Getting the most out of portfolio reviews

Ashley Eisenga
Ashley Eisenga

Senior Design Strategist

When you Google “portfolio reviews,” you get lots of investment advice.

By reviewing your financial portfolio once a year, experts say you’ll “improve returns” – which when you think about it, is true about graphic design portfolio reviews, too. The returns in this case being cleaner work, sharper focus and improved organization.

It’s good to have an expert in your corner to give you advice. They’ve seen it, lived it and can pass their wisdom on to you.

We love mentoring designers (check out our Forge program) and reviewing design portfolios at Emspace + Lovgren, and here’s why:

  • It’s inspiring. Seeing another designer’s work is always fascinating. It’s like a trip to an art museum all in one folder. It’s also motivating – keeping up with design trends and seeing what others are bringing to the table pushes us to constantly do more and think bigger.

  • It’s gratifying. We’ve all had our work reviewed – it feels good to give back and spend the time helping others the way we’ve been mentored.

  • It’s energizing. Even though we edit and tweak and adjust our work all day long, it’s a different kind of critique doing portfolio reviews. It brings new energy to our work after we look at design through a new person’s eye.

While most designers ask for their portfolios to be reviewed when they’re graduating from school or are looking for a job, I think we should take the time to analyze our portfolios more often than that. I know it takes courage to put yourself out there, but it’s totally worth it. Here are some tips we have for getting the most out of your portfolio review:

  • Be prepared. Practice the night before and think about the rationale behind the decisions you made.

  • Be courteous. Show up on time, bring business cards, dress appropriately and don’t overstay your welcome. Designers you admire will be busy so be respectful of their time.

  • Be honest. For example, if you collaborated on a design, talk about how you approached the project and how you worked as a team.

  • Be curious. Ask questions, take notes and listen hard.

Especially in this digital age when many of our portfolio elements are online, it’s good to dust off the pixels and have someone take a glance and offer a new perspective. Even more importantly, it’s crucial to learn to embrace feedback of your work. Every day is like a portfolio review when you’re a graphic designer – our work is critiqued all the time. Ultimately, different perspectives elevate our skills and make our designs more engaging and beautiful. So have fun with it!

And who knows, the returns in this case might also be career advancement…and then you’ll need that financial advisor, too.