The Power of Storytelling in Your Graphic Design Portfolio: 7 Techniques

The portfolio is an invaluable tool that can make or break your career. This guide teaches you the power of storytelling in your own graphic design portfolio.
5 min read·
Published on May 22, 2021 by
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Bonnie Hong
Creative Director
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What is the first thing you notice when you visit a graphic designer's portfolio? Do they have an eye-catching, engaging design that captures your attention right away? Or do they tell a story about who they are and what kind of work they do with their website copy or introductory video?

The answer may seem like it would be "design," but in reality, stories can often make up for lackluster graphic design.

In this article we're going to share seven techniques for weaving storytelling into your design portfolio—keeping in mind this key insight: Designers don't just create visually appealing interfaces; designers also need to think about how those interfaces will help communicate their brand.

Top 7 things we are going to talk about:

  • Establish your identity
  • Convey your point of view
  • Problems and solutions
  • Keep it conversational
  • Think of your audience
  • Ensure there is a beginning, middle, and end
  • Edit ruthlessly

Tip 1. Establish your identity

Storytelling is important because it humanizes you as a designer. I believe that it is a great way to show who you are as a graphic designer. While clients want the appropriate expertise, what makes some designers stand out among their peers is how they tell stories and frame them in an engaging manner that paints clear pictures about themselves - both of which will help shape your reputation with others during this process.

There are some questions that will help you plan out your stroytelling process. Do you have a certain style or design aesthetic? What are the methods and techniques that work best for you, but also communicate how you think differently from others in this industry? How can storytelling help show prospective clients what kind of creative person they’d be working with on their project if they choose to hire you? These questions will help determine where and how stories should go within your portfolio. I believe it is important because decisions like these make an impact not only on yourself, but also the client. The more people understand who we are as designers- both design wise and personality wise -the more likely they are going to like you or hire you.


Tip 2. Convey your point of view

A point of view is an essential element in any good story. Your point of view as a graphic designer will help your clients better understand who you are, how you approach the process and what kind solutions to expect from you. Do certain design principles hold more weight than others for you? Are there tried-and-true methods for solving problems that always seem to work best? Is intuition or data more important when coming up with designs? All of these points of view can be woven into the story you tell in your graphic design portfolio.

Problems and solutions

Let's face it: presenting your work is, frankly, not that exciting. The best storytelling includes conflict and drama; the same should be used when you present projects in a design portfolio.

When faced with any project design challenges or hurdles to overcome - whether they're related to technical constraints like color accuracy on screens of different sizes or stylistic ones such as finding an appropriate font for childrens' book illustrations – always remember two things: stay focused on what matters most while at the same time being flexible enough (and having fun) so that no opportunity goes wasted!

Keep it conversational

That's why the best stories are told in a conversational tone. In design, this means that you'll want to write about what matters most and stay focused on the subject while at the same time adding a personal touch by telling it through your eyes. Your readers will thank you for not sounding like an encyclopedia article with dry content!

Include captivating visuals details

The key is ensuring that no detail goes unnoticed. That's why as you tell stories in graphic design, don't forget to include specific "show-don't-tell" elements such as captivating images or examples of work done for clients who might be similar characters (or even antagonists) from other post projects featured in your portfolio. This way, prospective clients can really get a feel for working with someone who understands their needs and challenges.


Think of your audience

Keeping your audience in mind is one of the most important aspects to crafting a story. In order for any character or plot twist not to feel out-of-place, you need to stay connected with what it’s like when someone reads your work. Consider the emotions you want to evoke. What emotion do you hope your story will inspire? Is it anger, laughter or sympathy? Whatever is intended, make sure that every detail in your graphic design portfolio helps create this desired effect. For example, if you want someone to feel sad about a child with cancer who never gets any visitors anymore because they're too old and have nobody else left on Earth after their parents passed away from the same disease - then showing them an image of said child sitting alone at home by themselves won't do much good. Maybe instead try giving them just enough information so that they can use their imagination and picture a lonely little boy wanting more friends but doesn't know how to find any despite trying as hard as he can. Think of all the aspects of a design and consider what feelings those elements will going to give.


Ensure there is a beginning, middle, and end

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. Your story can't have one without the others. A good graphic design portfolio is no different and needs to tell a clear, concise story within its pages.If you're having trouble with this step, make sure not to simply list your work in chronological order - it should start at the beginning of your career or on an important project that speaks about who you are as a designer, then move forward through time until you reach present day. That way there's some type of progression!


You have to start with the design problem as it was presented to you and your initial ideas. You can illustrate this by presenting early concepts or even images of what the “before” version looked like against a backdrop of today's state-of-the art software.


The middle of a story can be the hardest to keep interesting, so make it count. Keep in mind that your prospective clients will want to see how you approached this problem and what design process looked like-not every detail about what went into creating each step! Illustrate these portions with mockups or even concepts for work you opted not go down.


The end of your story should include the final design solution you created and how it solved the problem presented in the beginning. This can also be an excellent place to include any comments your client may have made about their project, its importance, or what they liked best about working with you on this particular job.

Edit your portfolio website ruthlessly

Editing is the part of the storytelling process that requires the most caution, as it can make or break your design and cause clients to lose interest.Consider which projects you would like to include in your portfolio and which you want to leave out.

Look at the projects that don’t meet your standards and ask yourself why they are still on there. You might just need more time to work on them or come back with a better design idea than what was originally presented in order for it to be included. Or, these may not even have been completed yet and can always be added later if desired.

First impressions matter! Make sure your portfolio is clean, simple, easy-to-navigate and organized so visitors can immediately see what you're about without scrolling through page after page of unrelated content or unnecessary images/videos as this will lead them away from engaging with the primary content intended: showing off your talent as graphic designer while also showing that you're dedicated to your work.


How to use storytelling in your graphic design portfolio

Storytelling is an excellent way to pique the interest of visitors and it's also a great way to give potential clients insight into what they can expect when working with you. When done well, storytelling creates an eagerness in your viewers that will drive them to contact you for further information about how they can work with your agency or just reach out on their own accord if interested.

Good luck with your graphic design portfolio!

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Bonnie Hong
Creative Director
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