How To Build a Portfolio You Can Be Proud Of

build-portfolio

Technology and various website building platforms have truly become wonderful resources for freelancers and textile designers. Sites like Wix and Squarespace make the once difficult task of developing an online portfolio a considerably easier one. These sites allow you to choose your theme and then rearrange the site until it is customized to fit your needs. You can:

– Change the order of things
– Change colors
– Change fonts and more…

It’s amazing, and sometimes even fun. Yes…fun!

After you click that “Choose Your Template” button you’ll upload your logo, begin playing with colors, and then that’s when the difficult questions usually arise….

– How should I present my collections?
– Where do I post my mockups?
– What about colorways?
– And my trend report?

These questions usually cause us to take a step back and begin dragging our feet or finally dropping the project until “later”…whenever that arrives. Ultimately, we end up settling for less than we would like, because we have to get it done. We’ve invested time in our portfolio and it’s too late to start over and choose a new template.

I understand these feelings and know them to be true, because I’ve been there. This is how I have designed my portfolio and other websites in the past, and what I see countless designers working through in the Textile Design Lab (TDL).

Admittedly, it’s pretty fun to start a free account and begin editing away on a site like Wix. They design it to feel that way, and who doesn’t like to make progress? Upload a logo? Yes, please!!!

Actually…

We could save a whole lot of time and frustration and still create a portfolio that we are proud (maybe more proud) to market if we just paused and took a deep breath. Why? So we could think about our creative process first. That’s right–you are the star of your portfolio website and it needs to bend to fit your needs–not the other way around!

Your creative process is the driving force behind your business. It’s the passion you bring to your work and the magic you use to design patterns that inspire and captivate. Your portfolio is a reflection of your creative process and should be customized to fit your style of work.

Of course, most of us don’t take the time to think clearly about our preferred creative process. We just know what works for us…and we naturally design that way. I’ve created a number of questions to help you clarify your creative process. Let’s discuss them.

Do you prefer to develop collections or one-off designs?
Some designers love developing collections. One design inspires another, leading to yet another. Coordinating patterns fill out the collection, making the entire process feel natural.  Other designers prefer creating one-off designs to express their creative vision. There’s really no one “right” way to do things.

The way you prefer to design is important to consider when showcasing your work. You may feel compelled to create collections for your designs, even if you genuinely prefer designing one-offs. Or, you might feel you need to include one-off designs to balance your portfolio. However, your portfolio should reflect the way you are inspired and the way you create.

What industry would you love to work in?
There are some great industries for textile designers: the quilting market; home décor market; and fashion market. And within each of those industries, there are even more options! Depending on the industry you prefer, you may wish to include other materials in your website; perhaps trend boards, extra colorways, and mock-ups. These materials are great, but using them in a way that doesn’t make sense for your ideal industry can be distracting to buyers.

Do you have another creative business you want to include in your portfolio?
As a fine artist, for example, you may want to share more than the patterns you create. You may wish to include images of original artwork—paintings, drawings, etc—along with the patterns you design. Sharing these will help to further promote your creativity, while also giving buyers a better understanding and impression of your work.

Do you prefer to develop your own artwork or create custom patterns for clients?
Think about what you most want to promote. If your primary focus is promoting services, you’ll want to include information on how you work with clients to capture their vision in custom ways. If you prefer developing your own artwork, then promoting a library may be a better fit for you.

Understanding your creative process will help you make decisions as you prepare your portfolio. Thanks to sites like Wix and Squarespace, developing a portfolio that you are proud of is no longer the daunting task that it once was. Still… I encourage you to take some time and think about your creative process and what you need out of the portfolio before diving in. This is the best way to save time and frustration.

Don’t know what to include in your portfolio website? Download our free Portfolio Development Guide Checklist.

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10 Comments on “How To Build a Portfolio You Can Be Proud Of

  1. Thank you for this great article. I find it really helpful. I would also be interested to learn more about privatizing my images with password protection. There has been some recent fear mongering going on about the US Copyright office and Google. I’ve been reading comments on FB groups about images being stolen through Amazon, for example, and whether ALL creative materials (music, publishing, art etc) will be protected in the future. Whether putting a watermark safeguards our creative work from theft.

  2. Thanks for your comment Kathleen! What questions do you have about password protected portfolios? Can you direct me to more information about the US Copyright office, Google/Amazon issue? I would love to learn more!

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for this helpful article ! I am looking for creating my website but before paying for a platform and a domain I’m investigating. I am a little confused between the hoster name registration, platforms of space (like Squarespace), whether it is better to do with a company who provides both or if it doesn’t matters, about fees, etc.

    Thank you for your help !

  4. @kathleenrhul. If your intention with your portfolio is only to give the link to someone you have made contact with then password makes sense. If you hope that a client finds your portfolio this could make them leave in frustration.
    I know in the wix platform there is right mouse click protection but this does not protect you from screenshots. The way we do our best to protect our artists images at POLYCHROME is to fully watermark all images presented online. At least that way someone would have to redraw your images – if they intended on stealing them, might as well make it hard for them! Not showing the work is not really an option for us since our customers purchase from our online store. I feel like artists and designers have always struggled with the vulnerable position you put yourself in when you show and promote your work. The alternative of not showing is not realistic of course. It is all the more fraught with worry with how far and wide it can be spread online.

  5. So happy with this sentence, Michelle.
    ” Other designers prefer creating one-off designs to express their creative vision. There’s really no one “right” way to do things. ”

    Because I love to experiment with all kind of techniques and that’s what makes my portfolio quite wide in styles and techniques. I didn’t find a solution till now to present my portfolio. Maybe I have to emphasize the fact that I love to experiment and like to come up with new things.

    This blogpost makes me think. And I think that is a good thing right? :-)

  6. I find I don’t want to protect my entire portfolio with a password. Instead, I only use images from items already on the market. Then, I tell people in the cover letter that I have a physical portfolio with items I can’t show online, that I’d love to show to them personally. Helps get you into the office. Also, using cargo collective my images are sized down automatically so they’re not high res, which relieves a lot of my concerns.

  7. This post is so helpful @Michelle! I find keeping my site updated and fresh is a big part of the challenge, but your suggestion in incorporating my artwork is brilliant as I am drawing almost everyday. This shows who I am and as well as a glimpse into my process. Now I just have to figure out how to organize it in the best way.Thanks!

  8. Thanks Michelle, I change my portfolio twice a year and am never really happy with it – I definitely will ask myself these questions before the next refurb :)

  9. Thanks so much for this blog! I’ve been walking away from my portfolio creation for a year now, as I would put up all of my artwork, plus my businessphotographs as a designer and a textile designer. It’s so overwhelming. It’s the greatest challenge of my life thus far.

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and private design community, The Textile Design Lab.