Tag: portfolio

Design a portfolio that packs a punch

I look at many creative resumes and portfolios every day in my job at Fantasy, spanning a wide range of disciplines and talents. Because there's so many, I've had to develop a strategy to enable me to quickly tell whether a designer has both the visual talent and user experience thinking to thrive with us. In short, a way of separating good work from work that simply looks good.

There are plenty of great platforms and tools out there to help designers display their work beautifully. Check out our post on wordpress portfolio themes  for a round up.

The problem is that these platforms look so great out of the box that they can easily mask the true talent level of the designers using them. Grabbing a nice photograph of a car might make for an arresting project marquee, but if the work that follows isn't as interesting, it'll be clear to me that the designer has put more effort into making a portfolio than they put into the work featured in that portfolio.

What follows is a how-to version of the mental checklist of elements I look for in a great portfolio. Not every single one of these is required, but the best portfolios I see include the majority of the these ingredients.

01. Select your projects

Pick your best work

Pick your best work

The first step is to select projects that you think are the best indication of your talent. A well-curated body of work is the first indicator that an individual can decipher good from bad. We have all taken on projects that didn’t have a favourable outcome, but guess what? You don’t have to advertise them! A single piece of bad work can undermine an entire portfolio. It demonstrates a lack of taste for only the best quality.

02. Look to the future

Promote pieces that indicate what kind of work you'd like to do

Promote pieces that indicate the kind of work you’d like to do

Choose pieces that hint at work you'd like to do in the future. Many designers believe their portfolio is an archive of the work they have completed in the past. While this is true, it should also be a springboard from which to win future opportunities.

I often hear from potential clients who like pieces in my portfolio and want to talk about related projects, proving that it's advantageous to show the kind of work you'd be happy to do more of moving forward.

03. Showcase personal projects

Show off the range of your abilities with personal projects

A great way to show your abilities is to develop a personal project showcasing how you might approach design for an existing product or brand. I love looking at personal projects because they demonstrate a designer’s talent when they’re free from the constraints of demanding clients and business needs.

However, because this work is created in a bubble, it should be clear to your audience that it is not client-driven, and is not an indication of your ability to solve problems stemming from client feedback.

04. Choose wisely

Don't try to redesign the Apple watch

Don’t try to redesign the Apple watch

If you include personal projects, avoid redesigns for brands with a strong design presence. Nike, Apple, Burton: these are all brands with a strong heritage and even stronger design language. They have already set the tone and style for any work created for them, and anything unsolicited would blend in with their current work regardless of how innovative it may seem. Instead, either focus on solving a usability problem with an existing product, or select a brand that is not as ubiquitous.

05. Demonstrate critical thinking

Get the backstory right

Make sure you get your backstory right

Before even approaching the computer, determine how you are going to talk about each piece of work. Where did this piece start? How did you embark on the process? Where did you look for inspiration? How did the design take shape? Were there any hurdles along the way? What were the results? These are all questions that should be answered in order to demonstrate critical thinking in your creative process.

06. Structure matters

Structure your project description properly

Structure your project description properly

Each piece within your portfolio is a story and should be laid out in a proper arc. Where did the project begin? How did you respond to the task? What was the solution? How and where was your solution carried out? All of these questions need to be answered in the proper order for easy consumption, so your viewer can get a sense of the wider scope of your involvement and expertise.

07. Show your workings

Some clients will be designers, and they will enjoy seeing your sketches

Some clients will be designers, and they will enjoy seeing your sketches

Gather artefacts from your process. I love seeing and hearing about the creative process of other designers and geeking out over sketches. In addition to collecting pixel-perfect final artwork, consider including any work you did along the way. Any colour explorations, photographs and so on, tell me that you look for inspiration outside of Photoshop and work through various problems or roadblocks to get to a final solution.

08. Explain your decisions

Justify your choices

Justify your choices

Think of your audience as a client in a design presentation. How did you get to typographic decisions or colour choices? Did you thoughtfully approach the use of a grid? How does your framework scale to multiple devices or increased amounts of content? Including these steps helps justify your final design choices and gives depth to the work overall.

09. Describe any interactions

Explain how the interface works

Explain how the interface works

If your portfolio contains interactive work, show your thinking behind how elements on screen behave when the user is present. This will transform your design from simply a nice layout to an immersive experience. Think too about how your interactions are unique to each project, and go above and beyond the work others have seen before. This will help your audience see how the piece functions overall, even without having to experience a live demonstration.

