Whether you’re a college student looking to land your first job or a seasoned designer looking to land your dream job, your design portfolio is the single most important piece of work you have. Constructing an effective design portfolio requires much more than a great aesthetic. You also need to have the professional vision to understand what employers want to see, as well as understanding what kinds of employers you want to attract.
On our podcast, Obsessed With Design, we interviewed an Italian designer named Gianluca Gimini. Gianluca recently published a project on Behance that took the Internet by storm. It’s called Velocipedia and it has been featured on Wired, Fast Company, and even hit the front page of Reddit. During our interview, he offered some great advice for designers on how to construct a design portfolio that will make the right employers flock to you. Here are Gianluca’s three pieces of advice for building your design portfolio:
Velocipedia was a personal passion project, and it lit the Internet on fire. Thanks to that project, Gianluca has been presented some of the biggest publicity and opportunities of his career. None of that would have happened, however, if he didn’t have the courage to complete a personal project that had no chance of monetization.
“Personal projects can become client work or can spark client work,” Gianluca told us. “I’m seeing this with Velocipedia. I have gotten some requests for similar projects to work on as a creative director.”
These personal projects may largely go unnoticed, and they may require a lot of work, but they’re a great way to hone your craft and build a portfolio of the right kind of work that inspires you and, hopefully, inspires your future boss.
Next, Gianluca emphasizes the importance of going after the right side projects. Most freelance opportunities are demanding and low-paying. It’s hard to get around that fact. That said, if you’re constantly going after the side project with the highest price tag, even if it’s not the work you want to do, you risk painting yourself into a corner.
“Keep in mind what you loved doing and limit your selection for your portfolio to the works that you both liked how they turned out and that you’d like to do more of,”
- Gianluca Gimini
If you don’t enjoy the side project, you should avoid doing it. The more you work on a certain type of project, the more potential clients will view you as “that” designer. If you hate doing 3-D renderings, but you found a high-paying freelance opportunity doing them, you become that client’s “3-D person.” Next thing you know, that’s all that you’re offered.
Finally, Gianluca believes that your portfolio should be limited to work that you actually enjoy doing. Most people reserve portfolio slots for their most impressive work. While this may help you land a job, it’s not likely to land you the best job. Instead, Gianluca likes to focus his portfolio on the intersection of the work he loves, the work he loved doing, and the work that other people like.
By focusing on the work you enjoy the most, you can both attract the right types of clients and employers and dissuade the wrong types of clients and employers from calling you. While this requires short-term sacrifice, it’s a great solution to the long-term problem of finding the right opportunities.
For the full interview, head over to iTunes. There, you can listen, subscribe, and leave a review!