Learn About the Types of Graphic Design Portfolios

When trying to break into the field of graphic design, having a solid portfolio is crucial. If you are job-hunting, your portfolio is what employers will be looking at to decide whether or not to give you an interview. If you are starting a freelance business, potential clients will be comparing portfolios to choose a designer for a project. There are several choices for what type of portfolio to build, and each has their own benefits and drawbacks.


Online portfolios are probably the most popular type today. As a graphic designer, some will even assume you have a website. If your focus is web design, an online portfolio is the choice for you, as it serves as an example of your work.


  • Easy to send out…it’s just a link
  • Can provide a look into your personality
  • Allows for an interactive presentation of your work


  • The most time consuming to create
  • You have to worry about it looking or behaving differently from computer to computer
  • You need the technical knowledge to set it up
  • Expensive to hire someone to develop it for you
  • You will have to pay for a domain name and monthly web hosting


Creating a portfolio as a PDF is becoming more and more popular. Using Acrobat, multi-page PDFs can be created from layouts created in a graphics software program (such as InDesign or Photoshop). The result is a brochure-style piece that shows examples of your work along with descriptions of projects and related information.


  • Easy to email
  • Control over layout without having to worry about browser and web issues
  • The PDF itself serves as an example of your layout and typography skills
  • Can be printed with consistent results
  • Relatively quick and free to create


  • Relies on the user to save and open the file
  • Less effective for showing web design projects

The Classic Portfolio

The classic portfolio, an actual book of various sizes with printed examples of your work, still serves a purpose in today’s “digital world.” There are several ways to present such a portfolio, from placing prints in a pre-made book with sleeves, to creating your own custom, bound book.


  • Shows your work in its actual, final format
  • Great for showing off print design
  • Can be brought to a meeting and shown without a computer


  • Must be delivered by mail or in-person
  • If you leave with a potential client or employer, you are left without a portfolio

In the end, the type of portfolio you choose to have will depend on your budget, available time and type of work. For web designers, an online portfolio is a no-brainer. If you don’t have the time or budget to set up a website right now, you should at least have a PDF so you have something to email. A classic portfolio is great to bring to a meeting and show off your best print work. As a portfolio is a key marketing piece, it should be taken seriously, and a combination of the options above might be the right choice to get you your dream job or client.

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