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At The Book we see nearly 1000 portfolios a year from established and aspiring creatives in the UK. Some have a book to die for, top brands, creativity and innovation oozing out of the pages and others are more functional but equally suitable for the types of roles they are applying for.  However, we do also see some shockers - some that we just couldn't put in front of our clients and so we thought we'd share what we feel works and what doesn't when presenting your work.

There are lots of choices of how to present your work either in a print or digital format. An impressive portfolio can promote you as a brand, so if you're searching for a new job in the creative industry this is the most important brief you'll ever work on!

What we like to see:

Work being presented on Tablet/iPad/Laptop - this will allow you to flick backwards and forward depending on what you are speaking about. You can bring up other work that you may not have selected to present but is relevant and topical depending on how the discussion goes.

Digital Portfolio

Don't be afraid to take your ideas/sketches/scamps to show your workings out and how you approach briefs.

If taking physical work you may want to think about alternatives to standard folders, we have seen original bespoke boxes,  in all different substrates and some screen printed containing nice (perfectly trimmed out and mounted to board) work embossed/de-bossed/laminated all sorts of nice finishes.


Don't forget to show off any printed examples of finished projects if they are on nice stock, special colours, matt laminates etc.

If you are a developer you must have url's prepared to show at interview to talk through and show your code, have a selection on your cv,  and make sure they work!

Our clients can really tell the work you are proud of by the way you talk through it so make sure your portfolio is full of your absolutely best work.

Why not brand yourself? We see Creatives who do their own logos and taglines.

Keep it refreshed with current work, taking any older projects out.

One portfolio that really sticks in my mind for all the right reasons was made from Aluminium and engraved with lovely typography - it had real standout and showed that the candidate was taking the interview process really seriously.  In most instances this bodes well for clients as they'll find the candidates takes their work seriously when they're in the job.

Here's a quick checklist of what we really shouldn't see:

black portfolio

  • HUGE black zip folders with plastic wallets.
  • Old work which is discoloured.
  • Musty smelling portfolio's if they have been put away for a little while.
  • Old laptops covered in stickers with screens that look like they could do with a good clean
  • Screensavers with naked ladies, pets/wives - I think you get the picture
  • Perspex/plasic folders with sleeves
  • Oversized boxes/folders which you struggle to carry
  • Whilst tea, coffee, blood, sweat and tears are a recipe for some great pieces of work, we don't want to see evidence of this on your portfolio
  • Work you aren't 100% proud of and mumble your way through
  • A physical portfolio that smells of stale cigarettes and full of discoloured work (yes, this is a true story)

And finally - What our Clients like to see:

A review like this wouldn't be complete without asking some of our clients about their views on what makes a great interview portfolio

"Well crafted design and illustration and the concept executed across all platforms. And if your going to mock something up, make it look real, fake shadows are a no no, naughty boy! "Tez Humphreys / Senior Designer/ Vast

"A small amount of clean, stand out, confident work which demonstrates well considered creative. That's what we look for and it's important that the layout has been designed to show the work at its best" Simon Forster, Managing Creative Director, Robot Food

"A good portfolio consists of considered, thought provoking, results driven work presented in a professional and accessible way. Choose a good number of examples that are relevant to the role your being interviewed for, not just your favourite projects, along with accompanying examples that show a healthy breadth of work across a number of different media. Provide context to your work when sending pdf portfolios, don't let the potential employer assume too much for themselves, as the may assume wrong!" James Ryan, Creative Director, Totality GCS

"I always use the 'I wish I'd done that' test. " Rick Ward,
"Make the first idea and the last the killers, if they are using the old fashioned portfolio. If it's on an iPad or mac, make the first one a stopper. Also, not too much, quality not quantity is the key. Sounds simple, but that's it really". Pete Camponi, Creative Partners, Us & Them

"I like to see the thought process of how they got to the design - not just the final design" Bruce Drinkwater, Managing Director, Storm Brand Design 

Your portfolio is an extension of you. Take time and prepare it, practice it and be proud of it. You are sat with a like-minded individual at interview so put your self in their shoes. What would you like to be presented with?

Hope you find this useful

Ange, Emma and Kate

About Ange Hough

My 13 years agency experience helps me match the right candidate to the right role. Specialties: Copywriters, Art Directors, Designers, Web Designers, Web Developers, Artworkers or Creative Directors.

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