Image scanned from some really old reference material I inherited from my grandfather. Source unknown. Circa the 1930s or 40s.

Image scanned from some really old reference material I inherited from my grandfather. Source unknown. Circa the 1930s or 40s.

This is the final part of a three part series. Part one can be read here, part two here.

Mid Career Portfolios

So you’ve been a designer for a while. Maybe found a good gig at an agency or studio. Or you’ve managed a good run as a freelancer (maybe both?). And you’ve maybe gotten a little complacent. That old portfolio of yours has gathered quite a bit of dust and you haven’t updated in years.


Graphic Design is a fun, wacky career where you’ll always be learning new things and can keep oneself pretty busy most of the time. But, it can also be a very volatile one. One day you have all the work in the world, the next day… a very long, dry spell. Or that really great job at the agency? Suddenly there’s a management change and your dream job has turned into a nightmare. There’s a pretty good chance that as a designer you’ll be a bit of a gypsy, moving from agency to agency over the years. I count myself very lucky that I’ve managed some very long term employment at several companies, but you should never kid yourself into thinking that agency life brings job security. It’s nice to be able to hit the ground running should the need arise.

And I’ve noticed that once you let your portfolio slide (and I speak from personal experience) it can be hard to get the gears rolling again and dust off that old porfolio. Even when the writing is firmly written on the wall.

So what to do?

Try to set aside some time every 6 months to a year and evaluate your work to date and see if there’s anything to be added or taken away from your portfolio. This will make it less of a task to update, since realistically speaking, not EVERYTHING you do will be portfolio worthy. That business card you typeset last minute at 4:30 PM ON A FRIDAY to help your Account Executive impress a prospective client? Probably not portfolio worthy. And sadly, there will be a lot of that.

Be careful though. If you do have an online portfolio, and you are working for an agency or some other company as an in house designer, you may not be able to post every project you work on for the whole world to see. At least not right away. That’s just another good reason to have an old fashioned hard copy portfolio you can lug around. You can have an up to date portfolio and not accidentally let the cat out of the bag on a top secret project or violate your company’s copyright policies on posting stuff to the internet.

By taking small little bits of time here and there, you can keep your portfolio up to date and have the added bonus of reviewing your work every now and then to see how you are progressing. And it won’t seem too impossible to update should you need to start hitting the pavement.