The Perfect Number of Projects For Your Design Portfolio Website

It is so easy to just throw every project you have into your portfolio, but should you? Sometimes less is more and the same goes for your portfolio.

If you're a graphic designer then you know that having a great portfolio website is the key to new job opportunities and offering your services to potential clients. It's the place to show off all your amazing work but sometimes it can be overwhelming to know just how many projects to include on your design portfolio website.

The perfect number of projects to have on your portfolio website at any time should be between 3-6 projects. This allows you to clearly communicate the type of work you enjoy doing while also making it easy for the viewer to remember your design work by not overwhelming them with too much.

Limiting the number of projects on your portfolio site is surprisingly important and something that I see too many designers and creatives get wrong. In this article, I'll go over the perfect number of projects for your portfolio website, why too many can hurt you, why less is more, and what to include in your online portfolios.

We'll also cover and discuss things like:

  • Should you include sketches?
  • How many projects should go in a UX portfolio?
  • 5 quick tips for a perfect portfolio website
What is the perfect number?
What is the perfect number?

The Perfect Number of Projects for Your Portfolio Website

When it comes to your online portfolio, deciding how many projects to include can be a hard task. A good rule of thumb that I have found to be useful no matter how much experience a designer or creative may have, is to include no less than three and no more than six pieces of your best work.

Having between three to six projects on your portfolio website allows you to clearly showcase your expertise and skills as a graphic designer. This will also make navigating your website a lot easier for any visitor to your online portfolio.

While keeping the 3-6 range in mind, we can also decide the number of projects that you should include based on how many years of experience you have. I have included a table below for reference.

Level Years of EXP. Number of Projects
Beginner 1-3 years 2-3 projects minimum
Intermediate 3-5 years 3-5 projects
Professional 5-8 year 4-6 projects
Expert 10+ years 6 or more projects

Tips for for Beginner Portfolios

As a beginner just starting off, having a minimum of three projects is a great place to start. While you may only have one to three years of experience, it is generally understood in the industry that the design work you include in your portfolio website may be from your school studies, and may not have a ton of work from clients.

With that said it is important to make sure that these three initial projects include well-written descriptions of your design process and hi-resolution supporting imagery to really get a sense of your skills as a designer.

If you're looking for some great resources to use for your design portfolio then check out Creative Market. They have one of the largest libraries of fonts, mockups, and photos for graphic designers to use.

Too many can actually hurt you
Too many can actually hurt you

Why Too Many Projects Can Hurt You

During my time as a professional graphic designer and reviewing online portfolios for other designers. I have seen how too many projects can be hurtful and this is one of the most common mistakes. As you progress as a graphic designer and complete more projects for clients and companies, it is easy to feel you have to show everything on your website.

For example, if you've worked with a company or a client for an extended period of time, there is a very high chance you will have a variety of campaign work to show for it. Including each and every single piece of work from these ongoing campaigns can be exhausting for someone to click through and may also lack variety. Not to mention the amount of work it will require from you to keep it updated.

If this sounds familiar, consider creating one page or single project to summarize all the work you completed during your time in that full-time role or ongoing client project.

Too much work can distract viewers, limiting the number of projects will help...

With online portfolios, it is important to make sure you include your best projects. These projects are comprehensive and have plenty of supporting content. Including too much work especially if it does not contain the same level of supporting content can actually take away from the more complete case studies you've included.

This can cause visitors to your website to forget what work stood out to them, and potentially pass on considering you for a new job opportunity they have. Some designers feel that just because they completed some new work, that it automatically needs to go on their portfolio site.

It is important to keep in mind that your online portfolio requires a level of curation. The work you put into selecting and curating, is just as important as the work included in your individual case studies. 

An age old saying that works for portfolios
An age old saying that works for portfolios

Why Less Projects Is More

As the saying goes, “less is more”, and this directly applies to portfolio websites. While having too much work can distract viewers, limiting the number of projects will help you clearly communicate the type of work you enjoy creating and want to do more of.

Limiting the number of projects will also force you to choose the ones with that you have a deeper connection. As a result, you will be able to better articulate and present those case studies to potential clients and employers during interviews when the time comes.

After I started to limit the number of projects, I noticed more recruiters and companies reaching out. During these conversations, they were actually referencing specific pages from my design portfolio.

It was also clear to see what I enjoyed creating which made it easy for anyone visiting my design portfolio to understand how we could work together.

You can think of a portfolio website as a timeline that captures and tracks the skills you've learned

While it might be scary to only show a limited amount of work. Try to understand that as you grow as a designer, your role and responsibilities will change. A design portfolio should not only show your best work, but also demonstrate your progress as a designer.

You can think of a portfolio website as a timeline that captures and tracks the skills you've learned along the way. Being able to showcase that you have mastered those skills and moved onto learning others will help you progress in your career as a graphic designer.

Time to choose what goes in your portfolio
Time to choose what goes in your portfolio

What Should You Include In Your Portfolio Website

Now that we covered how limiting the number of projects can actually help. It is time to discuss which projects should go on your portfolio website.

The first thing I tell designers during our 1-on-1 portfolio reviews, is to include work that makes them the most excited to work on. This doesn't necessarily have to be something you completed at a job, for a client, or even for money. This can be work that you completed in your free time because you wanted to learn something new.

Including 2-3 examples of work like this will help to emphasize the type of work that you want to be doing if a client, recruiter, or job gets in touch with you. With that said, it is important to balance your portfolio with work that you have done professionally.

