How to Make a Graphic Design Portfolio That Inspires
Graphic designers often have just one chance to impress a potential client. That’s why your graphic design portfolio is key to landing your next gig. Read on for step-by-step instructions for creating your own website quickly and inexpensively. Then, try inspiring WordPress themes that you can use for your portfolio today.
The amount of creative people out there (not to mention AI creators) is incredible. And they’re incredible, and that’s amazing, and there’s still a potentially captive audience for you!
In this guide, we’re going to host our own portfolio website, versus using a service like Squarespace or our own Foundmyself art websites.
Although it’s a little more work up front, it will help reduce costs and give you more control.
For your work to stand out, you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. A polished gallery with interesting case studies can work fine. That said, you can show off your creativity in the site design as well. But, before worrying about that, nail the fundamentals.
- Curate your best-quality designs
- Present your work professionally
- Tell your unique story
Disclosure: When you buy after clicking some of the links this article, we may earn an affiliate commission.
What to include in your graphic design portfolio
Curate your best-quality designs
First, select 15-20 works that best exemplify your skills. If you have trouble whittling down your collection, ask yourself a few questions about each piece. For example, does this work offer something new that another piece doesn’t already cover? Was it well-received by the original client? Does the design reflect my overall style and skill level?
With that medium-sized selection of work, visitors will be able to quickly understand your design style and methodology, but not be overwhelmed by excessive examples.
Demonstrate the scope of your design talents
Include a variety of designs if you have them. For example, if you’re primarily a web designer, do you have any logos you may have created in the course of your work, or on the side? If you’ve created video effects, music, etc. and it’s stood the test of time, think about including that, too.
Present your work professionally
We’ll go over how specifically to do this later in the article, but make sure your design portfolio has a sharp, professional look. Ideally, the look of your portfolio website should tie in with your design style. For example, if you specialize in minimalist packaging, perhaps a spare portfolio with a sharp, clean look would pair well.
Simplify the user interface
Look – quirky site design might be your thing, and that’s great if done correctly. But if you’re not an expert in UI, it’s best to keep things simple. Most users will just want to quickly see your amazing designs without having to wrestle with some odd, bespoke interface.
Make your contact form easy to find and use
Just as the interface should be intuitive, contacting you should be, too. Having an easy-to-find contact link on every page in the main navigation and/or footer is an easy solution. Using a contact form rather than publicly showing your email address is a good way to help prevent spam. Some designers include their phone number, as well, though without using a service to mask your real number, you’re again inviting spammers.
Optimize your website performance
Having a fast-loading and responsive portfolio is crucial. Not only does it create a much better user experience, it’s also a search engine ranking factor. We’ll recommend ways to speed up your design portfolio down below.
Others gushing about your great work sends strong trust signals to potential clients. So, now’s a good time to reach out to your satisfied customers for a review. If possible, get their headshot (and of course, permission) so that the review is more relatable and human.
If you don’t have past clients, you can always put your design philosophy in quotes, which will help give your portfolio a more personal touch.
Use case studies to tell stories
Delving a bit into a number of your stand-out pieces will give potential clients insight into your problem-solving methods, and how you work with others.
It’s important to tell a story about how you helped solve a client’s design challenge. For example, instead of simply listing technologies you used or technical details about your designs, you might say:
“Swim Club Inc. reached out to me with a website issue. After reviewing their analytics, we determined that many users were abandoning the shopping cart before making a purchase. After some A/B testing, we found that a combination of a simpler checkout page, combined with follow-up emails to re-engage users who failed to checkout, increased average sales by 250%.”
Then, surround your case studies with examples to show and not just tell users what you did.
Include awards, certificates, and other achievements
Don’t be shy about tooting your own horn – tell people about your achievements! If a design you created won an award, make a tag or visual call-out to let everyone know the piece they’re viewing was honored.
Pick a good web host
You’ll want a host that’s affordable, reliable, secure, and fast. My choice is Bluehost, as it easily checks all those boxes. It also includes a one-click WordPress installation, so all you’ll need to do is choose a theme below and start creating! Plus, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, which gives you ample time to tweak your portfolio and see if they’re a good fit.
