How to Create the Perfect Graphic Design Portfolio

Published by Chris Green

May 10, 2021

If you’re a designer, one of the best ways to attract clients to work with you is to showcase what you do with a killer portfolio. The perfect graphic design portfolio does the leg work for you, catching the eye of clients and reducing the amount of chasing you have to do to bring them on board.

Let’s dive in…

You might be thinking… ‘it’s all well and good saying that I need a pristine portfolio, but creating one is so darn difficult.’

We feel your pain. What work do you include? What do you leave out? How do you present your work – should it be case studies, just images or should you go into real detail? There’s a lot to think about.

Inspiration

To help you create the perfect design portfolio, we’re going to show you an example of one we think is done really well. The following screenshots are taken from Farm Design, a branding agency based in Los Angeles, California. They design packaging for a range of brands and they are exceptionally good at it.

Why do we think their portfolio is great? Well, their portfolio on Behance has been viewed nearly a million times – that means nearly two million eyeballs have checked out their work.

What does Farm Design do well? Straight away their portfolio oozes professionalism with a perfect blend of imagery and persuasive copy.

Immediately they showcase the work they have done for the food packaging and restaurant industries, supported by a strong positioning statement: “At Farm Design we cultivate brands. We are a tribe of thinkers and creatives that roll up our sleeves to help brands grow through thoughtful strategy, collaborative insights, and quite frankly, hard work.”

They don’t mess about… they get straight to the point of what it is they do and place a strong ethos on helping companies grow. It’s unashamedly in your face and uses really, really, really good visuals.

 

Creating your portfolio

What Farm Design does really well is bunch up their projects and allows potential clients to click in and explore their work in more detail. This is most likely what a prospective client will do.

For a specific project, in this case Bivouac, they use large imagery to show off the brand as strongly as possible, which we recommend incorporating into your portfolio. Additionally, Farm Design have added a list of services down the side, which gives potential clients some further navigational options.

When creating your portfolio, you should be thinking ‘what will a potential client look for and think when exploring my portfolio?’ Clients will almost certainly want to know what your capabilities are and how focused you are, so it’s important to reflect this in your portfolio.

The Farm Design project we’re highlighting demonstrates that they did research and formulated a strategy, which adds another dimension to their portfolio, demonstrating that they took care of the branding, packaging, web design and print design offering a full suite of services.

As part of your portfolio, it’s worth emphasising each and every element you brought to individual projects.

Presenting your portfolio in the right places

Another thing Farm Design does really well is positioning their portfolio in all the right places. In this instance, they featured their work on a site called Dieline, which is a phenomenal blog dedicated to packaging design.

Getting your projects featured on relevant websites is a great way to generate link juice pointing back to your own site. For each of the services you offer, make sure they are correctly listed against each project so you can point people from external websites to the right service on your own website.

Farm Design also used an explanation provided by Bivouac describing how their project came to be, what the issue was and what they were trying to do, which Farm Design frames really well as part of its portfolio, adding further credibility to their work.

What the Bivouac project demonstrates in terms of Farm Design’s portfolio is that you get a real sense of how the brand is used, a real sense of the packaging design, the colour scheme, and the key messages.

They have also used the logo in contextual ways. They’re not going out and showing this on skateboards and all that kind of stuff, but they’re showing it very much in situ in the kind of context you would expect.

With Bivouac being a sort of adventure-based drinks brand, the portfolio piece actually shows how it goes beyond the restaurant and the drink itself, making it an all-round great example of a portfolio piece that has been well put together.

Easy navigation

Having shown you Farm Design’s homepage, and an example of a portfolio piece, what you’ll notice is a really great menu system. We can’t stress strongly enough how important easy navigation is when creating an online portfolio. Farm Design’s is clean and simple, with a menu consisting of:

  • Work
  • Services
  • Culture
  • Contact us

From our point of view, the culture aspect is really important. Why? Well, if a company is going to work with you, they’ll want to know what they’re going to get, how you’re going to interact with them, and how they’re likely to work with you.

What Farm Design does really well is to present a ‘behind the scenes’ look at their operation with some snazzy office shots. This lets prospective clients in and presents a picture of how the Farm Design team works together.

They have a nice size studio, the type you’d want to visit if you’re in LA or even get a glimpse into remotely on webcam, and see a solid team that’s going to get the work done. Letting people into your workspace as part of your portfolio adds a sense of connection between you and potential clients.

As part of letting people in, Farm Design also features its leadership team and staff, highlighting everything that they do. This demonstrates that they don’t treat people as commodities, but an intrinsic and valued part of what they do.

If a company has its sights set on using your services and working with your people for years and years, they want to know they can get on with you, and that you’re going to just do the work, but that you’re fun to work with too.

However, if you’re a freelancer, we appreciate that this may be harder to do. But, if you do collaborate with a few other people to get projects done, it might be worth featuring them as part of your portfolio. What you’re trying to present is the personality of your team.

So, get some really good photos of a happy, smiling workforce. It sounds obvious, but clients will be more attracted to you if everyone looks like they’re enjoying what they’re doing.

Secondary portfolio elements

Having covered the primary elements of what your portfolio should include, there are a few ‘secondary’ aspects you should consider adding. Farm Design gives an explanation for its company name and when they were founded.

It’s not the stuff you put at the beginning of your portfolio, but for some potential clients the story and experience of your company could be what sways them to work with you.

People don’t necessarily immediately care about how long you’ve been in business. However, if they’re trusting you with a big budget and their reputation, they will likely want to know how long you been around for and that you’re up to the job.

Farm Design has included its core values as part of their portfolio. However, this will only work for you if you mean what you say. Having seen the guys who run Farm Design and speaking to them over Facebook, we can vouch for them and their core values.

Another thing Farm Design includes is press releases that they have been featured in, highlighting their company and their work. It’s a great addition to their portfolio and demonstrates even greater credibility for what they do. If your company has been featured in publications, it might be worth including these in your portfolio to further emphasise the quality of your work. It could really help a prospective client in the decision-making process.

One of the unique features of Farm Design’s portfolio is the consistent use of the strapline ‘Farm Cultivating Brands’. From header to footer, the strapline is used consistently to catch the eye. If you have a strong strapline, use it consistently across your portfolio to keep it in the mind of potential clients.

Get started

Hopefully, we’ve given you loads of great ideas and inspiration for your portfolio based on Farm Design’s approach. It’s worth checking them out at www.farmdesign.net

Once you’ve had a crack at creating your portfolio, why not share it in the comments on this blog and get feedback?

If you have any awesome examples of killer portfolios, share them in the comments section below to help others create their perfect design portfolio.

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