Did you know that weaving stories into your graphic design portfolio not only humanizes you as a designer but also gives prospective clients insight into what it’s like to work with you?
When done well, a great story can create clients who are eager to contact you about their projects and set you apart from the competition. And you’ll be glad to know that the same techniques that are used to tell compelling stories can also be used to craft thoughtful stories within your own graphic design portfolio.
In this article, we’ll share 7 powerful techniques to weave storytelling into your design portfolio to capture the attention of your clients and make a memorable impression.
- 1. Establish your identity
- 2. Convey your point of view
- 3. Talk about problems and solutions
- 4. Keep it conversational
- 5. Think of your audience
- 6. Create a beginning, middle, and end
- 7. Edit ruthlessly
1. Establish your identity
Storytelling paints you as a person with your own identity. While clients want to hire a graphic designer with the appropriate expertise, what sets apart some designers is the identity they present to the world.
The way you tell stories and the way you frame them, paints a picture about the type of graphic designer you are. And when done well, it paints a clear image of the type of person you are to work with, too.
Think of each project you include in your graphic design portfolio as the chapter of a book that you’re writing. Each one needs to contribute to the theme of your “book”, which indicates who you are as a professional graphic designer.
2. Convey your point of view
Another element that good storytelling always includes is a point of view. Your point of view is part of your identity as a graphic designer. A point of view helps your clients understand where you’re coming from as a designer, how you approach the process, and even the kinds of solutions you’re likely to come up with.
Your point of view is where you’re coming from as a designer. Which design principles do you hold sacred in your work? What are your tried-and-true methods for solving problems? Do you rely more on intuition or data in coming up with solutions to design problems?
All of these will help form your point of view, and it’s important to convey that in your portfolio so that when you apply to graphic design jobs, it’s immediately clear to clients who you are.
3. Talk about problems and solutions
Let’s face it: simply presenting work you’ve done isn’t all that exciting. The best storytelling includes conflict and drama. The same should be used when presenting projects in your design portfolio.
When it comes to your design projects, talk about the problems you were faced with. What were the challenges presented? Did an approach you were sure would work flop with the target audience? Did you have to bring multiple viewpoints together to create a solution everyone could agree on?
Talk about the problems that you had to work on and then discuss how you solved them.
Clients want to see how you can approach the problems they’re faced with. They don’t care that you worked on a project that went smoothly from start to finish, with an obvious solution that practically designed itself.
Clients want to see how you took a difficult problem and used your design expertise and mastery of the design process to come up with an amazing solution.
4. Keep it conversational
The best stories are conversational. They prompt clients to want to know more about your work and who you are as a graphic designer. They also have personality.
Don’t bore your potential clients with a simple rundown of the design process. Let your personality shine through in your copywriting. Keep it professional, of course, but don’t be afraid to add a little flair and your authentic personality to your storytelling.
5. Think of your audience
Every good writer knows that keeping your audience in mind when crafting a story is vital to that story’s success. The same is true when crafting stories for your design portfolio.
Your client doesn’t necessarily care about which software you used to create a design or the super technical aspects of it. They want to know how your approach solved problems for the organization you were working for and their customers.
Think through the aspects of each project you’re presenting that will most appeal to your target clients. Then emphasize those parts of each project in your stories.
6. Create a beginning, middle, and end
Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Your graphic design portfolio should, too. This applies to each project you present as well as to your portfolio as a whole.
You want to present a cohesive narrative that shows how you approach design problems and how you best serve your clients.
On the project level, start your story with the design problem as it was presented to you and your initial ideas. You can illustrate this with early concepts and wireframes or even images of the “before” version of the design.
The middle should be how you approached the problem and what your design process looked like. Again, stick to the facts that your prospective clients would actually care about. The middle of a story can be the hardest to keep interesting, so keep that in mind as you’re writing your project descriptions. Illustrate this portion with in-progress mockups of the project, or even design concepts you opted not to go with.
The end of your story should include the final design solution you created and how it solved the problem presented in the beginning. This can also be an excellent place to include any comments your client may have made about the project and your work on it.
7. Edit your portfolio website ruthlessly
Editing is the part of the storytelling process that is often overlooked. But the best stories are edited ruthlessly to remove everything that doesn’t support your overall theme and identity. Your graphic design portfolio is no different.
First, consider which projects you even want to include in your portfolio. Which ones support the story you’re trying to tell your prospective clients and which ones don’t? Cut the ones that don’t. There’s no rule that says your portfolio needs to include every design you’ve ever worked on so make sure to curate only your best design work.
After that, edit the story for each piece in your portfolio. The truth of the matter is that most clients aren’t going to read a case study-style description of every piece in your portfolio.
Keep your descriptions as short as you can while still telling the story that you want to tell. If you can tell it in 400 words instead of 800, do that. Better to tell a concise story that keeps your prospective clients interested, even if they have questions after, than to tell a story that no one ever reaches the end of.
How to use storytelling in your graphic design portfolio
Storytelling is an excellent way to pique the interest of prospective clients. That leads to organizations who are eager to work with you (or at least have you pitch on their project). Use the techniques here to craft stories in your graphic design portfolio that give clients insight into who you are as a designer and what it’s like to work with you.
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About the Author — Cameron Chapman: Editor. Blogger. Author. Designer. Copywriter. Marketer. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Consultant. Coach. I wear a lot of hats. What most of them have in common, though, is storytelling.