6 Things Every Designer Should Have

A Print Portfolio

Even though it is arguably more important to have a web portfolio, you can’t neglect having a print portfolio! Many studios and companies want to look at a print portfolio because it can tell them more about you as a designer, especially if you are applying for a print design job. You can refer to our graphic design portfolio guide for more info.

A Disposable Print Portfolio

Most of the time you will be asked to leave a copy of your portfolio behind and you may not want to leave your original work, or an expensive portfolio case with them. Find a less expensive case and re create a few copies of your portfolio that you can leave behind at all the places you are applying to.

A PDF Portfolio

PDFs of your work are also commonly requested. Your PDF pages should be combined together to form a single file, it should match the style of your identity system and have your contact information. Your PDF file must be as small as possible, under 2MB is recommended, but often your potential employer will specify preferred file size. Sending a huge size file that takes forever to open is a sure way not get hired.

A Website Portfolio

A portfolio site is the main weapon in a modern designer’s arsenal and a one page portfolio is the perfect way to create your portfolio site. They are fast loading, easy to view and showcase your work perfectly. Be sure to look into website marketing and search engine optimization so you can make the most of your portfolio site.

A Resume, Cover Letter and Business Card

A well designed and consistent resume, cover letter and business card are a must have for every designer. Be sure to keep the copy on these items up to date for a guide on resume design check out our post: The Graphic Design Resume Guide

A Printer Contact

Having a friendly business relationship with a local printer or online printing company has many benefits. Often you can get discounts on printing, faster turnaround times and you will be aware of the latest printing techniques and equipment, which is essential to the graphic design process. Be sure to visit the shop in person if possible, or at least become very familiar with their website and templates so you can make the most of your printer contact.

What tools do you find essential as a modern graphic designer?

15 comments on “6 Things Every Designer Should Have”

  1. Liz Williams Reply

    This post is a lot of help to me, I am currently a graphic design student about to graduate and this post will definitly help me out. I do have a question for you; we are creating a flash portfolio in class and would it benificial for me to include a copy to leave with them? I was thinking buying bulk flash drives and completing it that way but I do not want to put that cost and effort forth if it will be ignored… and if I should just burn a cd for a cheaper option? Well thank you again for this post!
    Liz Williams

  2. Joe Lamour Reply

    You should probably just burn a CD. Going through the extra expense of flash drives wouldn’t be worth it unless, say, a flash drive improved your branding, or related directly to your branding system.

  3. Ken Reply

    I cannot stress how important this simple list is. Well written. I am a Creative Director and in the past year I have had 4 creative job candidates (one a writer, three designers) show up at interviews without any form of a portfolio. At first I thought this was a glitch in the system somewhere but now I see it is a recurring pattern. 15 years ago one of my classes was around simply building and presenting a portfolio. Now people who tell me their number one interest is design miss the connection that nothing lets you show your work better than you presenting it.

    It does not matter format so much to Liz’s cost question but in some form you need online portfolio for various touch points including job searching or client building, a portfolio you feel comfortable sharing in both print and electronic in case you need to leave one behind, and finally a portfolio you can share at an actual interview or meeting. If well thought out this can all be one electronic portfolio with PDFs for printing as an example. Either way at least 40% of any designers job is presenting, selling, or educating someone on their work so you better bring it to any interactions and be prepared to present it with examples of how you got to the outcome.

    Along this lines. Send a thank you note after meeting clients or interviewing. A personal email to anyone you deal with may quickly be ignored as the recipient sees fit but if you don’t send one it will not soon be forgotten in many cases by that same recipient.

    Oh yeah to your question. No one has ever left me a thumb drive or the like and frankly it would seem overkill in most cases for someone starting out. The CDs I often receive work well. Just make sure you package it somehow as it is another chance to show your skills. A clear clamshell with self stick label on the disc is a nice way to do some minimal design work on the disk.

  4. Gino Reply

    Liz Williams – A cd is fine or a pdf portfolio, if oyu a cd you should prob design the case or something so it looks nicer and has ur info on it.

  5. Alitimate Reply

    yes, a nice article.!

    Well, i guess you can have another article , on something similar but with a bit more detailing, and including things like workstation, daily use stuff, resources, socializing stuff and day to day things which we all need!

  6. Steve Reply


    Web portfolios belong on the web and printed ones belong in the “real” world. If you have an electronic leave behind that the CD is going to have to plug into their computer to view, why wouldn’t they just view your website?

    Create a small printed leave behind ranging from a 4×6 to a small bound piece that accents your work, but also who you are and your process (something that is all too often missing from student portfolios)

  7. Shannon Reply

    I am a recent Visual Communication Design graduate. I have a job now but I need to update my student portfolio to a professional one. Currently, I have a clamshell with all my pieces in wells. Should a professional portfolio be like this or should I transfer everything to book form? I would really like to know if the trend is book form. It was going back and forth between clamshell and book when I graduated.

  8. Logo UK Reply

    I certainly agree that having a paper based portfolio and not just an Online one is a good idea as it does not look very professional when somebody asks to see examples / evidence of your work and you have nothing to show them. Good post Gino.

  9. Anish Trehan Reply

    I must say .. Print Portfoilo is something i never thinked about. but its really a very good suggestion. I will be printing my portfolio soon :) Thanks ya!!

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