10. Use thoughtful animations

Animations are a great way to explain the functions of interface elements

Animations are a great way to explain the functions of interface elements

Simple prototype animations or animated demo videos add a tremendous amount of value to your projects. These should not take the place of a well thought-out story told through design, but they go a long way in conveying the interactions, interesting movement, and spacial relationships that flat comps just can’t. These should be used sparingly and placed thoughtfully so as not to interfere with the project story’s flow.

11. Explain your process

Clients will want to know how you work through problems

Clients will want to know how you work through problems

Interactive projects are often in-depth explorations of complicated processes and interactions. When selecting which elements of your projects to focus on, be sure to show any processes, even if they aren’t the flashiest elements. They will help your audience see how you think through complex design and interaction problems while still working to maintain a quality product.

12. Keep it tight

Don't include this kind of unnecessary image

Don’t include this kind of unnecessary image

While I’ve discussed including a number of visuals for process and function, it is important to consider the presence of each visual you select. A tight portfolio has very little fluff and doesn’t try to distract the viewer.

A good example is the ubiquitous ‘grid of devices’. Sometimes it may be relevant to demonstrate that a product works on multiple platforms or screen sizes, but more often than not this is unnecessary visual candy. I suggest avoiding it unless you have a strong argument to the contrary.

13. Visual tricks date quickly

Fancy effects serve no purpose

Fancy effects serve no purpose

Do the work justice, don’t hide it behind flashy imagery. Just as images of designers holding posters were popular years ago, now it has become popular to show design work angled in three dimensions. This serves no purpose other than to distract your viewer from how good the work really is. Reserve angles to show frameworks and how elements sit in relation to each other within the context of the overall design.

14. Use context

Show your design as it would be used

Show your design as it would be used

Give context to each piece. This is a tricky one, and should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Interactive design always exists within the context of a browser, television, or mobile device. Consider showing at least one design within the context of the key device it would live in to give an indication of the scale of the elements and their relationship with the edge of the screen.

15. Perfect your portfolio's design

Sell your work with a stylish portfolio design

Sell your work with a stylish portfolio design

Labour over the creation of each asset in the same way you laboured over the work to begin with. This is the most tedious part of creating any portfolio, but by far the most important! As much as a portfolio shouldn’t get in the way of the designs within, any design elements applied to the portfolio itself should be considered with the same attention to detail that you give all of your projects. That goes for typography, imagery, colour choices and so on.

16. Choose the right platform

Squarespace, Semplice and Readymag are all strong choices

Squarespace, Semplice and Readymag are all strong choices

Consider the platform where you will showcase your work. Will it properly convey each piece’s story? Will it easily scale with additional projects? There are several to choose from these days – Squarespace, Semplice and Readymag to name a few – and each have their pros and cons. Before committing to a platform be sure to test each option and look at examples to ensure you are moving forward with the best solution for you and your work.

17. Expand your horizons

If you have an interesting process, share it on Medium

If you have an interesting process, share it on Medium

Look for additional outlets to show off your projects and point of view. If you’ve created work that has an interesting story behind it, consider writing a Medium article about your process and approach. There you can give an account of your work in greater detail, and increase your presence to a broader audience. You never know, this might create leads you hadn’t been exposed to previously.

18. Get feedback

Ask friends what they think

Ask friends what they think

Solicit friends and colleagues for feedback. As many of us consider our work extremely personal, this step is frequently overlooked. However, asking an objective outsider to cast an eye over your portfolio can be incredibly useful. Just like with professional career criticism, it can help you push your work to the next level. It will also help you gauge if your project stories are understandable and clear to outsiders, which is key if you want others to reach out to you once it has launched.

19. Include a bio

Tell people who you are

Tell people who you are

Don't forget to tell your own story as a designer! This is a hotly contested aspect of every portfolio: just how much personality should you show? I lean towards liking less 'quirkiness' or forced creativity, and instead look for a quick summary of the creative's professional background.

This element is often an afterthought; just a paragraph of text or a link to LinkedIn. You might try putting together a simple case study about you, highlighting work experience and clients, presented in an easily digestible, strongly typographic way.

20. Get it out there

Social media is your friend

Social media is your friend

Share it everywhere! After all that hard work you deserve to be a little obnoxious. There are all the usual outlets for creatives, but design is inherently about solving problems for businesses outside the design community. Find people and places to share your work with who don't work in your industry. Do they understand your approach? Are they interested in your work? It just might lead to another great project and ultimately an addition to your portfolio.

Related articles:

  • The dos and don'ts of perfect portfolios
  • 32 brilliant design portfolios
  • How to start a blog

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25 top-quality WordPress portfolio themes

It's now easier than ever to use platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr to create a highly effective and professional design portfolio page, which is easy to edit and navigate as you please, similarly to the way you would a blog page.

