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Portfolio Guide

How-to Guides

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You need to consider the future of the documentation of all of the design content you create. Don't just think of the work you do at any particular point as satisfying some immediate need in this or that design course. Look ahead. If you mount images on large-format boards in studio, where will you store them? How will you maintain them? When you reproduce your work digitally, where are you storing your files?

Evaluators want to see your creative process as well as the polished end product. Keep this in mind as you document your work. Don't forget your sketches, mock ups, and original drawings.

Keep in mind that you cannot conduct a meaningful portfolio audit unless you can readily lay your hands on all your images, and what is more, sort through them in an orderly way. You need to develop a system to keep your documentary records organized and accessable.



High quality images are essential to a successful portfolio. The model, drawing, or other item to be photographed should be intelligently crafted and appropriate for inclusion. A poor photograph can undermine the quality of even the finest piece of work. You will need to experiment in order to discover how best to photograph your three-dimensional work to showcase its quality.

Did you know that NewSchool has a camera for check out and a Lenz Lab with photo equipment to use? Additionally, they have a high-resolution scanner perfect for 2 dimensional drawings. Come by the library to utilize these free resources.



Think of the organization of your portfolio as building a bridge. Choose your very best work as the main supports. A strong piece of work should open the portfolio, another should support the middle of the presentation, and yet another should close the portfolio. 

The average portfolio contains six to eight projects, which translates into twenty double sided pages. 


The Portfolio Audit

What you select for your portfolio should depend not only on your judgment about what pieces represent you at your best, but also on whether you are using the portfolio to support an application for a job, competition for a scholarship or grant, or some other purpose. The most efficient way to ensure your selection will help you achieve your goal is by performing a portfolio audit. 

This is the process by which you select and, in preliminary fashion, arrange the work you judge to be relevant to your goal. Create an outline of your portfolio that fits your purpose. From here draw out a rough story board and work out your approximate sequence of projects and images. Don't be afraid to make notes and try things out a few different ways.

Think about your choices as you make them. Your audit should be guided by the objective of choosing for each project a variety of samples, from preliminary sketches to finished renderings to model. Reviewers appreciate the inclusion of sketches and conceptual drawings to show how your thinking has evolved.




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

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