How Many Pieces of Work Should you Include in your Web Portfolio?

Portfolio CaseIt’s hard to decide on how many pieces to showcase in your web portfolio. As a designer I know there are lots of factors that go into choosing the work you decide to display… versatility, creativity, exciting clients, recent challenges, technical capabilities, and experience. While I had been advised in the print world to limit my work to 10-12 pieces it is incredibly common to find web portfolios that feature 25+ projects. As a web designer it is very tempting to add EVERYTHING one may have done, especially when the web provides an interface that makes it so easy show years of experience in just a few clicks. So how many pieces of work should a web designer include in their online portfolio?

I have asked tons of designers, art directors, and creative professionals for answers and had lots of discussions. While the answer is a matter of opinion, the most impressive response was from Greg Johnston the Senior Vice President and Creative Director of Ogilvy PR‘s Creative Studio in Washington DC. Greg is an old school Bad Ass (Matthew Carter style). He knows his stuff, has a pony tail, rocks out, and has played a leading creative role on many big-name accounts that make me drool. I asked Greg to sum up his response for this post because it is the best I have heard yet, not only because he has the experience to back it up, but because he provides solid reasoning.

I just saw someone’s portfolio who had brought a lot of stuff to show. I gave them a break because they were from out of town and wanted to make sure they “didn’t forget anything in case they needed to show me more of their work.” That’s usually a sign for me that someone thinks that all their ideas are good ones.

Editing your own work is probably the hardest thing to do. Your work is like your children––you love them all equally. So you have to really remove yourself from all the special circumstances that lead you to create your ideas. Yeah, like I said, it’s tough.

I believe you should showcase 10-12 samples of your BEST work, regardless of how you got there. That’s all I show after 27 years of creating ideas. (And I believe just because you’ve been doing something for 27 years doesn’t mean you’re good at doing it.) My best work. Some of it I did over 20 years ago, because the ideas still hold up. Some of it I just did last month.

Having looked at hundreds of portfolios––online and offline––I usually can tell after 5-6 pieces if someone is good. I judge their work not only on the quality, but their ability to know the difference between really good work and stuff that’s just OK. You don’t need to show everything you’ve done since kindergarden. That’s what Mom’s fridge is for.

Be hard on yourself. Be objective. Act like you know nothing at all about what you had to go through to get to that idea. Now you ready to edit your own work.

Which is what you should be doing every time you create ideas.

I want to thank Greg for the time he took to write all of that down, and I hope that advice helps others struggling with making those decisions. I will be taking all of his points into much closer consideration for the redesign (re-align) of this site… that I am working on right now.

8 Comments

  1. — April 9, 2008

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    — April 13, 2008

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    — April 30, 2008

  8. — June 29, 2009

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