Presenting Your Work as a Designer

7 minute read

When putting together their portfolio students, like myself, often find trouble presenting their work. After learning some of the ropes and working on countless portfolio websites that I keep scrapping halfway through I decided to come up with a few ways to present your work that can’t go wrong. In this article I’ll be going through different aspects of sharing your work as a designer.

Web Platforms

Personal Website

A personal website is typically the first choice for a portfolio because of the sheer amount of control the designer has over how their body of work, contact information and experience is presented. I suggest grabbing YourName.com if you are working on your owns however there are many options out their for domain names. Also here’s an obligatory shameless plug to my personal portfolio website: https://sirajchokshi.com.

Self-Hosted Solution — For the more technically inclined a self-hosted website solution is the best way to go if you can afford the time. There are a few steps when selecting this option. You would need a web host and domain as well as some knowledge of hosting your own websites. From here you can use different frameworks like Bootstrap, Skeleton or a CMS like Wordpress or even create a website from scratch.

The customization features in Squarespace’s EditorThe customization features in Squarespace’s Editor

WYSIWYG/Template Site — There is absolutely no shame in using a pre-made website or one made in an editor. No reasonable employer expects photographers, graphic designers and branding consultants to be proficient in HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Let’s go through a few of the most popular portfolio sites, some free and some paid:

  1. Squarespace — By far the most popular template based website, Squarespace will run you at least $12/mo. Squarespace offers a large amount of themes for anyone who is running an e-commerce business to a blogger to a designer looking to showcase his or her work. Squarespace can be more expensive, but it is consistent and very reliable.

  2. Carbonmade —This option hosts websites starting at $6 a month and boasts some of the best themes and customization of a template based website creator. An advantage to this platform is that it was made for portfolios and creators to show off their work. While they may not a have too many themes making one unique can be done in a short amount of time with little effort which cannot be said for other option. Additionally the team behind Carbonmade seem to be very personable and likable because of their more laidback demeanor while also being able to deliver a professional looking portfolio website.

  3. imXPRS —Another solid option for website creation is XPRS made by the folks over at ImCreator. There are many customizable templates to play with and they have a webmail client as well with up to 10 addresses on the premium plan. Said plan is regularly $9.95/mo with the price reducing when purchasing in greater intervals of time. While XPRS is not targeted towards artists, creatives or designers it certainly works very well because of how much customization can be applied to your site.

  4. Cargo — The ‘Cargo Collective’ editor is a more obscure one and has a price of $13/mo. While this choice may not be as popular as many others it really focuses on creators; whether you are a photographer, fashion, graphic or industrial designer you can make a home on the Cargo Collective. Cargo Collective has a lot of themes which are open source to create and edit. They also allow HTML and CSS editing, but their own designs are often very minimalist.

  5. Wix — Last, but not least, is Wix. While not at all targeted towards designers or creatives has been at the forefront of the template and so-easy-anyone-could-do-it website designing market. This service, while may not the best for this use case, is certainly a solid choice which you should be happy with.

Other Kinds of Portfolio Sites

  1. Dribbble — This platform, unlike the others, is arguably very limiting and should mostly be used to share with others rather than as a portfolio showcase. Dribbble prides itself on being well curated by its own community because it is an invite-only platform. I would not personally recommend this as a great portfolio website, but Dribbble certainly hosts one of the best design communities on the internet. Even if you are not using this as your main portfolio website it is great to have a Dribbble account to interact with the design community. [Example](https://dribbble.com/sirajchokshi)

  2. Behance — Adobe’s first contender, like Dribbble, has social media function built in with likes, tags and comments. What makes it different however is that anyone with an Adobe account can post for free. Behance also allows you to add work experience, many high resolution images and social media links. Also like Dribbble, having a Behance profile can’t hurt even if it is not your main means of sharing your work. [Example](https://www.behance.net/sirajchokshi)

  3. Adobe Portfolio — Adobe’s second product comes free with any Creative Cloud subscription, but offers only minimal customization and modification to a select few base themes. This option works best for an inexpensive (you can’t beat free!) add-on to the already expensive Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. If you already have an active CC subscription than a personal site like this beats Behance or Dribbble if you don’t mind the view and engagement loss from the social media orientated platforms.

One of Adobe Portfolio’s several themes.One of Adobe Portfolio’s several themes.

How to Display your Work

Minimal mockups on a grid layout.Minimal mockups on a grid layout.

Product Images

  1. Real Photos — Photographs If possible, it’s always best to get real-life product shots of your designs in actions. This is especially actionable with a public sign, poster or banner. With websites and digital designs this may be more difficult. When able to produce quality images featuring the logo, print design or whatever it may be this should be your first choice.

  2. Mockups — Mockups are great for certain kinds of work, but if executed poorly they can look very unprofessional. When you are unable to get a hold of real photos mockups can be a great alternative. There are two ways to use mockups on your portfolio making them a realistic as possible using close-to-life replicated Photoshop mockups or owning that the mockup is fake and using minimal, clean mockups. Just beware that some of the mockups that you like are probably being used by hundreds, if not thousands, of others on their portfolios.

  3. Flat Images — Last, but certainly not least, are flat, plain images. While this option may seem boring sometimes this is useful for particularly minimal works or interesting and detailed flat works like illustrations. A great way to use flat images to your advantages is create one establishing shot and other images that highlight small details of your design that show your attention to detail.

Layouts

Mockups in a slide which links to a case study.Mockups in a slide which links to a case study.

  1. Grids — are compact ways to store a lot of information such as images and can also allow you to filter work by type depending on how you set your grid up. This type of menu is very versatile, but could have issues on different or odd sized screens.

  2. Slides — Slides, like a Powerpoint, allow for a large amount of brief information with a variety of images. Slides also allow you to present a lot of projects in depth at once. If you chose to use slides use them well because bad slides that are hard to read will lead to your reader or potential employer leaving your site.

  3. Case Studies — While they do take time and valuable space, case studies demonstrate an understanding of your craft and thought process. These aspects of your workflow, including tools, methods, wireframes and more, can be especially valuable to employers who need you to work as a team such as design firms or teams. By showing that your workflow can be collaborative and is also aligned with industry standards you can set yourself apart as a professional.

Conclusion

Making your portfolio and website look pretty is important as it, in a way, represents you as a designer digitally. However it is easy to get carried away and forget that the most important part of your portfolio is what it was made for; your work. I myself have fallen into to trap of constantly improving my website with little and, in the grand scheme of things, useless tweaks. Just keep your eyes on the prize and remember that your work comes first.

Thanks for the read,

Siraj