Print portfolio: Still a place for it in Product Design?

print portfolio

Print portfolio: Not relevant for initial applications

Without a company meeting you or speaking with you one-on-one, your design portfolio is the best measure employers have to judge your ability as a designer, which is why the decision on how you present it is so important.

I think we can safely say that the print portfolio is no longer relevant for initial applications. You’ll see businesses asking for either a PDF or a website link, but never to send a hard copy in the post. Not only does it create the hassle of disposal, but it’s ineffective for tracking or keeping on record and seems wasteful when the recipient decides to reject the application after seeing the first few pages.

However, what about for interview? Does the print portfolio have any merit?


Interview portfolio: Print or digital?

I speak to a lot of designers and design students who are unsure on which one to go for, but for me it’s a no-brainer. The digital portfolio is more flexible, more cost effective and offers much more diversity when you’re presenting your work in the interview room. I tend to be of the opinion that there are very few things that actually NEED to be printed in 2018.

One thing to think about is cost. Printing a portfolio for an interview is going to cost you at least £30-40 if it’s going to look the part. On top of that, you need to be able to tailor your portfolio for every interview to make sure you’re framing your skills effectively for that particular business. If you’re printing a new one each time, the cost is going to stack up quickly. This leads people to avoid changing their portfolio or updating it regularly. This is not a good spot to be in. If you’re putting yourself in a position where changing your portfolio is a burden in cost and time, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage from the outset.

You also need to take it with you to every interview. The more work you want to take the more you’re going to have to carry so you’ll resent taking more evidence of your skills. On top of that, it’ll get dog-eared and battered carrying it from interview to interview.


Going digital

On the flip-side, the digital portfolio offers the solution to all the restrictions of a print portfolio. It’s so flexible and can be updated and amended right up to the day of the interview. You don’t have to worry about high-res images and the chances are, you own a laptop or tablet to present it on anyway, so it’s practically free.

Digital also means it will look pristine every time it’s presented. It doesn’t degrade over time. You don’t have to worry about it getting battered in transit, and going digital also means you can enhance the presentation with GIFS, embedded animations, videos and online content.

I personally have always gone for the digital portfolio for interview. However, you still want to take sketchbooks and appropriate models or prototypes that you can bring out at the right time.


Here are a few other little bits of advice that I think help take advantage of the digital portfolio format:

  • Have your portfolio on a memory stick on your keys or somewhere that always travels with you.
  • Always have a copy in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Drive, etc.) This way you’re always ready to take advantage of any chance you have to demonstrate your work. Even if it’s showing the work on your smartphone. You never know when and where you might meet the Design Director of your favourite brand.
  • Have an up-to-date website so that you’re work is discoverable online. It’s hard for the world to discover you when you’re best work is hidden away under the bed.
  • When you land an interview, call ahead and see if there is a large format display or projector for you to present your work. It’s more effective than your iPad Mini and it means you’ll be presenting to them in the same way they present to their own clients.


Digital all the way

In my opinion, the digital portfolio is a definite for job applications and also the most effective format for interviews. The flexibility and ease it offers for developing, updating and tailoring your portfolio ready for interview means for students and graduates in 2018 – digital must be the focus. I know for a fact that there are some design Universities who run modules on building portfolios as part of their course, and the requirement is to submit a print portfolio. This should not be the case and if any Course Leaders want to get in touch and chat it through – feel free to reach out any time.

The portfolio is your shop window. It’s the only reason you will or won’t land an interview, and it’ll play a big part in whether you land the job. It’s the key measure of your ability and will take you far if you get it right. If you’re interested in taking yours to the next level – you can check out my One-to-One Portfolio Improvement Program.

More importantly though, just get started on it. Set a deadline. Go digital. Re-do old projects. Put everything into it. Review it. Update it. Smash it. Sweat the details and grind out the best portfolio you possibly can. Make it your priority. Nothing else will have as much impact on you landing the job you want.




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2 thoughts on “Print portfolio: Still a place for it in Product Design?”

  1. Grant
     ·  Reply

    I agree on almost all levels here, the flexibility alone is a really nice factor. I would like to add however that there are down sides to digital that can be an inconvenience to deal with. You need to make sure you know the logistics of presenting work on your tablet or computer. I’ve have used apps and such which had nice features however acted in unexpected ways which can throw off your pitch (so understand your format/ the logistics). I also have used a slightly dated tablet and had it restart during a pitch (quite unlucky). You don’t have to make sure you have enough battery for your paper at a conference. And lastly, even though it may not be important for your actual presentation, the reward of feeling a physically printed portfolio is a satisfying one and can get you excited/proud to present your own work.

    Thanks for the good topic!

  2. Sanele Mahlase
     ·  Reply

    Yo man, your website is too nice!… It was shown in my Design class, the entire class went wild.

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