Tips for Creating an Impressive Graphic Design Portfolio

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how to create a graphic design portfolio to present to prospective employers and admissions officials that showcases your skills as a graphic designer.

[Featured image] A graphic designer is working on their portfolio on a laptop.

A graphic design portfolio highlights your best and most relevant material from school or work, depending on your career stage. A compelling graphic design portfolio can help you stand out from the competition when applying to jobs, projects, or colleges, and is an important resource for making a good impression on potential employers or admission officers.

What are graphic design portfolios?

A graphic design portfolio is a collection of a graphic designer’s best work to show prospective clients, employers, or college admission representatives. Portfolios should include a concisely written introduction that provides brief context on the designer and included material. 

Some portfolios highlight three to five samples as case studies. This approach allows designers to provide more details about how they approached the projects from start to finish. Testimonials from clients or teachers can offer insight into their experiences working with you.

Uses for graphic design portfolios

There are a number of ways you can use your graphic design portfolio to achieve career or personal goals:

  • Show employers and potential clients your best work.

  • Document the impact of your designs, such as increased social media engagement or brand awareness.

  • Express your personality, passions, and vision.

  • Explore your creative potential.

  • Demonstrate your versatility and range of abilities as a designer.

  • Keep track of the projects you complete.

  • Note skill gaps and ways to build in-demand skills.


What types of work should go in a portfolio?

A thorough graphic design portfolio includes the following components:

  • Samples of your work that span multiple styles, media, and use cases. These might include motion graphics, original illustrations, animations, product design, web and UX design, ad campaign and social media assets, storyboards, brand identity assets, and designs for print.

  • Case studies that show your work process, start to finish. Outline each project's objectives, the design approaches you took, and the results.

Use a program like Keynote to illustrate a project from brainstorming to completion, including mood boards and inspiration from other designers, examples of color schemes, textures, patterns, typography, and other design elements, and more.


  • Examples of how you excel in different aspects of design, including imagery, typography, and 3D modeling.


  • Pictures of physical products or print materials that you designed.

  • Testimonials and recommendations from past employers and clients.

  • Samples of your passion projects.

  • Links to your LinkedIn and other social media accounts.

  • A professional bio or "About me" page.

How many pieces of work should go in a graphic design portfolio?

A successful portfolio might contain up to 20 pieces of your best work, provided that the display doesn't overwhelm or confuse your viewer. Keep in mind that as your gain experience in graphic design and complete more projects, you'll need to update your portfolio to highlight new abilities and styles.

School admissions: If you're building a portfolio to submit for college applications, follow the school’s guidelines. The school may give you a page limit, among other requirements. You may wonder what to include if you’re a recent graduate with no client experience. You can add work from school, create mock-ups and personal projects, and participate in design challenges. 


Ways to organize your portfolio include:

  • Chronological order to show how your skills have grown over time.

  • Categories to highlight multiple strengths.

  • Themes to demonstrate how diverse interests work well together.

Job interviews: Content may be more important than page count for a job interview. Your portfolio should reflect your career goals and the type of company you’d like to work for. Portfolios help tell prospective employers your unique story. You should adjust it with each new job you apply for.



How to build your graphic design portfolio

Follow these steps to build an adaptable, versatile portfolio to achieve your graphic design goals:

1. Select a platform.

Using website builder or platform to build an online portfolio can make it easy for anyone to navigate your graphic design work and learn more about you. Popular platforms include:

Site-building platforms like these offer numerous templates and layouts to choose from, the ability to customize your domain, and responsive web design capabilities.

Pro tip:

Be sure to use high-resolution images throughout your graphic design portfolio.


2. Curate your portfolio.

Knowing your audience can help you decide what to include to create a cohesive and organized portfolio that represents your goals and personality. Here are examples to draw from:

  • Applying for a job as a brand designer might mean including more logos, typography, and social media assets.

  • Applying for a job with a publisher might mean showcasing your experience designing ebooks or documents for print.

  • Specializing in animation design might entail showcasing a storyboard and motion graphics for a video game, brand animation, or cartoon you've worked on.

Include pictures of yourself, your "About me" or professional bio content, and other relevant images for the portfolio.

3. Write descriptions and case studies for your work.

Written descriptions are essential elements of a graphic design portfolio, in that they help viewers understand your design process and the use cases for your work. Make sure the text is concise and free of errors.

4. Fine tune your portfolio.

Before publishing your portfolio, fine tune its layout, design, and overall look and feel. You can get inspiration by viewing others' graphic design portfolios on Canva, Instagram, or Pinterest. 

Build graphic design skills with Coursera

A portfolio is your calling card for potential opportunities. Taking online courses can be a great way to build job-ready graphic design skills and complete projects you can include in your portfolio. Take the Graphic Design Specialization, a six-month program offered by CalArts on Coursera, which includes creating a capstone project to showcase in your portfolio.  

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