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Dos and Don’ts of Design Portfolio Reviews

Dos and Don’ts of Design Portfolio Reviews

First off, I LOVE reviewing graphic design portfolios! I get to discover new talent, meet potential employees and see what interesting things students are designing. Some portfolios are superb, and others need a bit more guidance.

If you’re a student or new professional showing your graphic design portfolio, here are five things you should be doing (and not doing) at your next review. It could mean the difference between getting that gig or not.

Do your research.
Browse the agency’s website to see who might be looking at your portfolio. If you’re a graphic designer or art director, that would likely be a creative director. If the professional is not listed on the company site, check out LinkedIn and see if you can track down the person that way. If you still can’t find the information, give the company a call and ask. It’s wise to know who you might be talking to. Do a little research about the company place they work, as well, so you can discuss what you like about the agency.

Don’t make excuses.
This is the time to practice selling your work. Don’t say things like, “I am not sure about this one,” or “my friend said I should keep this one in.” Only include what you are proud of. Your portfolio isn’t a place to house every assignment you have ever worked on in school. Less is more. Be selective with the pieces you want to share. One bad piece could skew the professional’s judgement. When in doubt, keep it out.

Follow up.
Once the review is over, email each person who reviewed your work and thank them for their time. Even better, send a card. A cleverly designed thank you note can go a long way. I still have a thank you note hanging on my wall that I got from a student I met at a portfolio review. Clearly, that person is top of mind.

Always make the ask.
If you’re at a college event when showing your work, ask the professional if you could come take a tour of their agency office or see if they have any internships available. Or, perhaps they can introduce you to someone you’d like to meet. Don’t be afraid to contact the person again in three-six months to re-introduce yourself and make another ask.


If you’re a student or new professional in Nebraska, there are a couple of events to watch out for in the spring where you can have your portfolio reviewed. AAF Omaha has an event called Meet the Pros and AAF Lincoln and UNL Ad Club have their Summit event. These are great places to make a connection. If you would like me to review your portfolio, you can reach me at