As a creator who has to prove their capability through evidence, a business card or sales pitch won't cut it. You've got to show who you are and what you can do.
The portfolio can totally be a source of anxiety at times, especially when you're starting out, but there's really no need for that!
We can look to fellow designers' portfolios to get inspired by fresh ideas and what's possible for our own careers.
Have you ever spent time browsing famous designers' portfolios? You might have done so while studying graphic design, or maybe you browse now and then when you need a little inspiration.
There are worlds upon worlds of projects, styles, layouts, and niches to explore on the internet. We've listed a few of our favorites below, plus some tips on how to create your portfolio that will really help if you're just starting out, and even if you're a veteran who might just need a breath of fresh 'folio.
Why graphic designers need portfolio websites
Graphic designers need a portfolio to showcase their work in order to gain potential clients or jobs. Your portfolio is an opportunity to share your design experience and give potential leads an idea of what your design style is like.
Designers are highly in demand, and the industry is super competitive, so your online portfolio is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself and show potential clients why they should pick you.
Whether you're a professional or simply a digital artist keen to share your work, an online design portfolio gives you the motivation to express who you are and inspire others.
How to create a graphic design portfolio
With the help of website building software or professional web development, you can create something unique out of your online design portfolio. It's another opportunity to showcase your skills as a creative.
While there's a lot of freedom in what you can do, it's good to follow some best practices for creating a design portfolio. Check out the insights and tips below.
Personal website vs a hosting platform
There are a few options when it comes to building your online portfolio. The most professional way to go is to get a custom domain and host your personal website on a hosting platform. The best hosting platforms for a personal design website are:
There are some great websites dedicated to supporting artists and designers in getting their work out there, connecting with clients, and building community.
While the platforms listed below are pretty customizable, this route is more limiting than building your own website.
Targeted platforms for hosting your design portfolio:
A personal website can really aid your business strategy. It provides the opportunity to broaden into teaching elements like online courses, and marketing elements like a newsletter. You can include personal content creation in the form of a blog on your personal website as well. Your website essentially becomes an online studio representing your business.
Filling up your portfolio
Designers who are just starting out know how difficult it is to get the ball rolling with portfolio designs. It's the chicken before the egg situation: you need a portfolio to get work, but to build a portfolio you need work.
This is the time when you need to take initiative- reach out to small businesses, friends, and family members and see if you can do some work for free or create your own stuff just to share your skills.
You could create an entirely imaginary brand just to use as an example. In fact, this is fantastic practice for improving your craft and experimenting. Having the space to experiment will prepare you to deliver your best work when you are hired. You could even rebrand or create a mock project for a brand that already exists.
If you don't feel like coming up with ideas yourself, there are plenty of design challenges you can find online to get the juices flowing.
Types of graphic design portfolios
The umbrella of graphic design includes many types of design. Some designers choose to focus on one niche, while others work on a variety.
This is really up to you as a designer, where your career takes you, and where you decide to direct it.
Types of graphic design portfolios include:
- Logo design
- Typography/ Lettering
- Editorial Design
- User Experience
- Interface Design
- Packaging Design
- Environmental Design
- Branding and Visual Identity
- Product design
Some designers even opt to have two websites: one for their personal art and one for their professional work.
Practical tips for your online portfolio
For a really stellar, effective design portfolio website, there are a few fundamentals you should include and basic guidelines you can follow to make sure it stands out and communicates everything necessary to keep the gigs rolling in.
We've listed some design portfolio tips below for you.
Make it user-friendly
Let's start with the basics here. You don't want your portfolio to be some kind of Avante Garde labyrinth of obscure artwork. You can create a separate site for that.
Choose a layout that showcases your work with ease and simplicity. When putting it together, you can employ basic UX best practices and put yourself in the perspective of the potential client visiting your profile.
Express your identity
This is an opportunity to express your originality as a designer. Clients are always looking for something unique to bring to their brand or project in this competitive space, so it will serve in your favor if you can show that you have something truly authentic or a signature style to contribute.
