Building your Portfolio

Advice from Design Faculty (more coming soon)

Think of your portfolio is a means of self-expression
Every page should be carefully laid out with attention to detail.

Set up a template with consistent page size, column widths and margins
Select a standard printable size (8½ x 11" or 11 x 17")
Limit the number of pages to about 20
Include a table of contents and page numbers 

Consider the type style that you choose
The type should be clearly readable
There should be a consistent hierarchy of font sizes: headlines, subheads, explanatory paragraph text, captions, etc.
Written text should be concise, well written and easily understood
Thoroughly spell check or proof read all text 

Short bio at the beginning
1-2-page resume
Include 5-6 projects that show range and depth
Show a range of skills: sketches, technical drawings, final renderings, models
Show examples of "design process"
Fully credit all group work

Keep the overall digital file size of the portfolio low enough to send as an email attachment, preferably as a PDF file under 10 MB.
Images should be about 150 dpi for standard laser printing.

(PennDesign Landscape Architecture & City Planning Faculty)

Advice from Design Alumni

Collected from alumni at the Portfolio Preparation panel event (Fall, 2016):

General advice and format:

  • Document should be in .pdf format (much preferred to having it online and hosted by a website).
  • Show your best work first - employers only review portfolios for 20-30 seconds.
  • Images need to be excellent - strong graphics and not too much small text.
  • Resumes should not be elaborately designed.  Information should be easy to find.
  • SPELL CHECK.  Very important to make sure it is free of errors.
  • Make the file a reasonable size - not so large that it needs to be loaded into Dropbox.
  • Can be organized in different ways and no one way is right for everyone (can be categorized, ordered chronologically).
  • Less about showcasing really cool design, more about being detail oriented and showing you have close attention to details.
  • Integrate your resume and portfolio together - resume should be the first page.  But always send an employer a separate email as well.
  • Give credit to team members when possible.
  • Use 11x17 digital images for printing purposes.  Keep it simple in binding and presentation.

Number and type of projects:

  • Show a diversity of work, if possible.  Include work outside of what would be expected.
  • Shorter is better.  Should highlight your best work and not include everything.
  • Employers are looking to evaluate your ability and potential, so show both.
  • 2 portfolios can work - one larger with a full catalogue and a smaller one for highlights.
  • Utilize both professional work and school projects.

This advice is best for a fine arts College Level Teaching Portfolio:
# of pages: 10 including resume, sample syllabi and work samples (both student and yours)
# of projects: no more than 10 of your own work samples and 10 student samples
Page size: 8.5x11, portrait orientation
Digital file size: depends on how you are submitting
Project explanations: short and sweer - title/date/media
# of images per project: varies based upon media

***For this line of work, the school is primarily going to determine your worth by your personal artwork and secondarily by your teaching experience.  Highlight your work and your personality traits if you don't have a ton of teaching experience yet.***"

(PennDesign MFA, 2010)

Online Publishing Resources

Sample Portfolios