How to Build Your Design Portfolio from Scratch (or with little experience)

 
 

If you are an aspiring web designer with no design background or a recent graduate with no client experience, don't worry... There is still a way to build your portfolio and make it look "experienced". All it takes is practice (and this is coming from someone who comes from an accounting background). So yes there is hope in building an awesome portfolio with little to no work experience. Here are some tips and techniques to use to create more content for your portfolio.

 

Create your own opportunities

Be proactive and don't wait for someone to leave a message in your inbox asking for your creative help. Go out and take it! It's ok to use non-client work for your portfolio if you are just starting off. Here are some sites that help you create end products:

  • Check out Briefbox. They provide you with professional, exciting briefs to work on when you may be struggling for inspiration. They post 4-6 new briefs a week. This is the best website I've found for designers who are looking to evolve and build on their portfolio. Areas include logos, branding, illustrations, print, web design, iconography, app design, and UI design.
  • 99designs is a mesh between Briefbox and Upwork. This website connects the world with great graphic designers through design contests, 1-to-1 Projects, and a Readymade logo store. You can practice your work and at the same time have an opportunity for someone to pay you for a final product
  • Fiverr is similar to 99designs but instead of applying for "contests" you can sell your services. Once you get the hang of managing projects and building your portfolio, start opening up custom work through your website.

Snapshot of Briefbox

 

Learn Something New

Try expanding your expertise. For example, if you are a graphic designer, try taking courses on creating typography or web fonts. Learn something new on Skillshare or Udemy. I love using Skillshare from a creative standpoint and Udemy for other business purposes, but they are both great. I recently took a surface pattern course and loved it (by Bonnie). The end results you create through these courses can also be utilized for your portfolio. They have a promotion now to access all videos for $0.99 for three months.

 

An Online Skillshare Class by Bonnie Christine

Help a Friend

When I first started thinking about creating a design service business, I decided to work with a friend of mine who just launched her own blog. I figured if I want to get experience working with a client, why not try it out with someone I know and who is also starting new. I helped Rachel with her logo in RachelTravels and iHiredMe.co. This gave me time to figure out the questions I needed to ask, the time it took me to create a logo and deliver, and the details I needed to include in my project/proposal. I helped her out and she helped me. You don't want your first project to be a paying client when you have no clue where to start. Scrub your back-end process first to make sure it works. Do you have a friend who is also launching a business or blog? Reach out to them! It also serves as a good channel for referrals. Now if anyone asks who helped your friend launch their website or brand, they can drop the plug!

 
 
Logo created for RachelTravels

Logo created for RachelTravels

 

 

Show your process

This was the best advice I was given from a friend over at General Assembly (and still working on it). I took a course in UX (user experience) design and I only have one piece of work to show for it. When I asked for some feedback on my UX project, he essentially told me I needed more substance. It's cool to see the end result, but how did you get there? Most people are interested in the process of a design, not just the outcome anymore. Share your story! I attached a downloadable PDF of my powerpoint on my page as well. Include the following to enhance the content on your website:

  1. Pictures and sketches of early work
  2. Write-ups of your thought process
  3. Details of design challenges
  4. Images of end result 
  5. Gifs/motion picture/video (if applicable)
  6. PDF or Powerpoint download for presentation (if applicable)

Early stages of web development on Codepen.io

 

Create Challenges

Not too long ago I was stuck in a design "rut" so I created some challenges in a few areas where I knew I needed more practice. Your challenges don't have to produce an "end result" to feature on your portfolio, but it will help create some new creative juices for your next big project. Whether it's a new pattern you designed that you can use for a fabric concept or a UI design for a new website, it is a great channel for fresh new ideas. 

Snapshot of my Evernote list of challenges


What practice techniques did you leverage when you first started creating your portfolio? Share below!


Author: Aylin Marie
Aylin is a visual creator, aspiring UX designer and occasional photographer who has a thing for making clean and minimal user-friendly designs. She started blogging about her travels at OneYoungTraveler and found herself really intrigued with designing it. Eventually, she mingled her creative hobbies with her savvy tech side and fell into the world of digital design. She loves sunflowers and sitting in coffee shops. She grew up in Germany but her first language was Turkish. She is a User Experience (UX) Design graduate from General Assembly and holds a Master's in Business Administration.

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