Easily accessible contact and social details
Another back to basics tip here, that might seem obvious- but make sure your contact details are easy to find and that you include links to your relevant social media platforms. Linked in, Instagram, and any other places you might share your work will be a good idea. Make sure that the links work, and that you show your social spaces love by keeping them up to date.
Include a bio
Your bio is a good place to share a bit more about what you do and who you are. Potential clients or employers will be more drawn to you in they can feel a connection with who you are. Your bio or about page should include:
- A bit about your work and what motivates you
- A bit about who you are personally and what inspires you
- Why you are unique
- A profile picture
Keep it short and impactful!
Put some love into the wording
While a graphic design portfolio is visually driven, some clever copy here and there will guide the experience of your portfolio website and help bring the visuals to life.
Create case studies
Including case studies that explain your work are an important part of the graphic designer portfolio.
A case study needs to:
- Showcase a project you've completed in full
- Define the "problem" of the brief
- Share the thinking behind your solution
- Describe the design process that led to the end result
Consider your ideal client or job
It will be hugely beneficial to the trajectory of your career to get clear with yourself on the kind of work you'd love to create, the types of people and companies you'd like to work with and the range of clients you'd like to have.
Share your side hustle
Your portfolio is a place for your artistic expression. Yes, it's about getting work and being professional, but most creatives like to create their own personal projects as well. Showcasing your personal art projects will only give anyone who's viewing your portfolio deeper insight into who you are - and hey, you might end up getting more work based on this!
It's a good idea to show some variety in your projects and skills. Choose the best from as diverse a range of projects if you can.
Show your best work
While you want to showcase a variety of work, don't put projects you're not proud of up simply for the sake of variety. Of course, you're not going to feel like every project is perfect and you'll have to have some lesser favorites up in the beginning but be sure to keep updating your site to make sure it's full of only your best work.
The point of your portfolio is to show that you can deliver on a job. Show that you trust yourself through the wording you choose and be confident in the pieces you choose to show.
Take the layout seriously
The layout is pretty much everything. If you have the skills, you can get creative with it, but you want to do your work justice by having it presented simply and cohesively. A layout with a white background or muted colors works best. You can browse lots of layout options in the examples we provide below.
Don't forget the favicon
In case you don't know, the favicon is the little icon on the left-hand side of a browser tab. It's usually represented by the logo of the website. When you don't customize this, it will show up as a placeholder of whatever web builder you're using like WordPress and looks unprofessional.
The favicon is another opportunity to get creative and showcase your skills as a designer with something that represents you. Remember to keep it simple.
Include your awards
If you're an award-winning graphic designer, shout about it (with humility). List the awards you've won on your site and provide details about the projects.
Include your resume
This isn't absolutely necessary, it's really up to you but it's an idea. You might want to provide the option to download a PDF version of your resume. You could include it as a page on the website, too. You'll see some examples below.
Include a call to action
Make sure you're opening up a conversation with any potential or fans clients browsing your site and provide a call to action such as to get in touch with you or sign up to your mailing list.
Consider mobile viewing
When designing your online portfolio, take into consideration that people might be browsing on a mobile device, and that the user flow of your site works for mobile.
Consider a blog
Including your own blog in your portfolio is an opportunity to share your thoughts, expertise and personality. You can position yourself as a thought leader in your field through blog content, improve your discoverability online and give others the chance to feel personally connected with you.
Client testimonials are a very effective way to share your credibility and build trust. It's definitely a good idea to ask clients if they wouldn't mind writing a short testimonial and sharing it on your portfolio website.
Graphic design websites for inspiration
When creating your graphic designer portfolio, like with any project, it helps to start off by getting some inspiration, and taking a little time to really study what's out there.
Once you start putting it together, you might need some extra assets to make it stand out as well. We've listed a few of our favorite websites for design inspiration below.
Color Hunt is an open collection of various color palettes, created by popular designer Gal Shir.
It started as a personal small project to share trendy color combinations between a group of friends.
The platform has scaled over time and is now used daily as a handy resource by thousands of designers all over the world. This is a great place to start when you're coming up with ideas for the look and feel of your portfolio website.