Affordable, fast, and secure, Bluehost is a perfect host for your design portfolio. They offer 24/7 customer support, and have a variety of plans for beginners and veteran developers alike.
7 best WordPress graphic design portfolio themes we absolutely love
- Fast loading
- Super customizable
The Hub theme is a visual website builder, and is an excellent choice for your design portfolio. One of my favorite aspects of the theme is how fast-loading and lightweight it is, while still being feature rich. The authors also paid special attention to SEO optimizations, which will help your designs get discovered online.
The theme also includes over 80 pre-built websites, over 700 section templates, and more than 100 inner pages. Add to that the 13 pre-made portfolio grid layouts with customizable hover effects and more, and you’ve got everything you need to launch your website, whether it’s a straightforward portfolio, an e-commerce shop, or anything in between.
Hub is truly an amazing, all-in-one portfolio solution you should try.
- Powerful builder
- Premium plugins
- 600+ demos
Bridge is another complete website solution that can create just about anything you can think of. In fact, they have over six hundred pre-made demos for inspiration if you need it.
Bundled with the theme are a number of premium plugins, together worth over $100. These include Elementor and WPBakery, both of which are popular and powerful visual builders; Slider Revolution for visually striking carousels and galleries; Layer Slider for more animated image effects; and Timetable Responsive Schedule, which is a handy calendar and planner you could use to show visitors your availability.
For a design portfolio, Bridge has ample pre-built options. Creating your own is easy, too, with the visual builders and high-quality modules. It’s easy to see why Bridge has so many downloads and five-star reviews.
- Free premium plugins
- 400+ pre-made templates
- Fast & SEO friendly
Built with graphic designers in mind, TheGem offers many professional and eye-catching features for creatives right out of the box.
In fact, not only are there 400+ pre-made templates includes, there are over 20 aimed specifically at creatives.
What’s more, included in the theme purchase are the following premium plugins:
- WPBakery Page Builder (valued at $64)
- Revolution Slider (valued at $85)
- LayerSlider (valued at $25)
- WP Rocket (valued at $49)
We use WP Rocket to speed up the blog here on Foundmyself and it’s terrific. With the rest of these plugins you’ll be able to visually create a masterful portfolio worthy of your designs.
- Sleek visual builder
- 50+ pre-made demos
- 60+ design elements
Oh, Oshine – what an excellent theme for graphic designers. It’s modern, performant, and easy to customize. Included is the free version of Tatsu Builder, which is a visual editor with lots of pre-built sections. The pro version, which isn’t included, offers more, but you’ll likely be able to make whatever you like with the free one, as it’s plenty powerful
With impressive download numbers and positive reviews, Oshine is worth your time!
- Refined & modern look
- Slider Revolution
- 12 homepage templates
With a clean and modern artistic flair, the Laurits theme has a distinct look. If your designs tend toward the artistic side or are minimalist, this theme might be a perfect one for you.
The theme includes a dozen templates to get you started if you need them, plus a bunch of portfolio and page layouts. It also includes the Slider Revolution Responsive WordPress Plugin, which if bought separately would cost around $85.
Personally, I like the sparse, organized look of the theme. If you do, too, give it a look at the link below.
- Elementor & WP Bakery
- 13 gallery types
- Frequent updates
Although marketed toward photographers, the Novo theme is nonetheless a terrific them for any graphic designer’s portfolio. It includes a number of pre-made layouts, plus a visual builder to create your own custom pages.
Features like a before and after slider are included. It’s also WooCommerce compatible (as are many of the themes listed here), so you can easily sell products or images.
I was impressed with the clean and professional look of the pre-made themes. Each one is also available in a light and dark color scheme, but you can customize everything exactly how you like.
- Modern look
- 30+ pre-made layouts
- Visual editor
Here’s another theme that will help your portfolio website stand out. ART is modern and quirky, but easy to use and quick to load. I feel like it could just as easily be named “Chic” based on the look and feel of the pre-made designs.
Just like the other high quality themes in our list, ART is SEO optimized, as well, meaning you don’t have to bend over backward for search engines to index and rank your content.
Recently the authors added new features, as well, such as a before and after slider, parallax effects, funky transitions, and more.