Many aspiring creators embark on the path of graphic design, drawn by the unique opportunity to serve as a voice for brands and escape the monotony of routine work tasks. However, this journey is full of challenges, demanding a firm grasp of technical skills and a commitment to continuous self-improvement.
In this article, you’ll discover the characteristics that distinguish exceptional design projects and top tips for creating a memorable graphic design portfolio online. Read on for practical knowledge and inspiration on your creative endeavors.
How to make a good graphic design project
Graphic design is a multifaceted discipline where creators have to understand various visual representation techniques. They’re represented in five main areas: color, typography, composition, UX (user experience), and brand identity. Let’s delve into each of these aspects in detail.
Colors are fundamental design elements, as they significantly influence how users perceive your designs. Each hue can evoke specific emotions. For example, red is associated with passion, excitement, and urgency, while purple can be linked to luxury, innovation, and creative thinking. Neutral shades, on the other hand, serve as balancing elements in compositions.
To create exceptional designs, it’s important to understand color theory and be able to match harmonious hues. Follow these simple rules:
- Determine emotional impact. Think about the emotions you want chosen colors to evoke. Ensure they align with the preferences and reactions of your target audience.
- Consider cultural peculiarities. The perception of colors can vary across cultures. For example, while black may carry negative connotations in most European cultures, it symbolizes good health and prosperity in certain Asian regions.
- Start with neutral hues. Before you develop your entire color palette, choose base shades like gray or beige. They will be the foundation of your design. Afterward, you can incorporate harmonious, vivid colors.
- Create project mood boards. Gather color references like images, color swatches, and design samples. These visual collections can serve as a valuable source of inspiration.
- Use a color wheel. This is a visual representation of colors that illustrates their relationships. In graphic design, a color wheel allows for determining harmonious color combinations. You can easily discover color matches using online tools like Adobe Color or Paletton.
In graphic design, typography is used to convey information, create visual hierarchy, and set a specific mood. There are 200,000 fonts in the world, and a creator’s objective is to find the perfect match that resonates with a project.
To create visually pleasing designs, use base and secondary fonts. Base fonts are used in headings, while secondary fonts are used for body text. Here are some graphic design tips to guide you in this process:
- Pair contrasting typefaces to create visual interest. For example, combine serif and sans-serif fonts.
- Stick to using two or three fonts within a single design; excessive variety can lead to clutter.
- Avoid decorative fonts in body text, as they’re poorly readable.
- Choose fonts that align with the desired mood of your project. For example, script typefaces can be a good choice for wedding-related websites, while modern sans-serif fonts are more suited for tech companies.
- Use online pairing tools like Google Fonts and Font Pair to find complementary typefaces quickly.
Composition is a specific arrangement of visual elements, such as the images, text, colors, and shapes in your project. When design materials are appropriately placed, they form a harmonious and visually pleasing whole. For example, there are some golden rules for building websites: online sources should have a header with a brand logo and clear Call-to-Action (CTA) buttons on the main page.
Here are some fundamental tips for working with composition:
- Identify the focal point in your design. This is an area that naturally draws the viewer’s attention first. For example, it can be an appealing image or a compelling headline.
- Establish visual hierarchy. This is how elements in your design interact with each other. For example, the heading should have a higher priority than the body text. For such purposes, experiment with size, color, contrast, and typography.
- Balance elements. Think of your composition as a balancing scale where items can be placed symmetrically or asymmetrically. Symmetrical balance delivers order and precision in your composition, while asymmetrical balance brings dynamism. Choose the type of balance that aligns with your project goals.
- Utilize negative space. This is an unused, empty space in your composition. Aspiring designers tend to overcrowd their projects with too many elements, leading to a cluttered appearance. Avoid this by allowing for adequate negative space.
- Consider proximity and grouping. Group related objects together for clarity and visual cohesion. For example, place headings and their corresponding descriptions close.
User experience (UX) in graphic design is about the impressions and feelings users experience when interacting with your designs. This directly impacts user satisfaction and retention rates. For instance, consider an app that repeatedly rejects input options without explanation when creating a password; this represents a poor user experience.
