Behance’s Essential Steps for Making a Killer Portfolio
Get ready for Portfolio Day 2017 with these tips and tricks brought to you by Vitamin T:

Behance’s brand director Mark Brooks has doubtless seen more portfolios than any creative director on the planet. His site boasts 7.4 million members who post 12,000 new projects every day.

Of course that’s not to say he looks at all of them, but still..... that’s a heck of a lot of portfolios.

In this 99U interview, Brooks outlines the steps for creating a stylish, compelling portfolio that’s bound to make creative directors want to hire you on the spot. (Maybe that’s a stretch.)

We’ve outlined the top level points of the interview here, but be sure to read the whole article before you start swapping out portfolio pieces.


There’s no need to show someone all of your creative work. You’ll only want to show your strongest pieces and even then, no more than 10-12 of them.

Greg Johnston, SVP Group Creative Director at Ogilvy, says his book only contains 12 pieces. And that’s after 27+ years in the business. Why? He says a creative director can usually “tell after 5-6 pieces if someone is good.” He also points out that—aside from judging a creative’s work—he also judges their, “ability to know the difference between really good work and stuff that’s just OK.” So including less-than-wonderful work will actually hurt you. As the adage goes: when in doubt, leave it out.


You can tailor a résumé to match the job you’re aiming for (something we suggest highly), but that’s not something easily done with a portfolio.

Instead, if you have a specific interest in a certain design field, focus your entire portfolio there. Brooks cautions, “being a jack-of-all-trades in design rarely implies doing amazingly good in all of them.”


When we coach fresh-out-of-school designers (who usually have portfolios full of personal projects), we encourage them to get their feet wet by creating work for nonprofits. This accomplishes a few goals: a great organization gets low cost or free design work, the designer comes away with actual “paid” pieces to add to their book, and everyone gets the warm fuzzies.

Brooks brings up another good point: having client input on actual projects is crucial. When explaining those pieces to a creative director you can describe how you addressed your client’s input and made changes to achieve their final goals. You’ll also be able to describe the work’s ROI.


If, like us, you’ve been in the business long enough to see a creative take out a tattered box to show you his pieces, you get the point. Always ensure the presentation of your work is stellar. If you don’t work in the digital realm, try out some of the plug-and-play portfolio sites, like Behance (we outlined the top free ones here). Or reach out to a friend to help you build an awesome custom site.

Brooks says, “a lot of the presentations on Behance have probably taken as much time and effort as the actual design of the piece.”


If you’re considering showing the creative process of a piece, make sure it’s actually warranted. If your work required a lot of hands-on technical skill or involved a lot of other creatives, that may add value. If you just want to show someone how you took a piece from concept to completion, it won’t add value.

Considering adding a manifesto about how you do your work? Please don’t. Wait until the AIGA calls you up to keynote their conference.

This post was originally published on Vitamin T's Blog on April 20th, 2017. See more in: Freelance Career Advice