Advice on building a portfolio towards a career change.

Ads22

New Member
Hi there

Am relatively new to this forum but follow it closely.

Im looking for some pointers towards building myself a portfolio to show prospective employers in this very competitive job market. For the past year and a half I have been self teaching and attending courses to better my understanding in using the essential software packages for graphic design work. I had some limited design experience prior but decided to take the plunge towards building a career out of it.

At the moment I am currently in a situation where I have some design experience and technical know how but very limited industry experience (from side projects in a marketing job) - of course this is what most employers require even for entry level jobs. Most entry level and intern roles have a requirement of a portfolio so I feel I am selling myself short by not having one. I understand I am job searching at very difficult moment in time but I am trying to maximise my chances of acquiring a role where I can begin to build a career.

So the aim is now to start building a portfolio with the basic skills I have. However I am not overly sure on where to start with this. I have examples of work I have created during the courses I have attended and examples of old printed work, I understand employers like to see candidates work on portfolio sites (Something I have no issues with creating)

I see some advice is to create work around the role you hoping to gain however this is often very time consuming and the large amount applicants per job now means there is a rapid turnaround for most roles! I do not have any particular industry sector I wish to work within, just the chance to start working within the field.

Is there a general rule of thumb of what content to include? Is there also a limit and is a website necessary or is often a strong printed/pdf document or booklet enough?
Or would it be better to continue learning more advanced applications like 3D, Animation or UX/UI design before even considering a portfolio?

Thanks in advance for any advice
 

Levi

Moderator
Staff member
Honestly first thing I'd suggest is getting some feedback from professionals (we mostly are on here) rather than 'people you know' as we'll be a lot more honest (be prepared, we may give negative feedback). So what I'd suggest is posting up some work for review/critique and having an open mind for the feedback as it's all meant to improve the work you do.

As to expanding into 3D, Animation and/or UX/UI design... don't run before you can walk, 3D is not a quick thing to get into if you want to do it well, same with animation, and UX/UI has so many 'rules' you need to follow you may not even want to go there lol.
 

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
A portfolio of work is pretty important I'd say as potential employers/clients are going to want to see what you can do.

As you're not in a place where you want to specialise yet than I'd try to show some examples of what people expect to see.
If you search a few Graphic Designer's sites you'll probably see some branding, print work, web and so on.
I do agree with the philosophy of "show the work that you want to be doing" so keep that in mind when you do it.

I find a good way of learning and building a portfolio is to do some tutorials but put your own slant on them to make them your own.
Also, you can make your work pop by using mock-ups to present your work but just be careful not to over do it.

Once you have a body of work you are happy with then get it out there.
Get a Behance profile to start with.
It's free and very easy to use and you can use it as a portfolio and link to it.
About ten to twelve pieces of work will suffice and try to include some of your process as people like to see that.

If you want to take a PDF or printed version of your folio than do that after.
Only time I've done a PDF version is when I've sent targeted work and haven't uses a physical portfolio in years.

As Levi says "don't run before you can walk".
Better to have solid basic skills than flakey ones in a lot of things.

I wouldn't rule out getting some honest feedback.
Friends and family will tell you what you want to hear as they aren't pro's and they'll want to encourage you which is nice but not thay helpful.
The feedback on here is often blunt but always constructive.
 

Ads22

New Member
Thanks for the advice :)
Yes a portfolio does seem essential at this stage. Unfortunately I feel like I am already on a back foot because I never studied graphic design as such at a college university full time - So this is all very new. When creating a work would working towards a fictional brief be suitable? Or trying to find clients who would be happy to provide work at no charge?
I would definitely appreciate some honest feedback (Although am a little scared ill be told to stick to my day job!:LOL:)

I find I work better working towards a fictional brief (I don't think I am naturally artistic but am a good problem solver which I guess essentially is what a graphic designer is)
Im trying to at this stage not become too despondent as I feel I have a bit of a mountain to climb to get to where I want to be, unless I am possibly overthinking how much work ill need to create. I notice a lot of job roles like the designer to cover a large variety of bases including UX and UI design, so I wonder if possibly this is not helping my outlook.

So would a good start be to get back to basics, showcasing understanding of consistent branding, logo design, print media and typography.

Essentially I don't want to be a jack of all trades just to appease to future employers and tick boxes, I would rather have less skills to showcase but with strong examples of work.
 

