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What does it take to make a portfolio that is easy to navigate, pleasing to the eye, and gets you new clients, customers or followers? We thought it might be best to go right to the source, so we talked to Luis Gonzalez, a designer at Squarespace, the easy, beautiful way to create any kind of website offering galleries, blogs, e-commerce, domains, hosting, analytics, and 24/7 support. Here are Luis’ top tips for creating a portfolio that stands out:
Your portfolio should be an elevator pitch.
Before considering the technical parts I think a narrative is important. What are you saying about yourself, and how do you want your work to be seen by the world? Layout would then follow. How is your work displayed? We’ve seen trends come and go, and these days, portfolio websites are heavy on the content, and brief on the context. In the digital age, your portfolio site is the elevator pitch, and you have 30 seconds to engage the viewer.
Consider mobile devices first.
Mobile is very important. I guarantee you that the first time some scrolls through your site will be on their phone, and not their computer. Don’t design for large scale, design for all screens and sizes. Some people say working backwards, mobile to desktop to ensure a smooth responsive transition, but what I have seen Design Leads do works great as well; they may be working on a brand new iMac, but every decision made is with a phone in mind.
Templates are great, but they’re only the beginning.
We think of our platform like a canvas, all the tools are there, and what’s important is what you put within it. I’ve seen thousands of websites while being here and the ones that excite me and I bookmark as references are the ones that push the templates to their limits. You look at them and really have to question, is this on Squarespace? A lot of people don’t realize this, but these templates can be designed for anything, we want our users to have the power to make what ever they want. What truly makes some layouts different then others (other than code and template features) is the content, the typography and the narrative of the template. Importing Typekit fonts immediately can set you aside as a designer, adding custom CSS or code injection adds a layer of difference in presentation. Another awesome thing that I always tell people looking to freshen up their portfolios, is look at other templates that aren’t in the portfolio section, explore and make your work stand out.
Less is more. Put only your best work out there.
This is something I’ve learned in the four years out of school, in your portfolio, less really is more. Weak projects stand out. You want your best work on your site, you want strong typography choices, and design direction. Just because you made a piece in school that might show you have diversity in design and could maybe possibly hopefully get you a job somewhere, will probably cost you a job elsewhere. Keep your selection lean, but sharp. And always give credit to where credit is due. CDs and ADs can spot it in your book if most of your work is student and you have one really polished piece but dont give credit to or acknowledge your contributions.
Design your portfolio to reflect your own style.
I’m absolutely biased on this. Black and white, bold and large headers, with an elegant and intimate body font. Designing for web with print in mind helps me too, it helps create rhythm and hierarchy. But that is who I am, and truly my opinion or others on “go-to’s” shouldn’t influence you on fonts or colors choices, because those decisions will ultimately reflect who you are as a designer, and that is what you want people to take away when they visit your portfolio site. In a sea of black and white websites, a little pop of color stands out.
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