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Portfolio Guide

How-to Book Design

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design statement

Design to Make a Statement

In a print portfolio, branding and identity begin at the beginning, with the cover, size, even the paper weight and feeling of your portfolio. The visual elements of your portfolio should generate a synergy that leads the reviewer to make the intellectual and visual connections you want him or her to make. 

Your Portfolio is only one of the tools in your professional tool box. Make sure all of your other elements (your linked in profile, CV, Resume, and Thesis) all have a cohesive story line that describes you.


Keep in mind that while large formats are impressive and offer a great deal of space in which to design, smaller formats offer the advantages of easier and more convenient handling and greater intimacy between the images and the viewer. 

Landscape or Portrait?

Choosing the page size, enclosing system, and format are all important decisions. You should begin by deciding whether you will use a portrait (vertical), landscape (horizontal), or a square format. Let the nature of your material guide your choice. Review your images. Which orientation will give you the greatest freedom of choice in designing each spread?

You can see some examples here.


Page size is dictated by your design decisions as well as your technical and financial resources. Does your artwork require you hand-trim pages to a nonstandard size, or can you depend on standard, commercially available materials? Do you want a hand-crafted look?

Review your portfolio audit and note the largest sizes of the visual material that you have planned to include. This should point you to the correct page size. 

The color, weight, and texture of the paper are important as well. Together, these constitute the background against which your images will be reproduced. Neutral colors work the best so that your paper doesn't compete with your images.

Designing in Spreads

By thinking in terms of spreads--pairs of facing pages-- rather than single pages, you may be able to achieve a practical compromise between large and small formats. Students often use two facing vertical pages of medium size to create a large horizontal format by planning the design to tun across the gutter (where the two pages meet) as a two-page spread. In this way, you gain the convenience and economy of carrying and storing the portfolio in the smaller format while retaining the ability to expand the image area presentation. (Linton, 2012)

Binding and Enclosures

Most portfolios use a traditional book binding system. However you bind, you will have to decide on some enclosing system for the portfolio. This system must be coordinated with the graphic design of the pages as well as with the portfolio orientation and binding. 

You have the option of going to a professional binder or doing it by hand yourself.

In choosing an enclosing system, look for a simple, stable, and study construction. In terms of style, the enclosing system should be visually appealing but generally understated, simple, and tasteful. It should reveal a blend of imagination and professionalism. The materials, color, finish, and detailing should be striking but not garish: the package must never be more exciting than what it contains.

Reference Resources

Referenced Materials:

Kogan, G. (2016). 12 Tipf for Making an Outstanding Architecture Portfolio. ArchDaily. retrieved from

Linton, H. (2012). Portfolio Design 4th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.


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