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
I had to do the same as you although I did study Graphic Design at college but I was taught traditionally (pre computers) just as Apple Mac's were coming in.
I took a long break from working in design and in that time everything has moved to digital so I had to learn all that and build a portfolio as well.
I set myself fictional projects and before long I had created a portfolio of work that eventually got me a job.
If you take it one project at a time you may be surprised how quickly it builds up.

Getting your work critiqued will not only improve your portfolio but also give you the thick skin that you need to be a Designer and believe me...you need one. ;)

Don't be too influenced by what you see in job ad's as most of them ask for the moon on a stick and some are truly ridiculous.
Maybe because most recruiters or the person writing the ad don't really understand what it takes to be good and properly understand all the facets of design?

So would a good start be to get back to basics, showcasing understanding of consistent branding, logo design, print media and typography.

Essentially I don't want to be a jack of all trades just to appease to future employers and tick boxes, I would rather have less skills to showcase but with strong examples of work.

TOTALLY! (y)
 

Ads22

New Member
@scotty Thanks for your guidance. That does give me some hope.
I have been toying with the idea with going back into full time or part time study towards Graphic Design - In order to gain more confidence and to put me in an environment where I will working amongst designers and to get me to think creatively. However I regularly hear that this is not always necessary and there is also the financial side of things and the length of time it will take.

I have been studying bechance and other portfolios more, I can see why employers would like to see such things from candidates - There is a lot of amazing work out there. It does make me realise though that I have pretty basic design skills and that possibly I am not as artistic as I liked to be (Im not sure how you work on that but some examples I encounter are out of this world)

I think that because I have only really used my skills in a corporate environment maybe this has changed my outlook. Strange as I also do photography but have little concern with creativity in that field.
 

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
I'm not a big believer in university degrees when it comes to design but I do think even a short(ish) course to get the basics covered is a good idea.
There is just SO much out there to learn from now that won't cost a penny.
You can get 2 months + an extra month on Skillshare for free and also a months free on Linkedin Learning.
As long as you are determined and have some self discipline you can achieve a lot.

Just because employers seem to want more it doesn't mean they're going to get it, at least not the quality and depth of understanding.
I've even linked to some job ad's on here in the past as the skill set they're after is pretty laughable.
I specialise in design, illustration and animation and some may consider that too broad?

You have marketing experience, photography and design.
Not a bad package once you refine your design skills.

Try not to compare yourself to others, especially as a beginner as that will knock the wind out of your sales.
Some have been doing it for very many years and a lot may have just had a part in a project.

Don't get me wrong, design is a very difficult field to get in to but you often find it's the people with determination tent to succeed, sometimes above those with killer skills.
 

Ads22

New Member
I'm not a big believer in university degrees when it comes to design but I do think even a short(ish) course to get the basics covered is a good idea.
There is just SO much out there to learn from now that won't cost a penny.
You can get 2 months + an extra month on Skillshare for free and also a months free on Linkedin Learning.
As long as you are determined and have some self discipline you can achieve a lot.

Just because employers seem to want more it doesn't mean they're going to get it, at least not the quality and depth of understanding.
I've even linked to some job ad's on here in the past as the skill set they're after is pretty laughable.
I specialise in design, illustration and animation and some may consider that too broad?

You have marketing experience, photography and design.
Not a bad package once you refine your design skills.

Try not to compare yourself to others, especially as a beginner as that will knock the wind out of your sales.
Some have been doing it for very many years and a lot may have just had a part in a project.

Don't get me wrong, design is a very difficult field to get in to but you often find it's the people with determination tent to succeed, sometimes above those with killer skills.

Sound interesting thanks for the heads up. The work I will be doing soon is flexible so I should have the time to invest into this. Ill check out both those resources.
I have some courses under my belt but some hands on experience I think would help. I am struggling to get into that creative mindset at the moment unfortunately so think some briefs or tasks would help me focus. My plan next really is to concentrate on what to put into a portfolio even if it just consists of basic design.
 

Naheed

Member
Hi Ads,
It's good to hear that you have planned to build your portfolio in this highly competitive world. I will suggest you to work on skills that you own. Build portfolio by best utilizing your expertise. There comes a time when your portfolio speaks instead of you and brings credit to you. Craft your portfolio keeping in mind to approach that day. Be mindful that competition is there but you will get your part undoubtedly. Just refine your skills through practice and gaining experience. Every beginner has to struggle very hard to settle himself in the market. Once gets established, there's no lack of work statements.
 