Lapa Ninja is a gallery featuring the best landing page designs from around the web for anything from e-commerce to events to restaurants. You can search landing pages by category, including an entire portfolio category where you can browse other awesome portfolios for inspiration.
Waveguide is a massive design knowledge bank with curated design content and thousands of artificially enriched examples of high-quality product design and brand purposes. It is completely free and covers a wide range from landing pages to app interfaces!
Put simply, SiteInspire is a showcase of the finest web and interactive design. Every day their catalog of eye-catching designs is updated from the several hundred submissions they receive daily. For instance, this is a great place to go when trying to figure out how to get started on a project.
Inspiring graphic design portfolio examples
Part of growing as an artist, and the creative process itself involves looking to others in the community for inspiration and expanding our ideas about what’s possible.
From there, we differentiate ourselves through style and offering according to what's unique and authentic to us.
Check out the portfolios we've listed below for some inspiration!
Wade Jeffree is an art director and designer with a very distinct, quirky style reminiscent of sprawling landscapes from childhood imagination. He describes it as “music to your eyes.”
Jeffree collaborates with Leta Sobierajski, and the two have worked on some amazing projects together from street installations to wallpapers for Google, and VR experiences.
This portfolio is a vibrant burst of color and patterns, balanced out by a simple one-page scroll-down layout.
Front and center when you first land on the page is a very simple bio that simply states who Wade is and who he collaborates with. He provides clear links to social channels immediately.
Each project presented contains a small caption underneath that takes you to a deeper description of the project once clicked on. The user flow works well.
The site also showcases a few projects in a style different from his quirky “music to your eyes" theme, demonstrating variety in his abilities.
Robby Leonardi uses interactive design to make his portfolio website an exciting, gamified experience. This is a great example of interactive design bringing a project to life!
Robby is a freelance designer focused on illustration, design, and animation. He combines design and illustration to specialize in “illustrative design.”
When you land on the website, there are three options to view three separate resumes: an interactive resume, an illustration portfolio, and a design portfolio. Segmenting a portfolio like this makes for simple browsing.
The interactive resume is inspired by the classic Super Mario game, and is a personal project of Robby's in and of itself.
As you scroll down, the character (Super Mario-ified Robby supposedly) passes through each level, communicating a section of information about his skills and personal details.
Once you arrive at the end, you're given the option to send Robby a message via email.
This portfolio is a fantastic example of:
- Taking initiative by creating a personal project
- Maintaining brand consistency through theme and demonstrating a distinct style
- Creating an engaging user experience
- Showcasing personality
Kate Moross is an illustrator, art director, designer and keynote speaker. Their portfolio exemplifies a distinct style coming together in a captivating color theme that you just can't take your eyes off. They draw you into their rainbow-painted world with a collage as soon as you land on the site.
As you scroll down, Kate's projects are laid out in a simple gallery view. Once you click on a cover image, you’re taken to the project page where there is ample visual evidence of their work as well as a short description.
The project descriptions aren’t exactly in-depth case studies but the visual layout is good and worth drawing inspiration from.
The + symbol in the top right corner of the website reveals a menu that breaks down the projects into themed segments, which is a good idea to help guide potential clients towards work within the particular category they might be searching for.
Kate also has a link to their personal shop, which is an awesome revenue stream for designers to have. You might want to think of what you could sell in your own online shop as part of your business strategy as a freelance designer!
Gavin Strange is a director and designer with a rich and diverse spread of work. He is a creative all-rounder with many side projects to be inspired by, from his book to music projects and more!
Gavin’s portfolio is a fantastic example of someone who works for an agency and uses their portfolio as a place to store and share their creative work from both day job and "moonlighting."
This is a place of personal creativity, which has its very own name - “Jam Factory,” which is totally something you can do with your portfolio, as long as all the personal relevant contact details are there and it remains professional.
The landing page of Jam Factory gives a succinct description of who Gavin is, making use of some clever copy and guiding the browser through a story of who he is, where he’s been, what he’s done.
