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5 Graphic Design Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid

by Rachel Gregg
art & design, featured

Your graphic design portfolio opens doors. A sub-par presentation of your work closes them — and may lock them for good. But how do you know what a “good” portfolio even is?

Ram Castillo literally wrote the book on getting a job as a designer, and in his CreativeLive class, Create a Knockout Design Portfolio he talks about how essential portfolios are, and, perhaps most importantly, details exactly what you need to do to assemble a good one.

Ram explains that your portfolio should be, “a refined and considered selection of your best work, customized to speak to the area of design you are applying for.” In essence your portfolio is “proof that you exist as a designer.”

To help you prove that you exist – and do it well – Ram assembled a compilation of common graphic design portfolio mistakes that lots of rookie designers make — and how you can avoid them. You can use this top-five list to audit your existing portfolio or to guide you as you develop a new one.

5 Graphic Design Portfolio Mistakes to Avoid:

1. Too much work.

“It’s far stronger to have five quality projects showing five design pieces within it, than 20 average projects with 10+ design pieces within them,” says Ram. For best results, definitely do not include more than 15 projects.

2. Not enough work.

“If your portfolio looks and feels bare, that’s because it is,” he explains. ” Trust your instincts. The ‘wow’ factor in your portfolio is created through layers in your work that tell a story. Avoid putting one poster here and two logos there. Show your work as projects.”


An online portfolio is essential for attracting clients. Learn how it is done – the easy way. Watch now.


3. Contact details are hard to find.

What’s the best way to contact you — and can your potential new boss find it?

“Spend 15 minutes looking through the portfolio websites of award-winning and world renowned designers and creative directors,” Ram recommends. Not only are they full of great ideas and examples — they also are probably loaded with contact information.

“Take note, you’ll begin to see the patterns in the simplicity — sometimes almost too simple — of how they present the way to reach them.”

4. It’s not mobile responsive.

The person who’s considering hiring you is probably busy, which means there’s a very good chance that they’ll be looking at your porfolio from their iPhone.

“Make sure that the real estate for ‘tapping’ and ‘clicking’ buttons, images and links are large enough to do so with ease,” says Ram. “On a mobile, it’s all about the scrolling and finger ‘tapping’ because the screen is so small. The natural behaviour of the viewer embraces these movements effortlessly. It becomes too much work when the viewer requires zooming in/out and navigating the page in all directions just to see and read your content.”

5. No captions, no context.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture coupled with some words is worth even more. Especially when it highlights any and all high-profile clients you may have worked with.

Here are the five captions Ram suggests including (in order):

Client: Name who the work was for.

Agency: Name the company or studio you did the work at. If it’s a piece from college or university. then leave this out and mention it in the ‘Client’ caption.

Challenge: What was the primary objective? (2-3 sentences at least).

Role: Specify your role and give credit to where it’s due.

Results: Optional.”


An online portfolio is essential for attracting clients. Learn how it is done – the easy way. Watch now.


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Rachel Gregg

Rachel is the content marketing lead for the CreativeLive Craft Channel. Her side hustle is floral design and her day job is awesome. @ms_gregarious.