AnmolRai

New Member
I had posted a similar post a month ago on what I thought was this website but turns out it was graphicdesignforum.com! I am also in a very similar boat as Ads22 where I am also considering a career change. I was wondering if having a Diploma is good as I recently purchased a Diploma course on Graphic Design and just for daily motivation, I signed up for the Daily Logo Challenge as well! I would say I am fairly competent with Illustrator and PhotoShop. I need to learn InDesign and as someone interested in motion graphics, I picked up After Effects a few years ago so I know I have to refine my skills again. UI/UX is something I am also considering as this is new territory for me and I keep seeing this very regularly when it comes to design.
 

Ads22

New Member
I had posted a similar post a month ago on what I thought was this website but turns out it was graphicdesignforum.com! I am also in a very similar boat as Ads22 where I am also considering a career change. I was wondering if having a Diploma is good as I recently purchased a Diploma course on Graphic Design and just for daily motivation, I signed up for the Daily Logo Challenge as well! I would say I am fairly competent with Illustrator and PhotoShop. I need to learn InDesign and as someone interested in motion graphics, I picked up After Effects a few years ago so I know I have to refine my skills again. UI/UX is something I am also considering as this is new territory for me and I keep seeing this very regularly when it comes to design.
Good to hear you're also going for the change. However, ill be honest, ive put the brakes on for the time being and my head really isn't currently in it. I was ideally after a job where I could just carry out basic design duties on the Adobe packages and the plan was/is to train up and gain more experience whilst working. In this current climate though Im finding even to got on board even on something entry level is nigh on impossible (Lots of employers are now taking on over experienced candidates for advertised jobs because of the mass of unemployed and recently made redundant people) I was recently made redundant so have had to take any job to keep money coming in.
Sound great you're keeping up with training though, the design world moves so fast and employers want as much experience as possible.
I also would like to investigate UX/UI design but as already mentioned on here don't try and cover everything to tick boxes and find something that you specialise in...Ive lost heart a little with GD but am going to try digital illustrations to keep my practice up and just for something to use as a creative outlet.
 

AnmolRai

New Member
Good to hear you're also going for the change. However, ill be honest, ive put the brakes on for the time being and my head really isn't currently in it. I was ideally after a job where I could just carry out basic design duties on the Adobe packages and the plan was/is to train up and gain more experience whilst working. In this current climate though Im finding even to got on board even on something entry level is nigh on impossible (Lots of employers are now taking on over experienced candidates for advertised jobs because of the mass of unemployed and recently made redundant people) I was recently made redundant so have had to take any job to keep money coming in.
Sound great you're keeping up with training though, the design world moves so fast and employers want as much experience as possible.
I also would like to investigate UX/UI design but as already mentioned on here don't try and cover everything to tick boxes and find something that you specialise in...Ive lost heart a little with GD but am going to try digital illustrations to keep my practice up and just for something to use as a creative outlet.
Irrelevant question but where are you based in the UK if you don't mind me asking?
 

AnmolRai

New Member
Sorry my apologies @AnmolRai. Im in Surrey. How are the design opportunities over that way!?
:unsure: To be honest with you, I am not entirely sure myself. I mean a quick Google search shows me that there a few companies in Swindon and all that but in terms of the design "opportunities", I need to research into this a bit deeper. Like you, I also consider myself in the same way where you said "I am currently in a situation where I have some design experience and technical know how but very limited industry experience (from side projects in a marketing job)". In addition to this, I had a continual fear of parents' disapproval; I broke the news to them a few weeks and they were like meh about it :/ but it is what it is.
 

Ads22

New Member
:unsure: To be honest with you, I am not entirely sure myself. I mean a quick Google search shows me that there a few companies in Swindon and all that but in terms of the design "opportunities", I need to research into this a bit deeper. Like you, I also consider myself in the same way where you said "I am currently in a situation where I have some design experience and technical know how but very limited industry experience (from side projects in a marketing job)". In addition to this, I had a continual fear of parents' disapproval; I broke the news to them a few weeks and they were like meh about it :/ but it is what it is.
Fear not @AnmolRai, I also had this same reaction from mine. One was very approving while the other was also underwhelmed (Most likely because its not a big money powerful occupation!)
If its what you want to do keep at it, I wish Id let outside influences stop me from going down this path earlier but hopefully I can turn this around. Don't let anyone else put you off.
Annoyingly im at a point where im talking myself out of it just out of doubt o_O
Yes I am hoping to go back down the same route - maybe find a marketing role with some design tasks but its just getting into that role that's proving to be difficult.
Hopefully in the new year and when the world situation stabilises getting such role will be a lot easier. It is scary how fast things are moving though with a massive focus on social media, UX/UI and Motion graphics on seemingly every graphic design role I find.
 
Top