7 Elements of a Great Design Portfolio


If you are working in a creative field you know there is nothing more important than your portfolio. It shows your range, point of view, experience, process, and more. Some people think Dribbble-esque images will do the trick, but to be taken seriously you need to show the “why” behind your designs as well.
Every project is different and so is every portfolio, but here are 7 things you should aim to have for every project in your portfolio.

1. Overview

Start each project with a brief overview of the client, their business, and the work you did for them. Think of this as the “Elevator Pitch” of your portfolio piece; it should make the reader want to know more. 

2. Audience

Describe who the target audience was for this project. It is important to define exactly who your designs are targeting in order to measure how successful your work was.

3. Problem Definition

Next, define the problem that you were trying to solve. It is also helpful to discuss what the success metrics were for this project. Did you successfully “solve” the problem? Did the problem change over time?

4. Constraints

Talk about the constraints you faced while working on this project. Most projects have some sort of constraint (e.g. time, unclear problem, unclear audience) and your ability to overcome that constraint is an indicator of your skill as a designer.

5. Design Process

How did you go about solving your clients problem? This is the place to show process drawings as well as finished pieces. Showing your process is a great way to build transparency and trust between yourself and the person looking at your portfolio; it shows that you are methodical and professional in your work. 

6. Team/Role

What was your role in this project? Did you work on a team or by yourself? If on a team, what were your unique contributions to this project?

7. Retrospective/Metrics

This is an essential piece that is often left out. Did you solve the problem? Did you solve a different problem than you intended? What did you learn? What will you do differently next time?


Including these 7 elements in your design portfolio projects will guaranty that your work is seen as adding real value, not just as pretty pictures. If you are having trouble addressing these 7 elements, take that as a sign that your design process may need revising. As designers we are always pushing ourselves to be better at our craft. By making sureevery project touches these 7 areas, you will grow into a better and more professional designer!


Patricia O'Connor

Patricia & Co. Design, San Francisco, CA 94109