Displaying Your Work as a Designer

Show Context! - Tell The Story, Show The Journey!

Thanks for being here, I hope everyone is ok!

Last week I got 4 new projects which i will be working on in the coming weeks and months.

I was looking at my portfolio and the new projects i have completed trying to decide what new projects i will be including in the near future.

I don’t show every project I have completed in my portfolio just certain ones that i think about more than others, and i like to have a variety of industries displayed.

For instance, I have done several logos for IT companies, beauty and hair salons, photographers, tradesmen I don’t really want to show them all and overcrowd my portfolio with certain industries.

I’m proud of most if not all of the work I do. For instance, I could do a project and a client could change the actual concept and say “yep im happy now” when in reality the original that i created was much better, but what can you do? but explain it!, with some clients there is no convincing and the harsh truth is you have done your best to convince a client that their changes are not a good idea but at times you just have to finish the project and move on.

Yes! that’s an example of projects that don’t make it into my portfolio.

On the other hand, I will have several logos / identity design projects of the same industry and spend days weeks trying to narrow it down to one or two to display in my portfolio.

Now that’s a tough one!

What’s A Good Number of Projects To Show

To be honest i don’t think there is a magic number of projects to show some people recommend 8, other 10, I don’t believe you should use your portfolio to archive your entire projects. I think you should show what you're proud of!.

Be smart and strategic with it, for example I had a wave of IT companies I designed for due to my background in IT and connections I have which lead to a lot of IT company design work.

I did a project for a beauty and hair salon which through a few referrals led to several more projects in that industry.

That’s amazing, and i’m very grateful but I don’t want to show them all as i don’t want my portfolio crammed with these two industries.

There are designers who like to work in a certain industry, and that’s fine if you want to do that, but I like to work with lots of different industries.

Example: How I Show My Work

Now I don’t claim to be an expert in the psychology of how a design piece should be shown.

But i’m in business and it’s working for me, and the designer i helped which i’ll discuss later in the post.

Website Portfolio

The most important element you should be working on is your own website portfolio.

Your own space! - Always make this your focus! - You own this space!

You will always be tweaking this over and over again until you hit a sweet spot that you will notice when you start getting plenty of inquiries.

I originally started with just the case studies section, I later added the logo portfolio to clearly display the marks more, they also link to the relevant case study.

The reason i did this was because I got a client who said to me:

“I cant see many logos in your case study section”

I thought

“That’s strange its full of them plus full identity designs”

I asked the client are you clicking on the individual case studies to look at them and he said

“no i was just scrolling through.”

It hit me! I don’t mean this nasty but some users are lazy and they just want to see something on one page, so that’s the reason i created the logo portfolio page.

In the end the client turned out to be a good client and it helped me realise this as different clients want to see different things - my advise is give it to them and cater for individual users!

Some users want to head right to the logo section and just see logos and scroll, even clients who end up having a full identity design.

Others want to head straight into the case study section and read them from top to bottom.

It took me a couple of hours worth of work making this change on the site that now results in more clients - It’s a win-win!

*TIP - Use whitespace to help elevate your work. It’s clean and provides visual breathing room for the eye. 

Whitespace is an important element of design for good reason. Use it in your portfolio!

Social Media

*Note - You don’t need to have thousands of likes and comments for a piece of work on a certain platform for it to be attractive to clients and be a magnet for inquiries.

In the below videos im using the project Hothaus not only was this project fun and the client was a dream to work with, but it’s one of the projects that also gets me compliments from prospective clients due to its simplicity, meaning, and execution.

Behance

First up is Behance, always make sure you clearly title your project so people know what it is in this case it’s a logo and identity design for the company Hothaus.

I like to show the process and tell a story when going through the project. I would like the viewer/potential client to experience the project from the initial concept sketches through to completion.

I clearly state the main goals, and the solution giving information into the project.

I may have shown more images than needed in this Behance piece but i did go back and add extra when i started getting good feedback from it.

*Tip - You don’t need to show every image on Behance you have displayed on your own website portfolio. It was my choice to add them as i explained above.

To end off the project i display the clients feedback, thank the person for viewing the project and direct them through to my website where the full case study is available.

Dribbble

I’m really liking Dribbble, and the only reason i have not got a pro account is because i don’t really need one as i get plenty of organic enquiries.

*Hence the reason for this post - Own your own space!

I’m getting a little more creative with my Dribbble shots! as they are known. I see myself doing this more in the future.

I have tried to focus on the process of the mark with this image and a few others i have for this project to mix it up a little.

Even though it’s a single image i include plenty of information about the company and project and rebound each shot (link them together) if you don’t know the Dribbble lingo.

