How long is too long?

Hi Everyone,

A few years ago I updated my portfolio and it ended up being around 30 pages long. It included product photography, sketches, renderings, CAD, orthographic drawings etc. I think it ended up being a good sampling of all of my skills. This portfolio was successful in landing me a job and then another offer a few years later.

I have decided that I am now going to refresh my portfolio again, to update it with the my most current work but I find that when I begin to lay it out I am ending up around 50 pages this time. My portfolio is broken out in to product categories and most of the projects are shown in a short form, between 1-3 pages, with just a few specific projects I want to highlight that maybe extend to 5-6 pages. I feel the way that I have set it up leads it to be easy and quick to view but I am worried that 50 page portfolio may come across unfocused.

Are there any thoughts about the benefits or negatives on the length of a portfolio?


Doesn’t matter to me. I can always stop looking.

Is this the portfolio you are sending ahead of time or presenting?

That’s a key difference. Other aspects to keep in mind for send-ahead portfolios is file size. Call me old school, but when I receive a PDF that’s 25MB a part of me gets peeved. If I happen to be on a slow connection images are going to take a long time to load. Worst-case is something like <10 pages and its still 20+ MB which tells me you don’t know how to use Adobe CC products adequately. There’s a mix of file size and image resolution that is generally acceptable but that takes experimenting to determine.

To me, over 40 pages starts to get long. I just took a quick look at several years of portfolios I have stored, and of the books over 40 pages, there’s a distinct need for editing that could compress them to <40 pages. However by analogy if a novel is particularly engrossing I will read 1000 pages; likewise if you can keep something moving for 50+ pages then do it.

Another consideration is time in presenting. Please consider your audience when speaking in person. Attention will drop off after 30 minutes if not sooner. If your book/presentation is 30 slides you get a minute per slide. I’ve found once you get talking you can eat up a minute real fast. Some slides will be quick to cover, some will need perusing.

Totally dependent on the person looking at your portfolio / what context they’re looking at it, but I think being thorough is better than cutting away information that might be essential to a client in a portfolio. I use an online portfolio for any inquiries and a nice printed 40-50 page portfolio to talk through any in person interviews. I’ll add a bit of generic skill work at the end that I can skip to if they just want to see sketching quality, modeling, etc.

In my experience the best portfolios are very compact and used as visual aids to a presentation - that is, you, presenting yourself to the employer. I would aim for showing a maximum of 8 projects and 3 pages each with the most important highlights. The employer will enjoy it much more to hear the story from you. Then file size and photo size+quality are very important aspects too. Anything over 10Mb already gets rejected by some mail servers.

I would advise going much shorter for portfolios you’re sending with your job application. With that said, by having multiple projects layed out, you can quickly tailor your application portfolio to the employer. I would also avoid segmenting by product category and start out with strong projects that are relevant to the employer and then work your way through projects that show that you’re competent, well rounded and a good fit for them.

From the few times I’ve been involved in a hiring process, I noticed most people were first looking at assessing the candidate’s talent and relevance. Then for the candidates that past a certain threshold, they were looking at reasons not to hire the different candidates.

For that reason, I’d avoid putting anything you can’t stand behind 100% in your application portfolio. You could print some of those less relevant projects and keep them as aces up your sleeve for the in person interview. Since you’re having a conversation, you can give sufficient context for those projects to be seen as a positive.

Lastly, I noticed you mentioning ortho drawings. I would avoid putting these in an ID portfolio other than for specific reasons like architectural scale projects which are a lot easier to understand in ortho or if you particularly enjoy doing them. You may get pinned doing more of them, which I don’t think many designers enjoy. Or you may get someone that actually knows technical drawings ripping your drawings to shred. (This is assuming like most young designers you don’t actually really know how to layout a technical drawing.)