How to Methodically Analyze a Graphic Design Portfolio

A graphic designer’s portfolio is pretty much their ‘real’ resume – in many ways. While their actual resume may tell you a little bit about where they’ve worked and what they’ve done, at the end of the day it is the quality of the work that they’ve generated that is going to be much more important.

That is why part of learning how to find a good graphic designer is knowing how to analyze a graphic design portfolio and figure out whether or not the designer is going to be a good fit. At first it may seem a bit tricky (particularly if you have no background in design) – but it can be done methodically:

  • How much breadth is there?

The first thing that you should look at is how much breadth there is in the portfolio as a whole. In other words, does the graphic designer tend to focus on a specific type of design – or do they tackle a wide range of roles? Not only will this give you an idea of what they’ve done in the past, but it also goes towards their ability to adapt and take on different challenges.

  • Are any of the projects similar to the graphic design you require?

When you’re looking at the breadth of a portfolio you can also check out whether or not there is anything in there similar to your requirements. If there is little breadth and nothing similar then it may be a warning sign that the graphic designer isn’t suitable, but on the other hand if there is a lot of breadth and nothing similar then that may not be so bad.

  • Is there any depth to the portfolio and the descriptions?

In any good portfolio every project will be accompanied by at least a paragraph or two (and sometimes more) explaining the design. It helps if there is some depth to these descriptions as they can give you an idea of how the designer frames their work and the process that they used to produce it.

  • Do the portfolio items fulfill their goal?

At the end of the day when you look at any design in a portfolio the one question you should ask is whether or not it ‘works’. In other words, do you think that the brochure design for that shoe shop is effective? Do you think the web design for that corporate site hit the right buttons? If it does work – that’s good design, but if it doesn’t you may want to raise it in a discussion.

It does help if you have a good eye when looking at graphic design portfolios – but that is something that you’ll develop eventually. For now at least you know how to approach it methodically, so that you don’t feel entirely lost the next time you’re confronted with one.