How to Read a Portfolio

Know what to look for and why.

How to read a designer’s portfolio

Designers know these things. Or should. Once you do too, you can read a designer’s portfolio. By the time you get to the third or fourth website, you’re either a) sick to death of looking at logos or b) think of yourself as an expert in logo design. But are you?

As a creative director, I’ve had to review literally hundreds of portfolios from designers of all levels of experience and, unfortunately, skill. Looking through a great portfolio is a real treat; looking through a bad one is like attending a 1st grade violin concert. But, good or bad, you learn a lot about what someone can do visually. But only another designer can really read the tea leaves of the design portfolio.


Here are some tips on how you, too, can read a portfolio like a seasoned art director.

  • Quality of work?
  • Quantity—Too few? Too many?
  • Types of work—Print? Web? Logos? Direct Mail?(Specialist)
  • Types of clients—Generalist or specialized? Too?
  • Tear sheets of color proofs—Not real clients? Student work?

Experience—Student or Old Pro?