What do the Professionals look for?

From a Student to employeers or designers within the industry, what do you look for in a layout for a portfolio?

This would be a printed portfolio (or PDF) not an online one.

Simplicity of layout? Process? Research? or just final?

Complex personal layout?

I would like to get anyones advice or input on what the professionals within the industry look for in a portfolio, not just content but in a layout as well


If you want good examples, just look at design book layout–they’re trying to do the same thing: show off great work. The typical formula is to use small humanist sans-serif type on a grid structure, with photograph(s) telling the story.

Process is the most important thing. I want to understand the goal of the project and how you solved the problem.

11x17 or 8.5x11?

Letter is too small, but in this digital age, you can be sure everyone has it.

Treat your portfolio like you would any design project.What is YOUR goal? What is YOUR brand? What are YOUR skills? It’s important that your portfolio is an appropriate representation of you and your skills.

I look at, does this person have the basic skills? a range of sketches from ideation to tha hotness, nice presentation renderings, quick mockups, an apparent understanding of 3D CAD, not necessarily a particular program, etc. Show your thought process.

I wouldn’t overkill the research. If you really get off on that stuff, bind it separately and have it in your bag, otherwise a nice 1-2 page summary of the research is sufficient for most projects. If you have awesome graphic design skills, show it by applying that to your portfolio instead of sticking a “2D work” section at the end of your ID portfolio. If you don’t have those skills, mediocre layouts, fonts, colors, do more harm than good: keep it simple.

Last, hackneyed, but true: when in doubt leave it out: quality over quantity.

im sure you’ve searched all the other portfolio crits and reviews here so i’ll try to keep in brief-

  1. presentation. overall look and feel, and your personal branding as mentioned.if you are not a graphic designers, or have the skills, don’t go overboard and let the layout overpower the work. at the same time, good graphics and design certainly do help. It should also go without saying that spelling mistakes, grammar and the like are also important.

  2. skills. your portfolio should be focused on what you CAN do, not what you HAVE done. That is, showing process, raw skills and potential is the key. only pics of final products = fail.

  3. Thinking. Not necessarily pages and pages of text, but again, focused on your thinking process, problem solving approaches and consideration of all the different factors that come into play in any product design (ie. manufacturing, costs, human factors, marketing, etc.)

  4. Targeted to the job you want. if you are going for an industry specific job (ie. footwear, housewares, etc.), be sure to have appropriate work in there. It also helps to rework your portfolio to fit all the points in any job posting. If they mention quick sketching skills as a requirement, make sure you have some, and even label it as such. Treating the job description as a checklist is a good idea and if you can arrange your portfolio in such a way to reformat for each job appropriately, even better.

  5. Leave something for the interview/follow-up. Don’t put EVERYTHING in the portfolio, but yet approach it as the first step in the job process. Often, if they have reviewed your portfolio and are interested they will ask you for more work, or content of a particular project, so be ready. being able to come up with more depth for any project or talk around a portfolio page is something to consider and often overlooked.

as well, as has been said, Quality over Quality is indeed true, esp. for someone with not so much experience. Consider that every page should have a focus, be interesting, and almost enough to stand on its own giving a god impression of your skills and experience.


Awesome posts and advice so far, thank you guys.

This is just what I have been looking for, I have searched countless forums and have not really found the answer until now after finally posting what I wanted to know…

Thanks again, and anyone else who wants to chime in that would be great.

For people with some Graphic Design talent do you think they should utilize that skill or breifly touch on it?

The quality over Quantity was great advice, Thanks guys…

We have a portfolio review this weekend and I plan on showing maybe 3-4 things which is why I needed to know some of this



Again any more insight or advice would be great.

IF you have the skills, show it. But be prepared to be compared to trained GDers and don’t put it in if it shouldn’t be.


What do you guys think of putting your whole portfolio (pdf) on your own personal website and the PDF/teaser you send out to companies including the web address at the end?

… I’ve seen respectable, professional designers do this, but I’ve always been told not to show everything. Bear in mind I’m asking this as a student, I’m looking at internships abroad, so a lot of the time unless the company is in my country a interview wouldn’t happen… What do you guys think?

Thats a fine and typical strategy nowadays. If you’re sending out a teaser expect employers to only take a quick glance at a few projects. Expect them not to know ANYTHING about the project, and your goal is to make them WANT to know more about it. You want to show your best work, whether it be final renderings, some awesome sketches, or 100 models laid out on your desk.

If they’re interested, they’ll contact you or visit your site.

I want to see:

Variety of interests and ideas
And answers to “Who, What, Why, Where, and How” in at least one project.
Make it memorable. There are a lot of “good” and “solid” portfolios out there. There should be a couple of very memorable images and projects in there… the “oh, he’s the guy with the … in his portfolio”

Thought this was a pretty genius way to show thought process simply:



For my strongest project in my portfolio I have Books if research and process and Have a hard time combining it all down into 5-6 pages without it getting too wordy…

Less words the better right?

Great post