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Certified portfolio advice: Steven Mebs

We asked industry leaders to share their experience when it comes to making and critiquing portfolios.

Becoming CGD Certified is monumental in boosting any creatives professional career. Part of the process is preparing and submitting a killer portfolio of your work. We asked industry experts to share their experience when it comes to portfolios. 



Steve Mebs, principal and partner at Box Clever


Showing off your work is never easy.
After I graduated from MacEwan I worked part-time at my church for a while, did some freelancing, then started Box Clever, and I had actually never done up a proper portfolio. So I found it quite challenging when I applied for the CGD years later. My portfolio was 100% digital so I spent a lot of hours selecting the right projects, taking the right screenshots, printing them out, and trying to put a book together. My biggest mistake was using a glue stick… by the time my portfolio was actually reviewed I think most of it had fallen apart.

Beauty and brains.
Of course you want everything in your portfolio to be beautiful, but hopefully your portfolio can also show some smarts. How you approach your projects with your own unique flavour or style. How you thought past the trends and the mundane to what would be best for the target audience. Showing your process (even the failures) can be super interesting too.

Trim the fat.
A really good portfolio is carefully curated - the longer you’re working the more projects you’ll have to choose from, but it’s hard to be impressed by quantity.

No excuses.
Your portfolio is the one place where you’re fully in control! No team, no teacher, no boss, no client input. Show what you’re made of! The design or packaging of a printed portfolio, or the design of your own portfolio website can be where you shine. If you’re a student or just getting going in your career your portfolio might be a bit thin, but the design of your portfolio can really make up for the low quantity, or maybe less-than-stellar client work.

Who are you?
A bit of variety is cool, but if your portfolio is all over the place it’s hard to know who you are as a designer. Show off the kind of work that you want to do and want to be known for. 

No, no & no.
1. Spelling it “stationary" instead of “stationery” 
2. Taking all the credit for a team project
3. Taking a purchased template and claiming it as your own original work, yikes

Inspiration from all over.
The internet not only creates jobs for many of us, it’s also an amazing place to get inspired. There are so many talented people and teams out there. If you’re ever feeling stuck for some inspiration or portfolio ideas browse the multitude of design galleries available out there and you’ll be filled with inspiration in no time. It’s eye-opening to see how others around the world solve the same design problems that you come up against. Or if you’re a digital design sometimes getting flipping through design books can lead to your inspiration. I have this old black and white paperback of Pentagram logos that are just so simple and wonderful that it’s hard not to be inspired when flipping through.

Portfolios have purpose.
Having your portfolio is obviously mandatory for applying for the CGD, but the exercise is so handy because it forces you to push through and get your portfolio done. Afterwards it can be the best and fastest way to show potential clients/employers what you can do, and to get a better sense of what they’re looking for. With clients if you can start bringing out example projects as they’re talking it can really guide the conversation towards getting a clear idea of what they’re looking for, and also showing the client what’s possible with you.

Why I’m CGD Certified.
We are in a time where anyone can claim to be a designer, and everyone’s niece and nephew is a designer too. The CGD certification is a way to show that you’re a true professional. Having those 3 little letters on your business card shows prospective clients and employers that you’re the real deal.



CGD Certification

With CGD at the end of your name, you are able to more effectively establish your credentials and spark discussion with your clients about professional design. 

Find out how you can become certified.