Whether you are a new graduate or a seasoned pro, it is good form to keep your portfolio in tip-top shape. You never know when you will be presented with a dream job opportunity. And when that opportunity presents itself, you must be prepared with an amazing portfolio that showcases your skills, your style, your craft, and your creativity. Here are 4 keys to creating the perfect portfolio to land the graphic design job of your dreams.

1. Chose your best pieces. This is important. Truly, it is quality that counts over quantity. Do not show pieces that you are not utterly proud of, just to have more to show. Chose pieces that you can speak about in detail. Chose pieces that showcase your skills. Chose pieces that highlight your strong points. Chose only the best.

Your compilation should be relevant to your audience. If you are showing your book to an advertising agency, become familiar with the type of work done there, and present a sampling of pieces which prove that you fit into their design culture. Maybe a small design firm is looking for fresh new talent to spice up their offerings. In that case select pieces which reflect your ability to innovate and create different design solutions. A book publisher may want to see that you can handle large documents, whereas some jobs will need to see your Photoshop skills. Do your research and use your portfolio to prove that you belong.

In all, your book should include about 12 of your best pieces.

If you are just starting out, and you find that you don’t have enough work,really evaluate the work that you do have. If you feel that the pieces you have do not showcase your amazing typography skills, or your stunning page composition abilities; give yourself an assignment. As long as it is well executed and you can speak about your goals and solutions (just like every other piece), pseudo assignments are a perfectly valid way to show your skills.

Now that you’ve gathered your best samples, you have to plan a killer presentation.

2. Perfect Visual Presentation. There is no way around this. You must present your work in the absolute best way possible. Remember, this is two fold. In today’s day and age you must be prepared with both a stunning online portfolio (more on this later) as well as a knock-out touch and feel book.

The portfolio that you bring with you to an interview, or drop off at a design firm should be impeccable. No torn edges, no creases or folds, absolutely no stains or stray marks. Your craft must be outstanding. All of your pieces should be neat, well-organized, and clearly labeled.

There are many different ways to present your work, depending on the types of items that you are including. Maybe you chose to photograph a series of books that you designed and then mount a few of your best spreads on black boards. Maybe you chose to compile actual samples of your work in a beautiful, leather-bound portfolio book. Keep in mind, every piece should have clean edges and sit comfortably in the allotted area. Nothing should be flopping around or crooked.

Your online portfolio can be more in-depth; however, the same rules apply: quantity isn’t your goal. Only include pieces that you are proud of. It should be organized and well-designed. Don’t get too flashy or cutesy, you don’t want to distract from your work.

OK, you have your best pieces, they have been compiled in the perfect way. Now you have to be ready to talk about them.

3. Speak about it. Be prepared to speak about your work: why it is important, why you included it, and why it is relevant to the interviewer. It is very important to be able to discuss your work, to share your passion. Be sure to mention your role/contribution to each project as well as the surrounding circumstances or constraints such as a tight budget or short schedule. This is where your passion will shine. Mention the fonts that you chose for this project, the way you collaborated with editors on this other, the attention to color in the illustrations that you ordered.

Articulate designers are like gold. Explaining your ideas and defending your choices will get you a long way in the graphic design industry.

You’ve put together the best work, presented it flawlessly, spoke with perfect articulation, you are golden! Right? Not so fast, don’t forget one last thing….

4.You. Don’t forget that you are a huge part of your portfolio. Make sure you present yourself appropriately. Depending on the culture of the office that you are interviewing with, that can mean anything from a business suit to a stylish semi-casual outfit. Do your research and make a good impression. Your look is as impactful as the look of your work.

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