You certainly don't need to be a web design wizard to create a decent looking portfolio site these days. There are a number of handy WordPress tutorials and elegantly designed portfolio WordPress themes out there to get you started on showcasing your work the best way possible.

Here we've picked 25 of the best quality WordPress portfolio themes around. Let us know how you get on with them via Facebook or Twitter!

Please note, as professional quality themes, these are paid options (most cost around $50, with the cheapest priced at $9 and the most expensive on our list costing $69). For free WordPress themes, read our Best free WordPress themes post.

01. Bolec

Bolec has a great collection of page designs for you to try

If you like responsive, full-screen, simple sites then this theme is for you. Designed with portfolio and photography sites in mind, but suitable for loads of other applications, Bolec is powered by Twitter's Bootstrap framework and features plenty of page designs for you to work with.

02. Aoko

Aoko’s masked video effects are a great way to grab attention

For a portfolio site with instant visual impact, Aoko is well worth a look. It'll grab attention thanks to its four-way full-screen menu complete with video navigation, and it'll keep visitors engaged with its mix of clean design and CSS3 content animations. It's fully responsive and easy to customise, and comes with free updates and support.

03. Paragon

If you’re in a hurry, Paragon enables you to build your portfolio fast

This theme is for creatives and designers who are looking to get a portfolio together fast. Neat and straight to the point, Paragon is a colourful responsive portfolio theme for freelancers and agencies that uses WordPress Live Customizer so you can build and edit your site and see the changes instantly.

04. Fizz

Help visitors find the content they want with Fizz’s deeplinking and subfilters

If you work across a number of styles or disciplines and you want visitors to your portfolio to be able to filter accordingly, Fizz will make your life easier with its deeplinking and subfilters. These enable you to create category filters in a link format that instantly reorganises your portfolio when clicked; Fizz also features real-time customisation and WooCommerce support.

05. Air

Air’s page builder makes it a cinch to try new layouts

Lightweight and flexible, Air is a responsive, retina-ready portfolio theme with unlimited listing layouts and plenty of project layouts for you to choose from. Building your portfolio couldn't be simpler, thanks to Air's built-in page builder which includes over 20 useful modules for putting everything together, and every detail is designed to be smooth and polished for a great user experience.

06. North

North boasts 14 pre-built layouts for you to work with

A totally responsive and parallax single-page WordPress theme, North is built with creative studios and agencies in mind, and comes in 14 ready-made flavours to suit whatever work you particularly want to show off. It also makes it easy to create your own custom layout, and there's even an installation screencast available to view that will help you get set up.

07. Twin

Twin’s dynamic grid widths will show off your imagery to great effect

Designed for creatives and photographers, Twin uses jQuery Masonry layout for dynamic grid widths that really give you the opportunity to show off your work to best effect. It's responsive and retina-ready with eight custom post formats to play with, as well as six custom widgets and all the social sharing features you're likely to need.

08. Assemble

Assemble’s Masonry-style layout

Keep your options open with Assemble, a theme that gives you a choice of 18 homepage layouts for your portfolio. Once you’ve picked the general style of layout for your images, it can be customised down to the finest detail including hover types, spacing and slider style.

09. BePortfolio

Get your Behance portfolio on your own site in a matter of minutes

If you've already published your work on Behance and want your own portfolio site as well, this theme enables you to import everything to your WordPress site using the BeDojo plugin. It also works as a normal theme – you don't have to have a Behance portfolio. 

10. Reel Story

Use video to draw the viewer in with Reel Story

Opening with an impactful video is a good way to capture the viewer's attention, and this video portfolio template enables you to do just that. It's set up so that the demo content is automatically installed so you can use it as a base for your own site.

11. Stag

WordPress portfolio themes - Stag

Stag lets you build minimal sites with sophisticated features

If you can't decide whether you want something minimal or versatile for your portfolio site, Stag gives you the best of both worlds. It's powered by Visual Composer, making it simple to build great-looking pages, but if you want features such as parallax backgrounds and animated content, they're easy to implement.

12. Vong

WordPress portfolio themes - Vong

Vong is a CSS3-powered theme suitable for freelancers and agencies

Responsive, retina-ready and intuitive, Vong is a modern minimalist portfolio theme suitable for both freelancers and agencies. Powered by CSS3, it features three portfolio sizes and a fully responsive lightbox, as well as WooCommerce support. And it'll even let you use HTML5 video as a page header background. Its quality is also confirmed by the fact that at $69, it's the most expensive WordPress theme on our list.

