For graphic designers and other professionals who work with visual media, portfolios are a great way to showcase design skills and work experience for prospective clients.
While there are different ways to create a portfolio, few are as versatile and engaging as a good graphic design portfolio website.
In this guide, you will learn why you should have a portfolio website, what the best ones look like, how to build one by yourself and some tips to make it an effective tool for attracting new clients.
Which types of portfolios are recommended for graphic designers?
- Printed catalog portfolios
- Digital catalog portfolios
- Social media portfolios
- Job marketplace portfolios
- Personal website portfolios
One option rises above the rest. Creating a personal website is often the way to go; below, we’ll consider the pros and cons of each route and how they compare to using a website portfolio.
These are physical books that can come in different shapes and sizes. Each page of the book will have high-quality prints of your design work. They provide a uniquely tactile experience to customers. Catalogs in this format are typically a niche option targeted at an artistic or artisan audience.
Printed catalogs don’t require an internet connection or electronic device. However, your portfolio would be limited to those with physical access to the book. Printing and mailing a copy of your portfolio to every potential client can quickly become expensive.
If you have a physical office space where you meet leads, try printing one or two catalogs and letting potential clients flip through them before returning the book. In this way, printed catalogs are efficient and distinguished, providing a memorable experience.
These act similarly to printed catalogs, except saved in a computer document format like PDF or EPUB.
Digital catalogs have pages with curated images of your best work, but you need a digital device like a smartphone or PC to view them. This solves the dilemma of printing copies of your portfolio for every client. It’s free to send unlimited emails with the digital document attached.
However, this format works best for a specific type of graphic design work. Large-scale projects will look nicer in full size, not scaled down to the size of a document page. Also, high-quality images can lead to documents with massive file sizes that are difficult to share.
You can use social media platforms, like Instagram and Twitter, as a portfolio because they allow you to post and share visual content with others on the platform.
Some other social platforms, like Behance and Dribbble, are specifically designed for artists to showcase their work.
While these platforms can potentially give you a lot of visibility, content restrictions can affect the quality of your work and how it’s interpreted. For example, you can’t post an interactive web design on LinkedIn or Facebook without losing the interactivity.
Most social media platforms have size limitations for images and video, forcing you to post lower-quality media files that may not accurately convey your design style.
Online job marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork will also work as a portfolio for freelance graphic designers. That’s because, as an artist, getting any kind of work on these platforms requires showcasing your digital design skills.
The advantage of creating a portfolio this way is it’s also a platform designed to attract potential clients. However, you have to contend with many other designers using the platform to apply for the same design projects you would.
Good reasons to make a graphic design portfolio website
Whether you’re looking for the best medium to tell the story of your artwork — or you’re a business owner who wants to showcase the capabilities of your graphic design, here’s why you should have a graphic design portfolio website:
Using a website for your graphic design portfolio is like building a house from the ground up. The website is your piece of real estate online; you’re completely free to apply your art direction and build a captivating storytelling medium.
This is especially important because people tend to form impressions about a brand based on their interactions with its website. In fact, 50% of consumers agreed that a company’s website design is important to their brand perception.
Most other platforms don’t offer users the same flexibility regarding how you display your content.
In addition to the flexibility that comes with web hosting, you can control some of the underlying infrastructure that powers your website. At the minimum, this will include the web hosting platform and the content management system (CMS).
You’ll have access to tools for managing your website’s structure, configuring backups, improving security and optimizing your content. This means you can redesign your entire portfolio website whenever you want, and be sure that none of your work will get lost in the process.
Depending on your hosting plan, you can manage all these features on your own or leave it to your hosting provider to handle as per your instructions.
Using multiple platforms for your portfolio is a great idea since you’ll reach a wider audience. Furthermore, a website will be the perfect central hub for all those different platforms, ensuring that all engagements with your brand lead where you want them to.
Try sharing content to your social media accounts as soon as it’s published on your website, and vice versa — display social media engagement on your website. A website portfolio can have digital catalogs embedded. It’s feasible to provide payment and shipping options for those who want physical copies.
Likewise, all your other portfolio platforms should link back to your website.
Take things a step further by using website analytics tools like Jetpack to track your traffic sources and see which platforms are helping you the most.
Another advantage websites have over most other platforms is that they can be accessed by nearly all digital communication devices commonly used today. This means smartphones, tablet computers, desktop PCs, laptops and even some smart home devices like TVs.
As long as it has a web browser and internet capabilities, it can access your website. There’s no need for visitors to create an account or download any apps to view your portfolio.
However, to provide a decent viewing experience for visitors across these different platforms and screen sizes, your portfolio website needs to use a responsive design.
You can easily build an eCommerce storefront on your website so customers can order prints of your design work. Or you could add an online learning portal where visitors to your website can enroll and take design courses.
Using a website for your portfolio opens up unlimited ways to monetize your work. This versatility is useful for design studios and freelancers that want sources of revenue.
- Get a domain name and hosting plan
- Build and personalize your website design
- Upload your work and organize it
- Create webpages with additional helpful info
- Publish your portfolio website
Creating a website is a straightforward process that doesn’t require a computer science degree or web development knowledge. Follow these five steps, and you’ll promptly own a website perfect for a graphic designer’s portfolio.
