Graphic Design Online Portfolio

When you're just starting your graphic design career, putting together an impressive portfolio can feel like a huge undertaking. But with enough preparation and the right tools, you can build a killer portfolio that'll land you a job in no time.

Whether you're gunning for a job at a reputable design studio or starting a career as a freelance graphic designer, you need to put together an impressive designer’s website. More than just a virtual calling card, a portfolio website is a place to showcase your best design work, reveal your style and versatility, and establish your legitimacy to potential clients and collaborators all around the world.

But for any novice graphic designer, designing a portfolio website can seem daunting. Between racking up enough portfolio-worthy projects, choosing among your top designs, and setting up your website, completing an online design portfolio isn't exactly a walk in the park.

Thankfully, we're here to help! Here's a comprehensive guide to building an impressive design portfolio, from what to put in your portfolio gallery to examples of some of the best design portfolios on Format.

The Best Graphic Design Portfolios

So what makes a great design portfolio? The best graphic design portfolios are the ones that can get these three things right:

Filter your best work. The sole purpose of building a portfolio website is to show off who you are as a graphic designer. There are thousands of designers around the world, so your website should feature work that sets you apart from everyone else. This doesn't mean stuffing your website with every single thing you've done in the past—quite the contrary. Choose work that you're proud of, that displays your strengths, and is indicative of your unique style, interests, or values as a designer.

Don't forget to mix things up too. While a portfolio website is all about quality over quantity, you need to make sure your portfolio is diverse too. A design studio is more likely to hire an artist who is capable of working across different styles and media, so if possible, try to include things done for branding and visual identity, advertising, illustrations, publications, and package design. Plus points for designers who have UI and motion graphics work too!

Harness the power of storytelling. Not all clients understand how much work a designer puts into every project. Putting context to your designs through case studies lets people in on your creative process, as well as your ability to understand what your clients need for their business.

A personalized, story-driven narrative is much more compelling than a flat description of your work. Talk about your role in the project, the client's goals and your process for achieving those goals. One thing many designers tend to leave out of their case studies is the result of their work—the client's reaction and the effect of the work on their business. This gives potential clients hard evidence that you are an effective designer!

Invest in a professional website. If you're a web designer with coding experience, now is the time to put your web design skills to the test and build a website from scratch. This will prove as the ultimate portfolio entry. However, if coding isn't your strong suit, you can always rely on site builders like Format!

Regardless, it's important to keep your website current and well-maintained. Choose a theme that goes well with your style and projects, and keep the design clean, minimal, and easy to navigate. And remember, nothing says professional like your own domain.

How to Make a Graphic Design Portfolio

Now that you know what the best graphic design portfolios are made of, let's go over the step-by-step process of building one.

  1. Choose a theme that complements your work. If you're building a portfolio on a website like Format, the first step you have to take is to choose a theme. Your theme will dictate the overall layout of your portfolio website, so be sure to choose one that allows you to display your work and talk about your creative process all in one go. Choose wisely, but don't stress over it too much—you can always change or customize things later on!

  2. Curate your portfolio. Here's where you take all our advice on filtering your best work and apply it. If you're still unsure or don't have enough photos just yet, Format lets you start with just 10 photos to get your site off the ground. You can distill your photos into galleries, which can be organized by client, project, or medium.

  3. Create an easily navigable menu. The menu is what helps site visitors find their way around your website. With a hard-to-find or confusing menu, visitors can easily become frustrated with your website and choose to leave before finding anything useful! You'll want your menu to tell visitors how to find important things like your top-rated projects and your contact information.

  4. Design your website. When designing a website, you should always have your brand in mind, from the color palette down to the font styles. Format's website builder allows you to customize your site to your heart's content using the "Design" tab. Here, you can change your theme, customize your color palette, and choose which fonts to use. On top of this, you can add a custom logo, as well as change your headlines and footers.

  5. Introduce yourself. Every portfolio website needs an "About" page. This is where you talk about who you are as a designer, detailing your expertise, years of experience, and professional passions. This is also where you can talk about or link to professional accomplishments, such as awards, published work, and press. Throw in a headshot too to put a face to your name. Lastly, don't forget to include contact information!

  6. Extra steps. With Format, there are a few extra tools at your disposal that can elevate your site. For one, the "Social" tab lets you add up to five professional social media accounts to icons on your page. You can also optimize your website for better search results, create a custom map to your business, and even set up an online store!

Ideas for Graphic Design Portfolio Projects

For students and fresh graduates, putting together a design portfolio is extra challenging, considering they haven't had too many opportunities to score real projects yet. Here are some ideas for design portfolio projects.

Don't be afraid to use school projects. Typically, clients and studios don't look past school projects from fresh grads. Use your portfolio as motivation to really excel in your projects and come up with something worthy of showcasing to future clients. The same goes for projects done at internships or volunteer programs.

Offer to help friends and family. It's more than likely that you have at least one friend or relative whose business needs a designer's eye. Approach them and offer to revamp their branding, ramp up their social media presence, or redesign their packaging.

Design conceptual work. If you have aspirations of being an art director one day, now is the time to practice. Find a brand you love and give it a branding overhaul or make a mock product design for them. If done right, this can show clients that you have the capabilities to give old brands a fresh perspective and will still respect its brand identity.

Graphic Design Portfolio Tips

Here are three things to always keep in mind when designing a portfolio.

Don't be afraid to show your personality. Clients and studios are probably tired of seeing the same old restrained, minimalist portfolio. When you inject bits of your style and humor into your online portfolio, it makes you a hundred times more interesting than your competitors. Details matter, so look at how you can change things up even with little things like your sidebar, logo, and website title.

While you're at it, get personal. Even though you're designing a professional portfolio, you can take a risk and include one or two personal projects that are deeply meaningful to you. This shows clients what you're interested in, what you value, and how much effort you put into things you're passionate about.

Welcome feedback. No man is an island, they say. While you may be happy with your portfolio, an extra pair of eyes can really help you pinpoint problem areas. Consult with designers and non-designers alike for a well-rounded outsider's perspective on your website.

Graphic Design Portfolio FAQs

All your most frequently asked questions about building a design portfolio, answered.

Start Building Your Portfolio

When it comes down to it, building a remarkable design portfolio is really just about knowing who you are and what you stand for. Once you hone in on your style and personality, curating a killer collection is second nature. Of course, you can't let these things shine if you don't invest in the right tools too—especially a sleek and intuitive website where you can display your portfolio for the world to see.

With Format, you can create a design portfolio in six easy steps. With dozens of customizable themes to choose from, you can easily build a site that does justice to you and your works. Try Format’s free portfolio builder for 14 days, then upgrade to a plan for as low as $7 a month. 

Get Started Today. Create My Portfolio.