7 Tips For Making A Great Design Portfolio

It’s a good time of year for portfolio work. Some of you might be about to graduate and looking for your first job, internship or staying ready in case a great job opportunity comes knocking at your door.

Are you ready to get cracking ?

A glimpse at the author (Solene Roure)’s first portfolios circa 2005 to 2008

1. YOUR PORTFOLIO WILL NEVER BE READY

Your portfolio is a never ending piece of work. As you evolve and grow in your career, you will forever add, evolve, take out and tweak stuff. I know people who, for years, tell me they will pursue their passion “once their portfolio is ready”, unfortunately for them, that day will never come.

Your portfolio is as ready as your next interview. Accept that it is an amazing piece of live work, that evolves with you, overtime.

2. START & FINISH WITH A STRONG PROJECT

Classic advice, still relevant today. When you show your portfolio, you have very little time to make a strong impact. The most memorable projects are simply the first and the last. I would begin with the longest/most detailed project first as it is when you will have the most amount of attention from your interviewer. End with an impactful project you truly love, it will be the impression they take away from meeting you.

3. EXPRESS YOUR UNIQUE DESIGNER VALUES

Footwear design is a tough, competitive business. It is important to stand out as an individual with substance, if you want to grow in the field. Find out what is important to you, and make sure your work reflects it. Are you passionate about a particular sport, and if so, why ? Do you have a unique approach to problem solving ? Is psychology or sociology a passion of yours ? Do you have a hobby outside of work that benefits you in the work place ?

I’ll give you my personal example : “My name is Solene Roure. I am passionate about responsible design process and collaboration. I would like to use this to tackle sustainability issues. I’m obsessed with comfort but not at the expense of style. I love to challenge gender stereotypes because they are due for an update. (etc…)

I have been working on these for years. I suggest you keep the concept of “VALUES” in your mind, this tool will help you for the rest of your career

4. SPEND TIME REFINING YOUR CV/RESUME

Writing a powerful CV can take as long as putting together a portfolio. Take time to write, rewrite, edit and repeat. In fact it deserves a (future) post of it’s own. Meanwhile, remember this :

 -Make sure your name and your job title are the first thing people see.

-Make sure you are as visual and direct as possible because employers don’t have much time to read them.

-No typos ! Ask your friends to proof read before sending !

5. CONSIDER YOUR PORTFOLIO LIKE A DESIGN BRIEF

You will have to physically carry your portfolio (and yourself !) to interviews IRL. So consider the format and the situation. For example : will you be presenting sitting down or standing up ? To one person or a group ? Will it take one hour or five minutes ? These are very real interview variables you have no control over and you don’t want to be lugging around an unbound A2 portfolio in these situations.

Don’t panic, think practical. If you can, avoid laptops as a portfolio (they are bit fiddly for presenting) and invest in a tablet (or borrow one). Your portfolio will be adjustable and easy to pass around. If you chose to print it make sure the quality is flawless, and a portable format.

6. SHOWCASE YOUR THINKING/PROCESS

Kick-ass drawings and lifelike photoshop simulations of footwear will only get you so far. Companies are looking for designers who are problem solvers and creative thinkers.. Explain where your ideas come from using mood boards, sketches, quotes and anecdotes… Being a successful designer is not about being the best at drawing, it’s about being a great connector of ideas and people.

7. BE PREPARED

When you get the interview, it’s time show how dependable you are. What you lack in experience, you can make up in preparation and passion.

Show up on time (even better : show up 5 minutes early !). Wear clean clothes, have a breath mint, don’t wear too much perfume (seems like a given but just in case). Make sure your tablet is fully charged and the screen is clean, If you are nervous consider taking a taxi to your interview, ask a friend to be on call or nearby.

Be prepared and you will do great !

Best of luck,

Solene

Solene Roure

Solene Roure is a footwear and accessory design consultant based in London, UK. She works with brands across sports and fashion worldwide, and is also a partner of footwear brand PRIMURY.

Start the conversation