How to Create a Graphic Design Portfolio

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Your graphic design portfolio is your best marketing tool. It is a selection of your works printed on fine paper, mounted on art board and collected into a zippered portfolio case. When you create your portfolio, you are putting together a sample book of your work. It is what prospective employers will use to assess your skills and talent.

How to create a graphic design portfolio

The most important part of creating your portfolio is choosing the right pieces. You should select at least six or seven good pieces, but no more than nine or ten. Lay out all the pieces on a work table. For most employers, five or six pieces in the portfolio will be sufficient.

If you're applying for a job with a graphic design firm, choose pieces that demonstrate the basic skills, such as a business package that includes a logo, letterhead, and brochure. Include examples of posters and cover art for various media. If you're applying for a freelance position, choose pieces that best represent the work that will be required for that position.

Arranging your pieces in the portfolio is the next step. Open with a really good piece, but not your best piece. Your best piece, the one you think will get you the job, should be in just about the middle. Arrange the works so the prospective employer sees the second best piece last, one that echoes the style of the best piece.

Place each piece into its own sleeve. Do not display your works back to back. Do not include text unless it is part of the design.

Review the portfolio, being certain each piece is clean, that there are no smudges, hairs, or crinkles.


Be sure to select the right size portfolio for your work. Most likely, you will need a 14 by 17 inch or 17 by 22 inch portfolio.

Be sure your name is on the inside. If possible, attach your name to the outside as well.

Keep your portfolio case clean and don't use a case if the zipper is broken.

If an employer only asks for three pieces, be certain your pieces are diversified, but indicative of your style.


If a prospective employer asks you to leave your portfolio, politely ask for a receipt. Ask that the receipt include a date for you to retrieve the portfolio.

Do not use any works you’ve sold without the client’s permission. It may be in your contract that the work is proprietary.


About the Author

Shelly McRae is a freelance writer residing in Phoenix, Ariz. Having earned an associate degree from Glendale Community College with a major in graphic design and technical writing, she turned to online writing. McRae has written articles for multiple websites, drawing on her experience in the home improvement industry and hydroponic gardening.