These two activities are typically done at the same time because most web hosting companies also provide domain name registration.
Your domain name is your website’s address on the internet — it’s also key part of your brand identity. Therefore, choose a domain name that will resonate with your target audience and position your business or personal brand favorably.
To select the right hosting plan, consider your portfolio website’s ideal outcome. Ask questions like:
- How much space will I need?
- Which platform will I use to build my website?
- What is my budget?
- What additional features should the website have?
By doing some research before deciding, you’ll conclusively select a hosting option that meets your needs at an affordable price.
If you have a limited budget and don’t need much space or extra features, you can get a shared hosting plan from Bluehost that starts at $2.65 monthly.
After sorting out the hosting and domain name for your website, you can start building it to match your vision of an ideal online portfolio.
Building your website with WordPress breaks the process down into simple steps that allow you to focus on each aspect of the website. Here’s how to get started with the world’s most popular website builder:
Next, choose a theme that matches your preferred website design. You can customize template elements of the theme — including font styles, color schemes and logo design — to match your branding.
Plugins add functionality to your website. Specifically, consult a guide to the best portfolio plugins and install your favorite one.
Your website should have a portfolio page that’s easily accessible to visitors from the homepage and the navigation menu.
Once the basic framework of your graphic design portfolio website is ready, start uploading your projects and use the portfolio plugin to display them on your website.
Each item in your portfolio should have a text description that tells its story and gives viewers the context they need to understand your work. Don’t forget to group your uploads into categories and add notes to explain each section.
Since these are visual designs, take note of the resolution and quality of your content as you upload it. Aim for an image resolution that looks great on your screen — and then avoid going much larger since unnecessarily big files can slow down a website, browser or internet connection.
Your designs are the centerpiece of your portfolio website, but they shouldn’t be the only content on your website.
Your graphics design portfolio website should include:
- An about page describing your background, professional experience, skills, design process and other important information that gives people context about you.
- A contact information that lets visitors know how they can get in touch with you. It should include a business email address and social media handles, plus any work-related phone numbers and physical addresses.
- A case studies page — the perfect written compliment to your visual content, explaining your approach to solving design problems and getting results.
- A blog page filled with articles where you share your thoughts on graphic design trends.
- A testimonials page with feedback from clients who like the work you’ve done for them.
If you want to extend the website’s functionality to support an eCommerce store or some other feature, this is where you do so.
Once all the required graphic design content has been uploaded and you’ve created the additional content that gives your website structure, all that’s left to do is grant the public access to it.
To take things a step further, explore website marketing techniques to ensure your portfolio gets the right traffic.
Launching your online presence is an amazing first step. Here are some website portfolio tips you can use to create a truly great graphic design portfolio.
Your graphic design work shouldn’t be the only thing that speaks to your quality production. Your website should also serve as a canvas for your creativity.
Feel free to experiment with the layout, typography and UI design until you get eye-catching results that accurately project your brand.
Give website visitors the encouragement to take a specific action after interacting with your content, ensuring their time on your website results in something.
Try a button or form that allows users to contact you for work. Alternatively, make a landing page with a signup form to enroll in graphic design classes. Yet another idea, link to an online store where they can buy merch.
SEO best practices enhance your online visibility, leading to more work for your business.
For this reason, spend time improving your website’s UI/UX design. Regularly do keyword research and create relevant content based on your findings.
If you’re unsure about how to handle this, get help. Bluehost offers professional SEO management from a team of experts who can optimize your website for the best traffic results.
Mobile devices account for over 58% of website traffic, so building a website that works great on phones should be a priority.
The key is to choose a design theme that’s responsive, meaning it can adjust to suit different screen sizes. That way, you ensure your content is stunning no matter what device potential clients have.
In the U.S., data breaches affected over 422 million people in 2022 alone. The easiest way to prevent your website from falling victim to data breach attempts is to choose a secure hosting platform.
When you apply website security best practices, you can have confidence your portfolio website is safe and your audience will have confidence their personal info is safe.
Tie in everything you’ve learned as you consider these graphic design portfolio examples.
Jessica Hische has a website that optimizes for search engines; its blurbs mention her popular works and the niches she’s most known for.
Jason Little has made sure his website is responsive. On smaller screens, the number of portfolio items per row is gradually reduced.
Beyond Lotta Nieminen’s strikingly artsy website design, users can see it’s encrypted with an SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt.
Leo Natsume’s website shows immense character despite its sparse elements. Even just a unique font and thoughtful layout convey what Leo is like.
This website for Stefan Sagmeister is so simple that the Contact button functions as a viable call to action.
Very few platforms give graphic designers complete freedom to display their creativity; that’s what’s so desirable about portfolio websites. The best part is that it’s easier than ever to create one that matches your vision.
The first step is picking the right hosting partner and platform to build on. WordPress hosting plans from Bluehost grant you a free domain name, affordable hosting, free custom WordPress themes and 24/7 support. It’s everything you need to start building your graphic design portfolio today.