Portfolio dos & don’ts for design students

Design Portfolio with marbling and typography

Stuck in the valley of indecision and self-doubt? Getting your act (read: portfolio) together can be a scary thing! But have no fear – we’re here to help with a few tantalizing tricks of the trade, plus a free worksheet that’ll whip you into shape.

Take these five trickniques for a spin and watch the poachers come knockin’. For man cannot survive on mi-goreng and passion pop alone.

    As much as that techni-colour poster series is impressive, the overall design of your portfolio lays the foundation of the work it holds. Layout, typography and attention to detail with the little things will go a long way. And our preference here, if we might add – simple, clean and fresh. That way your work can shine without distraction.
    You know that feeling when you get a new follower on Instagram, only to find out they’re a spam account and follow 1.2m others? Same feeling applies for employers when they feel like you’ve sent the exact same portfolio to every other studio in your city. We’re not saying re-design your portfolio for every application – but little things like referencing the studio’s values, explaining why that logo is relevant to (insert studio’s name here) design ethos, and using specific language and names will get you a long way.
    Although that book cover you designed in first year earned you a HD 4 years ago, always ask yourself, is this relevant and is it still impressive? Consistency in the portfolio layout, but also the quality of work, will help set your application apart. Although keeping your overall feel consistent (you can do this by having a page layout template, typographic rules, etc), it’s important that you showcase a variety of skills. By all means, include two branding projects, but try to include one that maybe showcases your typography skills, and the other showcases your hand generation skills).
    You spend more time with your work mates that you do your friends and family – so employers want to know who they’re signing up to hang out with everyday. They want to know that you can bring more than just Adobe skills to work. Who are you? What makes you tick? What are your burning passions and desires? Your portfolio and cover letter are a great way to not only showcase your work but to make an impression. Us here at Smack Bang love a little bit of flair and spontaneity in a cover letter – but remember to tailor your language to that of the studio you’re applying too. Have a read on their website to get a good idea of what tone of language to emulate.

• Spelling. Grammar. Enough said.
• Never-ever-ever send an application without your portfolio or some sample of your work.
• To Whom It May Concern says you haven’t done your research. Find the name of the creative director, the head of HR or an admin person.
• Always make sure your portfolio is up-to-date and current.
• An online portfolio is always preferable – having a website (there are plenty of awesome templates out there) or digital presence (The Loop, Behance, Cargo Collective) is a must.


  1. Brittany says:

    Smackbang to the rescue once again – you guys always seem to hit the nail on the head. No more first-year-HD-attracting book covers for me!

Leave a comment.

Like the post and want the worksheet?
Like the post and want the worksheet?

Quote? Yes, please!

Let us know what services you're after and we'll get back to you in a jiffy.

Prefer to chat? Call us on 0468 323 526 and let’s talk through the details.

Leave this empty:

Request a Quote

One email. Once a fortnight.