What does it mean to do a portfolio redesign? Well, for me, it means overhauling everything in my portfolio that isn’t spectacular and redesigning it until it is. This could mean making minor adjustments to a website design or recreating an ad from the ground up.
If you’re like me, there is plenty of design work you’ve done that you kinda just hate. You’ve left most of it out of your portfolio, but still have pieces of design work in your portfolio that you dislike. Fortunately, you don’t just have to live with a sub par portfolio. You can simply go back and redesign or improve your old work as often as you need to.
Doing A Portfolio Redesign
It took me years before I realized I could do this. I used to think it was dishonest to go back and improve my old design work because I would end up putting work in my portfolio that wasn’t exactly as it had been at the time. Eventually I figured that as long as the project parameters remain the same, it’s perfectly fine to redesign my old work as long as I approach it in a similar way as it was originally and indicate that it’s been revised in my portfolio write-up.
Doing a portfolio redesign doesn’t mean completely overhauling one or more of your prior projects from the ground up. It means taking a look at each project, seeing what can be added, eliminated, or improved, and working within the project’s original constraints to evolve the project into something great.
Here are five ways you can do a portfolio redesign and improve your work so it’s the absolute best it can be.
1. Completely Redesign A Project
If you’ve ever created a logo for a client that they loved, but you hated, this is an opportunity to go back and redesign it to your liking. Maybe go back to one of your original concepts from that project and polish it up. Or perhaps there was a website design you did that you simply ran out of time for. It was such a rush that you barely had time to flesh the concept out fully. Now’s your chance.
When doing any portfolio redesign, the most important part, I think, is to keep the original purpose of the project and not deviate too much from that. Otherwise it won’t show your evolution as a designer as much as it will just be a something creative that might have never fit the client’s original needs.
For example, if you did a logo for client five years ago, and through your research you or your team decided the identity should be playful and feminine, don’t now go and redo the identity with a bold and masculine feel just because that’s what you’re into right now. That being said, if you think you took the wrong approach originally, then by all means, take a different approach now.
In your portfolio, make sure you rationalize the redesign decisions you made and include your reasons for redoing a particular project. Include why you think the new design would have worked better originally or why it might be a better fit now if the market for that brand has changed.
Overall, your aim is to think of what your current skills would create if you had done the project back then. Show yourself how much your design skills have leveled up.
2. Update A Digital Design
The design and function of digital media is changing all the time. If you have a website or app design in your portfolio that would look different today because of the how we navigate the web and use our mobile devices, why not update it?
Create a layout that would look current yet unique among what you see in digital media today. You don’t have to show how it actually functions, just what it looks like. Then in your portfolio write-up, go into detail about the functionality. I mean, bonus points if it is actually interactive.
I redesigned a website concept I created in 2009 because, while I liked the original design, it was completely out of date. I updated the icons and buttons and opened up a very boxed layout. The result was something I was proud to have in my portfolio.
3. Expand A Small Project
Expanding a small project means continuing a design into more marketing collateral. It’s not really a redesign. Instead, it’s about creating a well rounded, full project for your portfolio even though, in reality, it might have only been a small project.
For example, if there was a one-off project you had previously created that didn’t really go anywhere after that, why not continue it? Say you created a logo that you really liked, but that client didn’t do any other projects with you or your agency. For your portfolio, you can have some fun with this and expand that logo into an entire visual branding system and mock-up the logo on a variety of merchandise.
Maybe you created a magazine ad a few years ago and were really happy with how it turned out. You could expand it into a series of magazine advertisements that have a unifying theme. Or you could even take the original ad and recreate it for use on a billboard or brochure.
These types of projects really help to strengthen your portfolio overall and show your versatility as a designer.
4. Redesign A Portfolio Reject
Most designers have plenty of projects that have never gone further than a concept or were outright rejected by a client. However, if given more time to work on a rejected concept, you might be able to create something fantastic. This could work for rejected logo designs, advertisement, website design, or really anything that you were proud of and the client or your team didn’t think it was so great.
Remember to keep the original project in mind. You don’t want to stray too far from the original objectives of the project. Try to address the reasons why your concept was rejected and improve from there.
5. Improve Your Portfolio Images
The quickest and easiest way to improve your portfolio is to redesign how you present it. Basically, create mock-ups for your work to give it life in the real world. Projects like logos need to live somewhere, like on a letterhead, t-shirt, etc. This might not work with all your design work, but for the majority, this will improve things.
A poster design could be mocked-up in a simple way, like with a background texture and drop shadow, or more complex like on the wall of an office. Website designs can be mocked up in using a free stock photo of a computer. Logos can be mocked-up in a number of ways like on a baseball hat, outdoor signage, business card, etc.
There are plenty of free mock-ups online that you can use for any item in your portfolio. Sometimes they require a bit of adjusting to fit your project dimensions, but overall they will add a lot to the professionalism of your portfolio.
Doing A Portfolio Redesign: In Conclusion
As a designer, it’s important that you continually learn new skills and evolve your existing ones. The purpose of doing a portfolio redesign is to show how you’ve evolved and grown as a designer and that your thinking has evolved as well. Fortunately, the biggest benefit to a portfolio redesign is that you’ll look much better to prospective employers and/or clients, and that’s kind of a big deal.
Have you done a portfolio redesign at any point? What kinds of projects did you expand/update/redesign/improve? Let me know in the comments below!
If you need inspiration for new portfolio projects check out The Graphic Design Exercise Book by Jessica Glaser.
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