At the end I include a link back to my website portfolio to view the full case study.

Instagram

I have not really used Instagram to display my work. I use it mainly for Book Reviews and Designer Interviews, but I do receive inquiries from time to time, and the last project i got through Instagram was quite a fairly big budget so i thought it was time to start displaying work there.

Again using the Hothaus project and designing an image similar to the Dribbble image focusing on process.

Instagram does not allow you to insert links within your posts (Yes! its to keep you on the platform is my guess)

Keeping it short and sweet and letting the image be the focus, I have included a short description of the image as mentioned its tricky linking to your website portfolio and not possible in posts.

I use Linktree in my Instagram bio and include a link directly to my website portfolio.

Within the image description I mentioned that the full case study is available on my website and the link is in the description under the portfolio section.

The user can then click the link in the bio, find the portfolio button to go directly to my website portfolio, and then click the project all within 3 clicks!

(and before you ask yes people will go and click the link and find it!)

LinkedIn

The last one i’m going to show is LinkedIn, I’m quite active on LinkedIn and its great for gaining leads and engaging with people.

Besides sharing a post now and then with project work i have done, i also use the featured section to display work.

I create a photo grid layout, so i can post a single image, give it a title and description and again you can’t include a link but i do mention the full case study is available on my website and paste the link in. Some users will copy the link URL into their browser and go to the project others will find it on your website. It works for me!

Show Context! - Tell The Story, Show The Journey!

A good story to tell you!

Towards the end of 2019 i helped a young designer I know with his portfolio and how to present his work online.

He was really struggling and had his work online available for people to see through the likes of Behance and Dribbble etc but no personal website folio (He was none existent, and did not own his own space on the internet) his whole presentation and funnel to his work was not good at all, the work also had no context or behind the scenes look etc.

He was posting his work on social media with a link to behance, and all the client could see was images and no context on the project.

He could not understand why people were not even contacting him let alone would not hire him!

"PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW DETAILS" - Don’t rely on images to do the talking!

They don’t just want to see pictures, yes they may be pretty and the work looks awesome it could be the best piece of design work you have done in a long time but knowing what you did and why you did it is pointless! Sell it to the viewer to make them understand it, make them appreciate what it is, and why it is! eg-

  • Who is the client, what do they do?

  • What is the problem the client was having?

  • Why did they commission you to begin with?

  • What happened?... Why did you do this?

  • How did you arrive at that concept?...

  • The challenges and goals?...

  • How did it solve the problem?

  • Client thoughts and feedback!

They also want to see a personal portfolio, not just the free online ones. 

Most of my clients come from either referrals or they find me through my website organically when searching online, on some occasions a prospective client may find me on Behance or Dribbble and other social platforms such as LinkedIn or Instagram and ask for a link to my personal website portfolio.

This does not happen as much as with each image I share i make sure I link back to the project case study on my website, but on occasions they may ask for my website link.

The point is they want to see my website, not just my work on a portfolio platform, they already like my work they are now in the validating stage…They want more information as they are interested!

Give people what they want!

It’s fine to show your work on Behance, Dribbble and even Instagram, Twitter etc but provide a link to a full case study and show context!

I worked with this designer who had no website at all to get his website up and running, writing case studies for his past projects, presenting his work on social to better drive engagement, and his communication with clients to get better briefing information so he could propose a lot better to them. 

Within a month of doing all this he landed three projects all on a higher budget than he was originally aiming for.

He was really happy, and I was that I was able to help him do this, and it got me thinking about the simple things that are not fully clear to new designers when starting out that are indeed holding them back.

We have all learnt something the hard way and it’s unfortunate but in the long run its the most effective way of learning, and making sure we don't do it again.

But if there is someone out there who can give us some advice and prevent that tough time of dealing with that bad situation, and save us some time in doing something more effective then its worth the time in getting this advice!

And that's my goal with this newsletter!

If you are just starting out, focusing on your own space is your primary focus, as you own it! the other stuff like Behance and Dribbble etc is just an extra avenue to display your work.

Stop the mind set of thinking likes and shares, and impress other designers

You need to own your own space! Likes and share don’t pay the bills!

Some Articles You Will Find Helpful:

Recommended Resources

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I hope this post will help with your website portfolio, I have really tried to give you as much as possible and keep it as simple as possible.

Remember it’s your choice to do what you feel is right, what’s working for me may not work for you.

There is no magic process its’s trial and error. But most importantly own your space! because if you do and all the social media platforms happen to shutdown or had a massive change in direction, some day it will not matter to our business.

As i always say - “Stay curious & enthusiastic, and good things will happen!”

Thanks for reading. :)