Student Design Portfolio Cheat Sheet

Student Design Portfolio Cheat Sheet
  • Show at least one project that demonstrates that you are strong typographically. The fresher and more current the type selection the better
  • Share multiple case studies that demonstrate that you can bring a brand to life across many audience touch points and show how the brand message is adapted for different media. Make sure your use of photography is strong
  • Present at least one project that is cultural in nature and has social relevance
  • Walk through a project that expresses one of your passions that you are most excited about. Enthusiasm matters!
  • Presenting at least one project that is self initiated outside of the classroom is great. It shows that you are into design beyond what teachers make you do
  • I would also discourage showing incomplete work or too many one-off experiments as these can be hard to understand and may take too much time to explain
  • Showing a little bit of your process on one or two projects is good but don’t overdo it. I love seeing a glimpse into all the work that did not see the light of day
  • Try to make student work feel like professional work. Imagine you got paid to do it!
  • A great presentation in Keynote of Google Slides
  • Optimize the above presentation as a PDF that can either be attached to an email or linked to via Dropbox or Google Drive
  • A website. Any of the website building platforms are fine as long as you don’t just install a template as-is. You need some level of personalization and customization
  • A physical portfolio is not required but you may want to consider collecting your physical samples into a book or folder form you can bring with you to a meeting
  • Gather all of your raw material first
  • Pull together site references you like
  • Design key desktop and mobile screens in Figma
  • Work on making amazing project thumbnails that show your work in the best light
  • Start building the site only when you feel that your site design is resolved
  • Any site builder is fine to use as long as you do not just use a default or existing template.
  • You must make the site feel like yours and it must feel crafted and look great on a smartphone
  • Nail down your design system first
  • Do not use the work of agencies to make mockups. Bad form!
  • If you use mockups, pay for them. Try to make your own if you can
  • Nothing replaces a great photo of a real artifact
  • If you use 3D, be prepared for a learning curve
  • Don’t just present something on an empty background. Give some context as to what it is intended to be
Explaining your work
  • Focus on clarity and brevity
  • Use a Google Doc to collect your language
  • Project descriptions should make sense without visuals
  • Make sure project descriptions are similar in length
  • Have a few people review and provide feedback
  • Be in love with design and make sure your work reflects your love of design
  • Make sure your work is crafted to the highest level possible
  • If an agency has an opening for an intern or junior designer, state that you are applying for this position. It sounds silly but many students overlook this
  • Mention the agency’s work you are most excited about
  • Explain in brief why you are interested in the role and why you think you are a good candidate
  • Do not copy and paste the same email to each agency. Countless times I have received an email from a student that refers to a different agency in their email because they forgot to change the agency name. Do not do this!
  • Make sure your resume looks great. Do not over-design it. It is important to list your skills and the programs you are proficient in
  • A recommendation from a teacher or professional is very helpful. I have had teachers or colleagues that know me email me and let me know to keep an eye out for a student’s portfolio that they felt was a good fit
  • If you are sending digital files (like a PDF) make sure you name the file with your last name. Think about the receiver. How many “resume.pdf” files do you think they receive?
  • Be yourself but dress for work even if it is a virtual meeting
  • If you are on Zoom, clean up your background, make your bed, plant life helps
  • Be articulate but not verbose
  • Be positive and don’t over sell your work
  • Ask questions. Be curious. Eye contact!
  • Say thanks and be appreciative for the time
Final thoughts on design craft
  • Work hard and try to make everything good.
  • Do not be paralyzed by fear or over-thinking.
  • Create as much as you can and then edit, evaluate, refine. This is the most important thing
  • Know your typography and go deep and learn contemporary type foundries and typefaces
  • Learn some level of motion. Brands are living things.
  • Learn Figma or at least familiarize yourself with it
  • iPhone cameras are really good now. Between our smart phones and image processing apps there really is no excuse for bad photography
  • Try not to rip everything off the internet. Make your own stuff
  • If you dip into progressive technology like AR and VR that is great. Just make sure it feels like design
  • Get as much feedback as possible from friends, teachers and anyone in design you respect
  • Do your research on agencies, Focus on the ones that align with your work and values.
  • Don’t get discouraged!
  • Make things you think will be memorable and you will be excited to share
  • Be able to talk about your work that is clear concise and positive




Creative and Project Leader, Partner at Athletics

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium


Order Management System for Truck Fleet.

UX Portfolio — Redesigning the Team Page

The Stupid Doors at the Ratty

From Prototype to Provocotype

Omit the unimportant title

How we turned 2-star apps into 5-star apps

To a distant future

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Matt Owens

Matt Owens

Creative and Project Leader, Partner at Athletics

More from Medium

6 important yet simple laws of UX

Majors & Minors to Get into UI/UX

How to decide on the best platform to use for your UI/UX Design Portfolio

Sharing the everyday learning life of a UI/UX designer to be.