First impressions in business (and just about everywhere else) matter. But if you’re a graphic designer, those first glimpses of your online portfolio are everything—and can make all the difference in getting the job within a crowded field. When you’ve only got a few seconds to catch a client’s attention, the website showcasing your brilliant work needs to stand out. How can you create a space online that makes that all-important connection, whether your goal is to gain customers, win your next commission, get more agency work, or land a full-time job?
Think ease and speed, for starters. “A good user interface and navigation is the first thing I look for in a site,” says Stephen Christensen, Creative Director at Scholastic National Partnerships, who frequently hires freelance graphic designers. “If I can get to samples of a designer’s work in five seconds, that’s a good thing, and if I’m surprised along with either something unexpected or some humor, that’s a nice bonus but not as important.”
In addition to ease of use—the look, feel and vibe of your portfolio’s website itself is of course also critical as well for catching a reader’s eye. Choosing a product like Squarespace, which offers a turnkey solution with its creative pre-designed templates, helps with half the battle.
Another thing to consider when building an eye-catching site: context. “When reviewing samples, I also like to read about the backstory of what the designer did on a project—just a few words about the challenge and what their part was in finding the design solution,” adds Christensen.
Here are a few sites (all built using Squarespace) sure to command clients’ and customers’ attention.
Why We Love It: In addition to cleverly displaying her work front and center in a clickable mosaic format, Stephanie Specht uses a news tab to add brag-worthy updates (about things like her book release or new teaching gigs).
Why We Love It: Dana Tanamachi’s site invites you to stay awhile with a time-lapse video of her hand-lettering work on a blank chalkboard canvas, a mesmerizing way to reveal the process of this artist who has caught the attention of corporate clients like Nike, Ralph Lauren, Instagram, and West Elm.
Why We Love It: This designer’s profile radiates positivity: Will Bryant maximizes making a great first impression on his homepage with a rotating carousel of his colorful commissions, plus two buttons that take you to his work and shop.
Why We Love It: Cass Deller punctuates every page with a pre-footer with one last call to action to sign up for her design elements newsletter. And who can resist a sign-up button that reads: “Ohh, Yes Please?”
5. Kristian Hay
Why We Love It: The focal point of Kristian Hay’s homepage is a brief, friendly intro that pops up front and center, right above a portfolio with click-throughs to compelling narratives about creating brand identities. He also has a prominent link to his Dribbble so clients can see examples of his work quickly and easily.
Why We Love It: The central theme of Johanne Lian Olsen’s site is transparency. She pulls back the curtain on her process by including drafts for single commissions with companies like Nike, inspiring confidence in new clients.
7. LAD Design
Why We Love It: Prime real estate about this design team’s award-winning book goes exactly where hiring managers will click first—the top left image—while a scrolling homepage of their portfolio is a visual treat in itself.
8. Ruby Taylor
Why We Love It: Ruby Taylor’s site is a visual showstopper, complete with handwritten logo, oversize clickable carousel showcasing her work, and the inclusion of a video biography. Seeing the designer herself at work makes an immediate intimate connection with the potential clients perusing her portfolio.
Why We Love It: From the clever title to her eye-catching illustrated type, hand-lettering artist Lauren Hom has created a site that’s completely on brand and warmly welcoming, and complete with professional examples of commissions for big-name clients like Google and Target.
Why We Love It: The welcome page is clean and eye-catching with its grid of thought-provoking illustrations, plus Neka King makes it easy to find anything you’d want to know to work with her, thanks to her clearly visible menu links to her bio, CV, and contact information. King’s catchy press page, complete with media logos and quotes praising her work, gives clients reassurance.