What should a portfolio look like?

Photo by Susan Ayers

Portfolios can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Black bags are still used for photographers, models and graphics artists to tote their wares. Writers use a variety of portfolios from metal-bound books to fabric binders to house their samples. Online portfolios are another up-and-coming option that can easily be linked to from your resume. But regardless of the variety of styles from which you can choose, there are still fundamental items your portfolio should include. Read on for more information as to what your portfolio should really look like.


Titles are a necessity. You want the viewer of your portfolio to be very clear on what is inside. Design a title page that can easily slide into a see-through binder. If you use a black bag or metal portfolio, design a cover page that can be the first page viewed when the portfolio is opened. Make sure the title page includes your name and a brief description of what is inside. You may also want to put your contact information somewhere on the cover page.


Divide your portfolio into sections. For an interior design portfolio, divide the sections by homes or buildings you designed. You may want to include a sketch or blueprint, small ‘before’ shots next to much larger ‘after’ shots, colour schemes you designed, and furniture arrangements.

If your portfolio is a black bag or metal book, adhere the contents of your portfolio onto the blank pages in the portfolio. Add a description of the contents at the beginning of each section.

If your portfolio is a binder, use see-through plastic sleeves and slide your content into the sleeves. This will protect your work and also make it easier for the viewer to see. Use one sleeve per piece of content. Add a description of the contents at the beginning of each section as well.

What to Include

Include your resume in your portfolio. Print a hard copy of your resume and include that in a separate section. If you have letters of reference, put those in this section as well. Finally, add a reference section and list names and telephone numbers of people who would give you a professional reference, or if you have LinkedIn references from connections, print those and include them as well making sure you include the appropriate link.

Samples of brochures, presentations, flyers or business cards you created should go into your portfolio. Include any marketing or graphics material you created or collaborated on. Include a brief description of what the material was created for and any results related to the content. For example, if you created an interesting coupon that generated high sales, include a copy of the coupon but also briefly remark on the results achieved as well.

More Examples of What to Include

Add a DVD of any videos, slide shows or eLearning material you may have created. Label the DVD appropriately and put it in a vinyl DVD sleeve. Insert the entire sleeve into a plastic sleeve and add that in your portfolio.

Your portfolio should include examples of projects you worked on. For instance, you may have worked on a corporate newsletter either contributing content or creating the graphics and design. If so, include a copy of the newsletter and also some basic information as to what you contributed. If you are a teacher, include samples of lesson plans or interesting projects you had your class work on.

Online Porfolios

Online portfolio sites are becoming the rage. Online sites help reduce clutter and make it easier for you to submit your portfolio. However, there is nothing tangible for a potential employer or recruiter to hold so make sure your online portfolio is designed in a very compelling manner so it will be opened and reviewed. Scan relevant photos you created, graphics you designed or marketing materials you wish to have included. If you created written content, convert it to a PDF file and include that in your online portfolio. Add links to any online published work you may have created and be sure to specifically link to your personal website.

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