Top tip from this portfolio: Remember to use your words in conjunction with visuals to bring your portfolio to life.
The profile on his portfolio website reads, “Graphic artist Anthony Burrill combines a knack for simplicity that packs a punch with analog craft skills and powerful, positive messages.”
The layout and flow of his website capture the essence of Anthony's work. When you scroll through, each project is presented in a simple gallery view on a white background. The minimalist style of the website helps keep the focus on the work itself.
Once the image is clicked on, a comprehensive written and visual description is provided.
How will you combine the theme, layout and messaging in your portfolio to reflect your design style?
Marioly’s romantic, fairytale-esque website exemplifies both how storytelling and a cohesive theme can be woven into a captivating personal brand, as well as the many business opportunities available through design work.
When you land on the page, you’re presented with a few images that capture the essence of Marioly’s style, which is then encapsulated in a line of copy the reads “finding beauty in the unexpected.”
Following this is a bio that’s just as enchanting as the rest of the site. Her use of wording mirrors the sense of romance in the visual identity of the site.
If you explore some more, you’ll find that Marioly offers online courses and creative mentoring. She sells Lightroom presets and even has a blog on her site too. These are all awesome ideas you might want to integrate into your portfolio for creative expression and business opportunities!
Print and digital designer Brooke Perryman creates a variety of work from logos, book design, packaging, and more.
When you land on her portfolio page, the work is nicely segmented into each category, immediately reflecting her variety of skills and making browsing easy. She has a section for her personal projects, as well as testimonials.
This helps new clients decide that working with you will be a good decision.
Brook also provides the option to download her resume, as a PDF from the website- another great idea!
There is a consistent theme throughout the website, an easy-to-navigate menu and a well-written story style bio that gives a lot of insight into who she is and what she can do.
This is a good portfolio example for anyone with a lot of variety in their work and needing ideas on how to provide all the information on yourself on just one website.
MR Bingo is, according to his website, an “artist, speaker and twat.”
His bio reveals that he was a commercial illustrator for 15 years working with clients such as The New Yorker, The Guardian, TIME, CH4, The Mighty Boosh & The New York Times, however, “An archive of the thousands of illustrations from this period doesn’t exist online because he got bored once in a motorhome and deleted his entire portfolio website.”
This is a good example of a bio that clearly states what you can expect from the artist.
It's a pretty edgy portfolio that positions MR Bingo as an artist who has moved on from the days of his client illustration work, but you'll find that he does in fact link to another site showcasing some client work
This portfolio is a good example of expressing personality and how to distinguish you, the artist, from you the professional designer.
This portfolio is hosted on Behance. Going the Behance route definitely isn’t a bad choice. Plenty of designers rely on this platform as their online portfolio space.
As we mentioned earlier, Behance has plenty of tools to help you create a unique and informative graphic design portfolio.
Julie Bonnemoy’s Behance portfolio is a great example of using storytelling to guide and enhance the experience. When you land on her page, an enticing line of copy reads “Hello stranger, it’s ok, you can scroll down.”
Once you scroll, she introduces herself, followed by each piece of work. She ends off at the bottom with a gentle but clear call to action.
There is a menu at the top right giving further information on her projects (showing beautifully laid out case studies), and an “about me” section with contact details.
The site is brought to life by motion effects throughout- a really nice touch!
Another awesome Behance portfolio! This is an example of how the platform can successfully be used in its most simplistic form, allowing the work to speak for itself.
This is a good example of a simple portfolio from a younger designer hosted on Crevado.
Tiffany provides a nice bio right on the landing page and showcases her variety of work well. From UX/ UI design to marketing, personal art, and logo, this is a good portfolio to get some guidance from if you're just starting yours up and if you're curious about what you can do with Crevado.
Tobias Van Schneider is a designer "working at the intersection of digital product design and graphic design."
Van Schneider has worked with some seriously big brands, so his portfolio is a good place for any graphic designer to get inspiration. He's a co-founder, a creative director, and a partner. He even did a stint as art director for Spotify.