13. Alpha

WordPress portfolio themes - Alpha

If you need a fast and customisable mobile first theme, check out Alpha

For a responsive mobile-first theme that's highly customisable and blazing fast, look no further than Alpha. It comes with an attention-grabbing, custom-built portfolio slider that works well with both scroll and touch interaction. It also uses AJAX to load portfolio projects with impressive effects, and its drag-and-drop composer means you can quickly build great-looking pages.

Next page: 12 more excellent WordPress themes

14. Hind

WordPress portfolio themes - Hind

Hind is crammed with options and has its own support team

If you want to get your portfolio site up and running in minutes but don't want to compromise on choice, then take a look at Hind. It comes with 14 ready made homepages and over 20 header styles, 11 pre-made sliders, plus an assortment of layout variations and animations and much more besides. And if you run into difficulties, there's a dedicated support team to help you out.

15. BigBang

Portfolio WordPress themes - BigBang

BigBang makes it easy to control the appearance of your responsive site

The BigBang WordPress theme offers an original editing system, working with various shaped preview thumbnails and a clean and clear layout, enabling you to control the appearance, columns, font and size easily. It's great way to create a responsive WordPress portfolio site to showcase your work.

16. Nemesis Clean Design

Portfolio WordPress theme - Nemesis Clean Design

Nemesis Clean Design does exactly what it says on the tin

This portfolio WordPress theme is specifically aimed at designers and creatives looking to expose their work. Nemesis Clean Design has a multi-functional layout that allows multiple page editing and runs across the whole digital platform, allowing you to view it on iPhone/iPad devices without any modifications.

17. MediaBook

Portfolio WordPress theme - Media Book

MediaBook gives your imagery a luxurious feel

MediaBook offers a refreshing WordPress theme that would work particularly well with photography and very visual imagery. The clean, chic layout lends a professional and luxurious feel to your work.

18. Hipster

Portfolio WordPress theme - Hipster

Hipster is so laid back, it’s laid out

As the name suggests, Hipster offers a modern and relaxed alternative to an overly formal portfolio site, with multi-functional pages that will allow viewers to engage and interact with the content – perfect for studios and collectives. Its many editing features enable you to personalise the content to best suit the nature of your work, and again it's viewable on a range of digital platforms.

19. MiniPress

Portfolio WordPress theme - MiniPress

Let your work do the talking with this simple black and white theme

MiniPress offers a simple but classy black and white layout to give your work a glossy finish. This theme is functional on many platforms and easily accessible. There's also 24-hour support available, and like many portfolio themes, MiniPress comes with a ready made contact form.

20. Pen & Paper

Portfolio WordPress theme - Pen & Paper

Pen & Paper offers a refined and traditional look but with modern touches

Pen & Paper offers a more classical and refined layout for your WordPress portfolio, with a more traditional look. Yet it's interactive and user-friendly, adapting to a modern context. It also includes an optional slideshow, as well as 360 icons.

21. SimplyInfinite

Portfolio WordPress theme - SimplyInfinite

SimplyInfinite is smooth and clean with flexible editing options

The SimplyInfinite WordPress theme offers a smooth and clean layout, giving flexible editing options as well as pages to spread out and distribute your content. Three layout options are available, as well as the ability to add audio clips.

22. Rhea

Portfolio WordPress theme - Rhea

Rhea is a clean and structured layout for illustrators and artists

Rhea is another great clean and structured layout, perfect for illustrators and visual artists. This WordPress theme is fast and smooth, allowing your work to be put forward in a user-friendly fashion. This is also the cheapest theme on our list, priced at just $9.

23. Retro

Portfolio WordPress theme - Retro

Retro lets you build web pages like you used to get in the 1950s

This WordPress theme offers an alternative design for your portfolio site, with a retro-inspired layout, easy editing options and multiple page facilities, with built-in options including contact forms and Nivo sliders.

24. Incorn

Portfolio WordPress theme - Incorn

Incorn boasts plenty of image, audio and video features

Incorn has a stylish layout, offering up to 20 pages of content made easy to navigate and interact with. The clean and modern design of this WordPress theme is easy to customise and edit. With built-in image, audio and video friendly facilities, it's easily connected to social networks.

25. Haze

Portfolio WordPress theme - Haze

Haze is beautiful and stylish with great navigation options

Haze is a beautiful and stylish portfolio WordPress theme that offers a full screen slider welcome page and easy to use navigation options. It's perfect for creative portfolios with plenty of visuals.

This is an updated and expanded version of an article previously published on Creative Bloq.

Related articles:

  • 40 brilliant WordPress tutorials
  • 10 great WordPress plugins for designers
  • The 32 best free WordPress themes


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