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How to create a graphic design or visual communication portfolio


Johannesburg, 23 Sep 2021
Read time 3min 00sec
Daandrey Steyn, Visual Communication Facilitator, CTU Training Solutions.
Daandrey Steyn, Visual Communication Facilitator, CTU Training Solutions.

When you work in the visual arts field, for instance as a graphic designer, your portfolio is your CV. Daandrey Steyn, Visual Communication Facilitator at CTU Training Solutions, says: “Visual communicators don’t have to rely on a certification or qualification to tell potential employers what they can do. They can use a portfolio to physically illustrate their creative talents and what they are capable of.”

A portfolio is a showcase of the individual’s abilities in terms of visual communication or graphic design and should include works that highlight the breadth of their skill. Steyn has some key tips for people to consider when compiling a portfolio of their work, particularly aspiring students in the visual communication or graphic design fields.

“It’s important to note that, contrary to popular belief, you don’t require art as a matric subject in order to be able to study visual communication or graphic design. All that’s required is a portfolio.”

He says the typical portfolio should include in the region of 10 artworks. “First and foremost, include some examples of your drawing. Graphic design uses drawings as a means of process, taking what is in our minds and making it real by putting it onto paper. Also, drawing in itself can become the end product, in the form of an editorial illustration or even a fantasy artwork, such as a floating maze, for example.”

Steyn points out the individual doesn’t have to use a pen or pencils to make a drawing - they can use any medium or combination of media to create their design, including painting.

“The portfolio should include two types of artworks. The first one we call observational drawing, which is looking at something and trying to represent it on a piece of paper as accurately as possible. This can take the form of a still life, where you take some fruit and vegetables, arrange them and draw them.

"Alternatively, you can look at your surroundings – either the natural environment or a built environment – and use perspective to create the illusion of three-dimensional depth on a two-dimensional surface such as a piece of paper.

"Finally, there’s live sketching, which entails drawing people as they go about their daily lives or focusing on a hand or a face or anything else that showcases how accurately you can represent reality.”

The second type of artwork that should be included in a portfolio should depict creative art. “This is where the visual communicator conveys a message or tells a story by merging physical and digital art pieces. This can be done using social media or commenting on how social media informs how we see ourselves in our current situation, or how we engage with information in the digital age, or even just showing the stories that we all know and love.”

The bottom line, according to Steyn, is that graphic design and visual communication candidates should have fun when putting their portfolio together, showcasing their personality while at the same time showing off what they’re capable of doing.

You can watch the full interview on this topic here.

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