How to make a creative portfolio

Freddie Parker on 26 May 2023
Hand pointing to ink illustrations in a creative portfolio

If you’re about to graduate in something like art, design or media, have you thought about how you’ll show off your creative work?

Creative industries are highly competitive, and often take on people from different educational backgrounds. With our guide to creating a portfolio and our top tips for writing your CV, you’ll smash the application.

How do you build a creative portfolio?

Arguably the most important step when applying for a creative job, you should spend a good amount of time preparing your portfolio. It may even be worth thinking about before you actually start applying. 

  1. Pick your best work.
  2. Think about the order.
  3. Design it well.
  4. Include briefs/explanations.
  5. Adapt it to the company/role.

What do you include in a creative portfolio?

You don’t need to include every project you’ve ever worked on. Ideally, it’s a collection of 5-7 of your best works. Each one should demonstrate another facet of your skillset, interests or style. Whole projects are typically better than pages of random logo designs and album graphics for your mates’ bands.

You may not have enough paid work under your belt. So passion projects are worth including as well as your uni projects, especially if they demonstrate something your uni work doesn’t. Just make sure to include some info about the process of making it.

Which order should you display your work in?

The primacy and recency effect states that people will remember the first and last of something the most. Make sure your best work sits at the beginning and end of your portfolio. You want potential employers to remember the best of you.

Showcasing your work should be eye-catching

Treat the portfolio itself like a design project. Be conscious of the colour scheme, fonts and layout. It’s another sneaky opportunity to show off your eye for design and the knowledge you’ve gained over the last few years. Even the best work will be swamped by boring layouts.

Combine this with the previous point and think about the UX of the portfolio. Does it flow well? Does the order make sense? It doesn’t necessarily need to be given in chronological order, but it should be telling the story of your creative process.

Equally, the design shouldn’t get in the way of the purpose. Your creative portfolio just exists as a review of your best work so far. Maybe not the best time for your maximalist tendencies to come out.

Include the brief and your thought processes

This doesn’t mean the whole dense 4-page brief. Look at the overview of any briefs you received. Build a small paragraph or set of bullet points explaining what was asked of you. Employers will want to see how you interpret a brief.

For passion projects, speak about your inspiration alongside your reasons for choosing the medium/material/software you used. Again, this doesn’t need to be an essay about the history of your art style, just an indication that you can rationalise your decisions.

Adapt it to the company

It’s super important to think about where this portfolio is going. Is the company hyper corporate or young and edgy? What kind of role are you applying for? Those hiring a book design role won’t care so much about your video editing skills. A photography role won’t care as much about the font you made for your typography module.

The works you highlight at the beginning or end should be a balance of what you think is your best and whatever is more relevant to the role.

Dos & don’ts

  • DO show your designs in-situ where possible.
  • DO make sure your CV design matches your portfolio.
  • DO create two versions. One small to go with application, the other larger for interviews.
  • DO show off your style and personality.


  • DON’T lie about your contribution to the project. Teamwork is a sought after skill.
  • DON’T make it landscape. Most of the time it’ll be viewed on a laptop.
  • DON’T have a huge file.
  • DON’T overload each page.


Have you got your portfolio ready? Follow us on social media and let us know.

Freddie Parker
Freddie Parker on 26 May 2023