Mark posted this great explanation so I didn’t find the need to write one plus his post would have been way better than mine anyways. Everyone thank Mark for this awesome tutorial!
Ok. As usual, everyone is going to have a different style and way of doing things, but this is my opinion of how to make a good portfolio:
Table of Contents
Each portfolio you make should include or consider each of these categories.
Let’s get started.
There are many different reasons to make a portfolio. Some of us are making portfolios to get into a graduate program, some are trying to get a job in the field after graduating, while others may just want to make one for themselves to reflect on the work they have done over time. Each audience will be looking for something slightly different. If you are trying to get into a program fresh out of high school, then you want to show a variety of work letting the audience know that you are versatile and have a wide range of skills. If you are going to get a job as a graphic designer, for example, you want to put in work that will show qualities specific to graphic design. Some firms will only want to see final work, while others are more interested in process. Either way, it is important to know your audience while selecting your content.
The time has come to physically create your portfolio and you don’t know where to begin. I always start with determining the size of the portfolio. Pick a size that is comfortable to hold in your hand. Take consideration into the care of making while selecting the size of the book. People will be holding it, turning pages, and sliding it across desks for other people to catch. You want a book-size that will accommodate it’s user. Look at books you own, or can find in the library to see how they feel in the hand. Use this experience to make a good decision on the size of your portfolio.
SIDE NOTE: Some institutions require a certain size portfolio submission, so you might want to be aware of that. I never care, I always make my portfolio the size I want, I just make sure the content backs up my rebel ways, but I digress.
The cover is important, because it is the first impression of your portfolio. For some people, if the cover is bad enough, they won’t even open it up to look at the content. Usually for me, I make the cover last. I like for the cover to mimic the theme of the entire portfolio and have some type of meaning. You can make the cover at any time within the process of the portfolio, but make sure that it is appealing and has your name on it.
The theme is important within the overall design of the portfolio. Your theme will help bring everything together. My first portfolio used a line that ran across the bottom of the page creating a boundary edge, and gave me something to work with along with the content. The theme can also bring hierarchy to the entire layout. Each spread should have a definite sense of hierarchy, which is basically a specific importance to each page. I made a portfolio once where all of the content was thrown on the page equally. I had too much content and not enough negative space, and the outcome was a clutter of images due to a lack of negative space and hierarchy. So make sure to let the images breathe. Remember, each page should look like it came from the same portfolio.
TABLE OF CONTENT:
A table of content is not mandatory, but is a good idea to provide a source of navigation through your work. Don’t try to get fancy with the table of content either. You want the work to be straight forward and very easy to find. You can be creative in the text, color, and overall design of the contents page, but do not allow the design to destroy the function. This can also be made at any point in the portfolio making process. I usually do it after collecting and arranging the content.
Unless the portfolio is specific to one type of design element, every portfolio should be broken into chapters. In my first portfolio to make it into my architecture program, I had 5 chapters:
Chapter 1: Intro to Architectural Design + Graphics Project 1
Chapter 2: Intro to Architectural Design + Graphics Project 2
Chapter 3: Architectural Diagramming
Chapter 4: Basic Design
Chapter 5: Photography
Collectively, these chapters were able to showcase my skills in graphics, model making, sketching, diagramming, painting, and photography.
This is just an example, so make sure that when you choose your chapters they showcase your work in a way that will let others know what skills you have developed over time. Also, You do not have to physically call them “chapters”, but there should be some way to distinguish each section. This can be done in a number of ways, get creative.
Quotes are a great way of introducing yourself. I happen to be a big fan of quotes, so if you don’t like them, don’t use them, but I believe a single quote in a portfolio can give people insight into your personality. A quote can let the audience know more about you without saying anything directly about yourself at all. The first quote I ever put in a portfolio was by Louis Kahn.
“design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, and love” - Louis Kahn
How do I know what to put in my portfolio?
The content is the most important attribute of your portfolio, so you should only put in your BEST work. After you gather all of your content, go through it and pick the best of it all to make the portfolio. It is good to keep the other work in case you have a blank spot you need to fill when you’re done, but overall you want the content to be as powerful as possible. It is better to have a smaller portfolio containing your best content, than a huge portfolio and only half of it is impressive.
Once you finish everything, you will need to bind the portfolio to make it a book. There are literally thousands of ways you can do this, but they can be broken into two categories: Bound by Hand or Bound by Machine.
Bound by Hand
Portfolios bound by hand take more time, but also show your craftsmanship as a designer of something physical. My first portfolio to make it into the architecture program was made by hand, and this helped because we make a lot of models by hand in the program and I knew this would matter to the professors. I am not sure the credentials of your program for interior architecture, so this may not matter as much. It will vary per program.
Bound by Machine
This is the most common way to bind a portfolio, and is a faster/safer approach. The best way to get it bound mechanically is to send your files to Blurb and have them make it into a real book. The quality is undeniably the best I have seen, however, this requires proper planning because Blurb takes a while to send the book to you. In this case, you can just as easily take it to Kinko’s, Staples, or any local print-shop to have it bound. This is the basic break down of making a portfolio.
Here is an awesome source to look through other students’ work issuu.com