Enhancing user experience is a complex task that should be rooted in understanding customer preferences. However, there are several general recommendations:
- Develop interfaces based on thorough user research that considers the needs and preferences of your target audience.
- Conduct usability testing to identify and address critical issues in user interaction, ensuring that your designs are user-friendly.
- Create responsive designs that adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes, providing a consistent experience across devices.
- Optimize the loading speed of your websites and apps to prevent user frustration and encourage engagement.
- Eliminate unnecessary steps in the usage process to simplify interactions and improve efficiency.
- Provide immediate feedback to users when they take action. This can be done through error messages for incorrect inputs or confirmation messages for completed actions.
- Offer personalized interaction experiences to enhance engagement and satisfaction.
Brand identity is a visual consistency that allows companies to build strong associations and stand out from competitors. Brands like McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Adidas are easily recognizable through their unique style (colors, logos, and design elements).
To fit your design project into a specific corporate style, consider these tips:
- Request a brand book from your clients. Corporate guidelines outline rules and standards for logo usage, unique color palettes, typography, imagery, etc.
- Ensure proper logo usage highlighted in the guidelines. For example, color variations, placement, and white space.
- Use colors and typography specified in the brand book to maintain visual harmony with the brand’s identity.
- Consider specific patterns, shapes, and graphics indicative of a brand.
- Make sure the conveyed messages align with the company’s mission and values.
How to create a striking design portfolio
Being a graphic designer means not only making good projects, but also developing your personal brand. This way, you can attract customers and showcase your experience and skills. The easiest way to do this is to create your own online graphic design portfolio. You can consider platforms like Behance and Dribbble to represent specific projects, but competition is high there.
To make a striking graphic design portfolio, follow these steps:
- Create your own website. If you’re not a web developer with technical skills, it’s possible to create a portfolio using website builders like Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly. Or, consider tools like Adobe Portfolio.
- Select your best works. To make an impressive portfolio, you should carefully choose the case studies to represent. Re-examine content on your website from time to time as your skills evolve with every executed project.
- Provide context. Aspiring creators often showcase only external features of their projects. However, design is much more than visual appeal. You can provide information on your target audience research, customer journey maps, and project objectives. You can browse examples from experienced creators on Behance.
- Highlight the process. Showcase your working elements like marketing analysis, sketches, wireframes, and mockups. Fresh ideas can also be found on Behance.
- Group projects by topics. If you’re working with different industries or design fields, separate portfolio sections by themes. This simplifies navigation and allows your potential clients to review case studies in the domain they’re interested in.
- Craft a strong introduction for your portfolio. This can help visitors of your digital graphic design portfolio build trust in you as a professional. In this section, highlight your skills, working domains, and approaches.
- Leave contact information. This way, potential clients can quickly request your services. Specify different channels to contact you, e.g., by phone number, social media, messengers, or through the contact form on your website.
Inspiring design portfolio examples
The hardest thing about building a design portfolio is starting. Explore these impressive portfolio examples to find inspiration and generate new ideas.
Lotta Nieminen is a creative graphic design professional from Finland. In 2012, she established a studio based in New York. Her portfolio adheres to all the principles of contemporary design—it’s both simple and captivating.
Mike Kus is a designer based in the UK. He has branding, graphic/web design, illustration, and photography expertise. His portfolio is dominated by simple vector shapes and vivid colors, which brings the author’s unique vision of a creative field.
Felicia “Flick” Eriksson is a designer with Swedish-Australian roots. She earned her bachelor’s degree in applied design from Billy Blue College of Design in 2012. Her key specialization is branding. Felicia’s online portfolio is full of features like micro animations and parallax effects, which makes it outstanding.
The art of graphic design looks like gathering jigsaw puzzles—all elements should complement each other. Being a good graphic designer means carefully choosing colors and typography, building harmonious compositions, and improving user experiences. Check out the online design portfolios mentioned in this article to see how diversified this work can be.