When you work in product design, a portfolio is just as important as a CV. Use this guide to prepare a portfolio that shows off your best work.

Types of portfolios

Application portfolio

Your application portfolio is the one you use to apply for a role. It should:

  • Be short, sharp and to the point
  • If possible, be tailored to each job application with relevant examples linked to the employer or the role you're applying for
  • Include no more than 10 product design examples – however, ensure you showcase your full range of skills and show adaptability
  • Be extremely visual

Full product design portfolio

Your full product design portfolio is the one you'll show to hiring managers or recruiters at your interview. It should:

  • Show your newest and best work first
  • Show the breadth of your work and skills
  • Focus on quality over quantity

Digital full product design portfolio

Creating a digital version of your full design portfolio could make the difference to your job search. It reduces cost to you and allows for easy tweaking and updating. This is an important promotional tool for the creative industries.

Your digital portfolio should include:

  • Your contact details
  • A section about you and a summary of your experience – this section is similar to the profile section on a CV so include your unique selling points
  • A portfolio of your work – use this section to present a selection of your work
  • A list of your skills, services and what you have to offer (this could also go in the about section)

Aesthetic considerations

Design and layout

The design and layout you choose for your portfolio will provide an indication of your creative skills. Make sure your portfolio has a consistent layout and a design background that isn’t distracting.

Quality binding

For a physical portfolio, invest in a high quality binding and cover that will last, usually A3 or A4 size. Work should be clearly laid out and easy to look through. This gives a good indication of your creative abilities and organisational skills.

Quality photography

Show 2 or 3 photographs of your 3D work, models and finished designs if pieces are too large to carry. Use clear professional photos and/or high quality renders.

Image compression

Size matters, ensure digital file sizes are compressed to reduce access issues when emailing. Follow employer guidelines about file size.

Showcasing your work

When designing your portfolio, make sure to showcase:

  • Core skills you have for the role – clarify the premise and show how you can communicate and respond to actual briefs
  • Software skills using work created via 2D or 3D CAD such as Photoshop, SketchBook Pro or SolidWorks
  • Drawing skills demonstrated through observational and concept design sketches highlighting perspective, form, surface and detail
  • An ability to develop concepts through experimentation – show how you research and illustrate the journey including things like mood boards, colour palettes, sketches and renderings
  • Written elements such as project titles and concise descriptions of your work – writing is an essential tool for designers to develop critical and communication skills

Final tips

Technical skills and professional background will be evident from your CV. The portfolio allows employers to access your innovative output.

Make sure to talk through and evidence the process for each design, including the brief, process and the creative and commercial outcomes. This demonstrates the value you can add to the role you are being considered for. Employers are also looking for passion, innovative thinking and creative problem solving when assessing your projects.

Useful links

  • Adobe InDesign – industry-leading layout and page design software for print and digital media, an essential tool allowing users to quickly share content and feedback
  • Wired Sussex Blog: What makes a great portfolio - Tips and advice from a panel of design experts
  • 99u by Adobe – a beginners guide to appealing to clients with your portfolio
  • Instagram – a good source to connect with a large community of designers
  • Dribbble – a community of designers, offering the opportunity to search for and showcase design work
  • Behance – a site allowing you to showcase and discover the latest work from top online portfolios by creative professionals across industries