The projects in this portfolio are presented in an easy one-page scroll-down layout. The visuals for each project are uploaded as a slider banner that can be scrolled through sideways, with project write-ups underneath each.
What's really cool about Van Schneider's website is the option to sign up for his newsletter. Van Schneider's newsletter has an audience of 30 000+ and is totally worth signing up to for industry-related insights.
You'll see that there are a bunch of testimonials about the newsletter. You might want to consider including testimonials and reviews about your work in your online portfolio, too. User-generated content that boosts your credibility is ultra-valuable!
It's not a bad idea to think about an email marketing strategy and having a little newsletter sign up on your portfolio site.
Pawel Nolbert is "a visual artist and image-maker. He explores color, expression & visual languages."
Nolbert's portfolio is a good place to get inspiration if you're a graphic designer who wishes to stay true to who you are as a visual artist and make your mark on brands with a signature style.
Nolbert's vibrant designs speak loudly against the clean design of the website.
Peter is a branding and identity designer, illustrator, and awesome logo creator. His portfolio website is very simple. The landing page displays a collection of logos, which helps the viewer identify his niche and style quickly.
His bio section includes a picture, which is an idea you might want to implement in your portfolio too, as it helps the browser connect with you as a person.
This online portfolio is an awesome place for any designer to find inspiration! Goodman is an illustrator, muralist, environmental designer, through-and-through artist with an awesome personal brand that communicates positive messaging.
When landing on the site, you're greeted with a lively, interactive illustration.
If you explore further, you'll find all kinds of awesome ideas for how to present your projects and possibly turn your design work into a personal brand. Have a browse around and check out his shop!
This portfolio is pretty awesome. Go play around with the interactive photograph on the landing page and see for yourself!
This is a combined portfolio site for "agency directors turned hand-on designers" Anton Repponen and Irene Pereyra.
Many designers collaborate by creating duos and collectives, so having a site together with your partners will increase your reach and chances of getting work.
There are wonderful examples of case studies on this website, so if you're looking for some comprehensive case study guidance, check it out.
Businesses + brands with websites to inspire you
To get an even more comprehensive understanding of design portfolio websites, it's worth having a browse through some agency and design studio websites, too.
They always do a great job of combining clever copy, exemplary web design and flawless branding.
These are our three favorite design firm websites:
1. Pentagram - Clean, classy, comprehensive.
2. The Chase- five-star landing page.
3. nclud- Seductive design
Professional case study examples
Whether it's for visual design, brand identity, 3D interaction, UX, environmental design, or any other kind of design, including comprehensive case studies about your projects is often the most dreaded and boring part, but totally important.
You'll notice that some designers get away with minimal case study information in their portfolios, but the more detail you can give regarding your design process and how you solve problems, the better.
Check out the case studies below for some guidance:
Online communities for graphic design
Whether you're a design student or have been in the game for decades, every creative needs a place to connect and engage with a like-minded community.
Check out these graphic design communities if you're looking for an online space to connect and share your work:
GDF is one of the oldest and biggest graphic design forums around with over 20k members. The community is very active, significantly large and consists of a variety of general categories that can help you with whatever it is that’s bothering you.
Designer Hangout is a dedicated, invite-only network of UX designers and researchers who discuss trends, give advice, share stories, uncover insights, and even connect in-person. If you’re into UX, you need to join.
This is a popular community graphic design website where you can find answers to your questions and discussions quickly. The community is long running with membership in the thousands and constant new posts regarding trends and updates. In addition, the forum is split into useful sub-sections, so you can discuss design, get development help for any web programming language, or find what you need.
Building and maintaining your designer portfolio is an exciting, ongoing endeavor. The more love and attention you give it, the more work you'll get and more likely you are to get work that's aligned with what you truly want- which is why we're in this game to start with, right?
Keep it up to date, stay inspired and use it to branch out on your revenue streams. And don't forget to check out Linearity Curve (formerly Vectornator) if you're a graphic designer who might be interested in checking out some new Vector Graphic software- it's free and simple to use!
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Ben is a Content Lead for Linearity living in Berlin. His hobbies include board games, cooking, reading, and writing.