Atlantic Records AND Trap Karaoke. What do they have in common?

They’re both dope designers who are consistently creating impactful work and they both want to help you get your portfolio in order. Below the two share some insight and resources to help you get started.

What’s the most important part of your portfolio as a designer & why?

L: The most important part of your portfolio as a designer is always going to be the work you present. Remember: quality over quantity. There is no point in filling your portfolio with subpar work just to make it ‘bigger’. Don’t let meh work distract potential clients from your amazing work. Instead, put in the kind of work you want to be hired to do. Your portfolio needs more than a bunch of images and mock-ups. With every project you include, explain the brief and how’s and why’s—what you did and why you did it. You should always be able to discuss your concept/thinking process.

Remember: people don’t hire a portfolio, they hire a person. The portfolio gets you the interview, the type of person you are gets you the job. Your portfolio needs to represent you. Feel free to include passion projects that you’re super excited about—even if it’s experimental, unpolished, incomplete, or not design related at all.

N: The most important part of your portfolio is good communication. You see your work 10,000 times and sometimes when you go to display it you assume your audience will have the same thought process and understanding as you. I believe it’s important to explain your process in a way that a young viewer (3rd grade education level is usually the marker) can understand it.

If you’re looking to break into the industry but don’t have actual work samples from employers, how can you build your portfolio?

L: Design dream projects around the industry you’re trying to break into or offer pro-bono work for a local business.

Interested in getting into hospitality design? You could either rebrand an existing restaurant you dislike or work with a local restaurant to revamp their identity & menu. One of the advantages of dream projects is that you’re able to imagine your perfect job and picture your ideal client. By doing this, you’re making your portfolio more attractive to the kinds of people or industry that you want to work with.

N: You create your own world. Whatever it is you want to do, get started now. Right now after you finish reading this.

For example, let’s say you want to design book covers. Take your favorite book and design a cover for it! Once you’re finished there are infinite resources to mock up its presentation. There are thousands of photoshop templates online where you can drop in your artwork and it will look like the book was actually printed. Long story short you should build your portfolio by creating things that you want to create. Speak it into existence? No, create it into existence.

Long story short you should build your portfolio by creating things that you want to create. Speak it into existence? No, create it into existence. - @NickyChulo Click To Tweet

Should your portfolio be job specific or skill/work specific?

LP: Your portfolio should always include the type of work you love and work you want to do more of. You should leave out the work you want to do less of. If you don’t want to design websites, don’t put websites in your portfolio—even if you’re fully capable of designing them.  You don’t have to overwhelm potential clients of everything you can design.

The clearer the vision of what you want to do as a designer is, the clearer it will be to design a portfolio with content that reflects that. So if you want to design more apps, make sure your portfolio includes plenty of app design.

N: This is a somewhat loaded question. I would say project specific. If a project required you to do 20 different things they should live together on the same page. Those projects should then be organized by skill (branding, apparel, packaging, etc.) 

Don’t wait for permission. We don’t have to travel to the library to get the information we need anymore. Everything is on the internet and at our fingertips. You can be anything and you can do it extremely well.

Your portfolio should always include the type of work you love and work you want to do more of. You don’t have to overwhelm potential clients of everything you can design. - @itsLauraOG Click To Tweet

Portfolio Building Resources

From Laura:

Behance  | Whether you have your own portfolio site, Behance is a wonderful place to also put your portfolio, watch live tutorials, search for jobs & network with other creatives. It’s a great place to have your work on as larger agencies always begin their job searches here.

Semplice | When you’re ready to build your own portfolio site, Semplice is a wonderful place to start. Semplice is a fully customizable portfolio system based on WordPress. It’s drag and drop functionality really makes it simple to build layouts that meet your vision. It really takes the stress out of building your own customized portfolio site.

From Nicky:

Fonts: https://www.fontsquirrel.com/

Vector Resources: https://www.vecteezy.com/

Stock Photos: https://www.pexels.com/

Templates: https://graphicburger.com/

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