Work I created while working at Vice Media

Work that you have done professionally not only helps to demonstrate your technical capabilities as a designer, but they also communicate to potential employers that you can work in a professional environment on a team or with others.

Your technical expertise as a designer can be very important, but if you are planning to work for a company within a creative team. Recruiters and hiring managers will value your ability to work others and potentially prioritize that over technical qualifications.

If you have worked for a company for an extended period of time, then you will most likely have a lot of work and different assets you've created during your time there. Instead of including every single piece of work, try to focus on one that you really enjoyed. This could be because it required you to learn a new creative program or something that gained notable attention within the company or externally in the industry.

Alternatively, as I mentioned above, you could also create a single project that summarizes all the work and responsibilities you completed while at the role. This may be a little more difficult and time intensive but also a good solution.

A project I did alongside the Adobe Live team

A good rule that I like to keep in mind for what to include is the 80/20 rule. This means that 80% of the work I show will be from my clients or jobs and 20% will be work that I created for myself for fun.

With the work that I created for myself, I like to make sure that these are at the very top of my portfolio website so visitors see them first and click on them.

it helps to talk about something you had fun working on

I can't tell you how many times a recruiter or potential client has referenced the first project on my portfolio website. This is usually the one I talk about the longest with recruiters and jobs because I enjoyed working on every part of it.

You may not realize it but the projects that excite you, also make it a lot easier to talk about. Recruiters, hiring managers, and creative directors are always listening to how you can articulate a project and it helps to talk about something you had fun working on.

Can You Include Company Projects In Your Portfolio?

When including work that you have done professionally or as a freelance designer. Make sure you clear it with your manager, art director, or point of contact to include the work on your portfolio website.

Sometimes there may be parts of the work that should remain confidential to the company or client. Other times you may have signed some kind of paperwork that states you cannot display the work publicly.

In any case it is always helpful to ask and make sure you aren't breaking any agreements or exposing sensitive information.

Should You Include Sketches on Your Portfolio Website?

Including images of your sketches on your portfolio website is a great way to communicate your visual design process. Sketches are nice details to include within your projects because they show the "before & after" and potential clients prefer this.

If you plan on including a picture of your sketches within a project, then make sure to take the time to clean up the image as best as possible in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Try to remove any scuffs or marks that may take away from the quality of your sketch.

How Many Projects Should a UX Portfolio Have?

For a UI/UX designer or a product designer, there are different opinions about how much work to include on a portfolio website. While I still recommend keeping the 3-6 range in mind, I have also seen as few as two projects in a UX portfolio.

This is due to the fact that tech companies and hiring managers would prefer to see UX portfolios that present well-articulated case studies that walk through the product design process, rather than focusing on the number of projects.

These projects normally include a ton of descriptions, research, tests, and sometimes even an interactive prototype. For a UX portfolio, it is important to put a heavy emphasis on the quality of your projects rather than the quantity.

some quick tips to achieve perfection
some quick tips to achieve perfection

5 Quick Tips for a Perfect Portfolio Website

1. Use These Website Portfolio Tools To Save Time

It can be overwhelming to build a website from scratch especially if you don't have any coding experience and don't want to work with a full stack developer. There are ton of free options available on the web that I discuss in my article 11 FREE portfolio websites designers need to know about. To save you some time I've listed my top three choices for designers below.

  1. Wix - Best overall website builder, simple, quick, and easy-to-use
  2. Notion - Best quick and simple online portfolio solution free of visuals
  3. Webflow - Best highly customizable website development platform

2. Don't Be Afraid To Create A Fake Project

If you are at the beginning of your graphic design career or have a lot of the same work on your portfolio, then don't be afraid to come up with a hypothetical project of your own. This can be rebranding a local business in your area, or redesigning a website that you visit frequently that could use some refreshing.

My project Wellfed that I made in my free time
My project Wellfed that I made in my free time

Coming up with these "fake" or what I like to call, "passion projects", can be a great way to attract new clients, and also show you are taking steps to learn an aspect of design. For example, my project Wellfed was something I did in my free time to learn more about photography and video and is one of the projects talked about most when recruiters and clients contact me.

3. Provide as Much Context as Possible

Every page on your portfolio should contain descriptive summaries, images, and details about that given project. For example, I see a lot of designers that only include 2-3 images of a piece of work on the page leaving visitors scratching their heads as to what exactly was the objective.

At the end of the day, you can't always be there to describe to clients what your intention was so providing a full picture is key. The better you are at articulating your work, the more likely it is for a client to contact you to work together.

4. Keep Your Work Updated

Making sure to present projects that you're currently working on or excited about is important to attracting the right opportunities. Showing outdated work can give clients the wrong example of what your focus is and how you can work together.

While you may not have to update your portfolio website every few months, take some time throughout the year to review what page could use some additional images and details to keep attracting your ideal client.

5. Make Your Portfolio Easy to Find

We all know that design portfolios and portfolio websites are key to a successful creative career. This is why you should consider making it as easy for clients and recruiters to contact you.

If you are struggling with coming up with a URL or what you should name your design portfolio website then check out my article all about how to name for your design portfolio website. I cover all the potential naming options as well as the best websites to purchase your domain URL at the lowest price.

You can read the full article here.

Wrap Up

Whether you do logo design, web development, photography, or graphic design, your portfolio website is an important tool that you will use throughout your creative career. If you are looking to get feedback on your portfolio website than feel free to sign up for a free 1-on-1 review with me. If you have any other questions you can always ask me a question on TikTok, DM me on Instagram, or tweet me on Twitter.

See you in the next article!

How many projects do you think is the perfect number for a portfolio website?

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