wanna build a portfolio that doesn’t suck?

career guide

10 min

wanna build a portfolio that doesn’t suck?

think of a portfolio as a way to showcase your coolest projects and creations. it's like your personal exhibition.

why your portfolio sucks?

if you are a designer and don’t really know where to get started to create a portfolio that doesn’t suck, then you’ll love this blog! a portfolio is a must-have for a designer. no one is gonna know how good you are if you don’t have a portfolio! I’mma be frank with you, it’s a pain. but fear not, I am gonna help you make this process much much easier and more fun.

how? by treating your portfolio as YOUR product. just like the ones you have built/wanna build!

kickstart your portfolio-making journey with our free portfolio guide

what exactly is a portfolio?

think of a portfolio as a way to showcase your coolest projects and creations. it's like your personal exhibition, where you brag about your stuff and say, "check out what I can do!”

why should I have one?

there are lots of reasons why you need to have a portfolio and very few reasons why you don’t. (actually, scratch that, there are zero reasons why you shouldn't)

well, how else are you gonna brag about your work?

a portfolio showcases all your work in an organized/professional way!

you know you need a portfolio to …

so, with that mindset, let me break down the steps for you:

step 1: research

the whole point of this step in your case (a portfolio builder), is to dive deep into the brains of your potential employers/clients. Google will be your trusty sidekick here. get to know them inside out!

don’t forget about the industry trends and standards. you don't wanna stick out like a sore thumb, do you?

step 2: ideation

in this step you must look for the best ways and the most “you” way to design and present your portfolio. I’m talking different styles, layouts and even formats!

seek inspiration anywhere you can!

and here is a little tip, check out this website for more inspiration:

step 3: design

guess there isn’t much to talk about here. just do what you’re best at; “design” that sh*t.

I’m talking prototypes, mockups and everything else.

step 4: testing and iteration

iterate on your portfolio based on the feedback you receive from people who give a sh*t about you and your success!

step 5: development and launch

congratulations, you now have a kick-ass portfolio! it’s time to show it to the whole world and show off your skills!

now I know there are so many questions popping in your head, which is expected!

in this section I will be doing my best to respond to all of those questions that you (might) have.

find new jobs and opportunities!

seriously, tho, how else are you gonna find new job opportunities if you don’t have a portfolio? no one’s gonna know about your potential without you showing it off!

connect with other professionals!

a portfolio is an amazing way to be seen among your peers and people doing things similar to you! the first thing it screams is “I’m a professional!”

build credibility!

the key to being considered for a job, in my opinion, is being trustworthy! every recruiter wants to know that they can trust you, as a designer.

boost your search visibility (if it’s online)

being seen online can be very beneficial for job hunting. you might even receive a job offer without actively seeking one!

all in all, it won’t hurt to have one. not having one will definitely hurt, tho!

what is the first step to creating one?

as mentioned above, considering your portfolio as a “product of yourself” is the most effective way to start. in that case, your first step would definitely be “research” and then the rest will follow as you would when designing a product.

what should be in it?

hiring managers want to see if you have the relevant experience, expertise and vision for the role. now, I know you wanna present as much as possible but we don’t want to bore the recruiters to a point where they’ll stop reading your portfolio.

so we must be very careful with what we add and what we don’t. here is a list of things you probably should add to your portfolio:

  • your design process in the clearest form

  • don’t be afraid to include personal projects (redesigns/passions projects)

  • include only necessary information

  • real pictures from your process

  • three to six completed projects

  • an easy to navigate cover page

  • your CV

how many projects do I need to include in my portfolio?

around 3 to 6 projects would suffice. of course if you are an entry-level designer, then it’s understandable if you have fewer projects. regardless of the number of the projects you add to your portfolio, high-quality work always gets the best response. so, make sure to keep that in mind about every one of your projects.

can I include unfinished projects in it?

I believe this isn’t the worst idea. unfinished projects can show that you're actively working on improving your skills and exploring new ideas. but it can also give the impression that you are not detail-oriented or that you struggle to finish a task.

to avoid giving that impression it’s recommended to not add more than one unfinished project to your portfolio. also, don’t forget the importance of good visuals even in an unfinished project.

what if I have no work to show?

well, then you are in luck cause, guess what! I got you covered.

here is a link to our portfolio mini-course where you can find inspirations, a checklist, and a list of the websites that can provide you with design challenges that can later turn into your passion project.

get portfolio guide

what format should I use for my portfolio?

well, I have three recommendations for you.

  • make a PDF presentation

  • make a website

  • use portfolio platforms

they have all been explained in our mini-course mentioned above.

where can I find inspiration for my portfolio?

the more you look around, the more inspired you will get. honestly, anything can inspire you when it comes to design. but here are some suggestions:

other designers’ work

you can find a list of other designers’ work in our portfolio power-up™ mini-course.

check out the link below:

design websites

Behnace, Dribbble, and Awwwards are like treasure troves of awesome designs.

social media

Instagram, X, and Pinterest are not just for cat videos. you can follow design accounts and hashtags to see what’s hot in the design world. you might stumble upon a design trend that speaks to you.

nature and art

mother nature and art are full of design inspirations. from color palettes to shapes and patterns, you can find design elements everywhere you look.

how do I know which projects to include in my portfolio?

  • dig deep and include projects that highlight your best work and align with the job you’re aiming for. it’s all about making a strong and targeted impression!

  • when it comes to your portfolio, quality should always trump quantity. it’s better to have a few outstanding projects that truly showcase your skills and abilities than to include mediocre or irrelevant work just to fill space.

  • if you want to include unfinished projects, make sure to explain exactly why it isn’t finished yet, or just don’t. also, don’t add too many unfinished projects. it has a bad impression.

how do I find my style?

  • explore different styles as much as you can. look at a wide range of design styles and trends to get a sense of what resonates with you.

  • try out different techniques, tools, and approaches in your design. don’t be afraid to take risks and push the boundaries.

  • identify designers, artists and movements that inspire you. study their work to understand what elements you are drawn to and how you can incorporate them into your own style.

  • sharing your work with peers, mentors and other designers can also be very influential. their insights can help you refine your style and identify areas for improvement.

  • keep refining and evolving your work based on your experiences and the feedback you receive.

how do I prevent recruiters from falling asleep while reading my portfolio?

  • you can’t expect them to do the work to figure out who you are! you need to spoon-feed them the information about who you are. make it as easy as possible to know you and understand you.

  • don’t be just like the others. we want you to stand out in a crowd and to do that, you must simply be real and be you. add as much of your own spark as you can to your projects. so that one day when people see your work they’ll be like, “oh, this is John’s work!” (by John I mean “you”). look for what makes you special and work around that.

overall, always and I mean, ALWAYS, keep in mind that your portfolio is a tool to showcase YOUR work, YOUR talent and YOUR skills. it’s all about your capabilities. so make it about YOU. YOU are special.


Zigma's guide to starting your design career

What is Portfolio design?

why should I have one?

find new jobs and opportunities!

how do I find my style?

why your portfolio suck?

kickstart your portfolio-making journey with our free portfolio guide