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How to Make an Interior Design Portfolio

Linda is a seasoned writer and bedroom authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

Example of a binder portfolio presentation.

Example of a binder portfolio presentation.

Your Portfolio Is Everything

All creative types should have a portfolio of their work to present to potential clients. Think about it: journalists have string books, photographers have digital image compilations, and graphic designers have samples that showcase their talents. Simply put, a portfolio is a must.

Find out how the most successful interior designers put their best foot forward by creating professional portfolios.

The first word in making an interior design portfolio is efficiency. Your portfolio should be concise, yet contain all the pertinent information and imagery necessary to make an unforgettable first impression.

Many interior design clients are similar to an HR department flipping through resumes to find the ideal employee. They are looking for an attractive and easily digestible summary—one that hits the high points and leaves them begging for more. So, how do you accomplish that Herculean feat?

It is a relatively easy task, provided you are organized and have all of the essential information on hand. Start by compiling images from projects you deem your best work. Include documents and certifications that highlight your abilities and accomplishments. And don’t forget to throw in a client recommendation or two. Remember, you are selling your creativity, range of expertise, and specific skills and services.

Follow these steps to make an interior design portfolio to give you the upper hand -- whether you are applying to schools, looking for a position in a design firm, or as a business owner bidding on projects.

1. Introduce Yourself

Whether you are a high-profile interior designer or someone coming up in the ranks, include a brief introductory piece that covers your education, qualifications, experience, and overall design philosophy. Highlight and expand on your skills and areas of expertise—for example, CAD drafting and rendering, commercial space planning, construction management, and universal design are skills a client wants to know about.

2. Be a Show-off

Here is your chance to present your work and demonstrate your versatility. Pick at least five of your best projects, representing a variety of styles and capabilities. These can consist of school assignments (if you are a recent graduate) paid projects or pro bono work. This section should include a breakdown of each project in its entirety.

  • State the project location, including start and completion dates.
  • Describe the client’s directive.
  • Explain the reasoning and inspiration used to arrive at your approved design concept.
  • Take your potential client through each project from start to finish, using “before” photos, floor plans, sketches, sample board images, and completed designs to illustrate the progression of your creative and work processes.
  • Include photos to illustrate each stage of your project. Make sure this section follows each project in chronological order.
Use mechanical plans in your portfolio.

Use mechanical plans in your portfolio.

Include sample board images in your portfolio.

Include sample board images in your portfolio.

3. Select a Portfolio Format

You will most likely be in a presentation setting with prospective interior design clients, so each project step and its associated images should be of the highest quality.

Your options include wire-bound or binder presentations, foam core mounted pages, a digital version to view from your notebook or tablet computer or a file to send electronically, or a CD as a leave behind. Consider creating both printed and digital portfolio versions to accommodate various client scenarios. Like a good Scout, you must always be prepared!

If you opt for a printed portfolio, choose an understated, yet attractive portfolio case. Pick a size that will accommodate your presentation boards. Remember, your portfolio is a tool to convey the essence of your work, not your personality, so keep the portfolio case and presentation format classic and simple.

4. Don’t Overlook the Obvious

Include a business card with your portfolio. That way, potential clients will have your contact information without having to ask. Your card should include a logo, name, physical address, phone number, email address, and website URL.

Also, include copies of your resume and a list of references. You may not need them, but it is better to be prepared than blindsided. If you have the budget, consider a tri-fold brochure highlighting your work and experience in lieu of a resume to leave behind.

Include copies of your resume in case you need them.

Include copies of your resume in case you need them.

5. Keep Things up-to-Date

As with updating a resume, it is easier to keep your interior design portfolio current by updating it as you complete projects, rather than waiting until your next client presentation. Purge outdated projects as you add new ones. Your portfolio will always be ready for potential clients to view.

Now you're ready to present your talents as an interior designer to the world!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: What advice can you give for a portfolio when applying to an interior design course at a university?

Answer: A four-year Bachelor of Science in Interior Design is a design-oriented curriculum with a rigorous basis theory to incorporate creative problem-solving skills with an understanding of the aesthetic, technological, and behavioral aspects of design. Classes include Design, Design Interiors, Advanced Interior Design, Visual Communication, Interior Design Theory, Construction, Construction Interior Materials and Assemblies, Interior Design Practice, Interiors and Society, Interior Design History, History of Architecture, Environmental Controls, Designing for Human Behavior, Interior Design Internship

© 2012 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Oceaina on November 14, 2017:

I' m a beginner in the design world and I have recently decided to change my major from hospitality and the school I'm applying asks for a portfolio with 5 projects and I'm completely clueless of what to come up with in order to reach their requirements. This article helps me a lot with basic steps and I would like to know more of what a beginner like me should include in my portfolio since I lack of experiences and projects. Thanks a lot!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 30, 2017:

Amal, has a free interior design portfolio template that looks very slick and professional. Take a look at this link:

Hope this helps. I'm sure there are other free online options as well.This one happen to be my favorite.

Amal on August 30, 2017:

Hi Lindacee, thank you for sharing your great experience, I'm very grateful, I just have a question, is there any computer application which I can present my works in, I mean a digital portfolio. Thank you again

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 05, 2014:

kin, so glad this was helpful to you. The internet offers a wealth of information about art and interior design. Keep reading and learning! :)

kin on September 05, 2014:

Am really thankful....,I love art and especially studying interior design but unfortunately in Kenya we are not taught many of this things

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on July 11, 2012:

Good luck with your interior design career, takerecess! I'm pleased this Hub was helpful. Thanks for stopping by for a read!

takerecess from USA on July 11, 2012:

This is great information. I am looking at different interior design schools to apply to and I know this hub will come in handy in the future.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 07, 2012:

Ha Simone! Yeah, you'd think anything written or compiled by a creative would be a massive tangle of color, overly descriptive phrases and run-on sentences! This Hub proves even interior designers can show restraint! ;)

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on June 07, 2012:

It wasn't until I read this Hub that I finally realized that portfolios really ARE the same thing as a resume for artistic types. I had never before considered how important it is that they be concise and whatnot- I had viewed them as big, sprawling, messy things. I'm so glad you've set me straight. :D

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 05, 2012:

Thank you horst99! I always try to start with the key points and as much info as a topic will allow, then condense it into an easily understandable (hopefully) article. Glad you enjoyed!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 03, 2012:

Thanks for the read and comment Riverfish! Visuals do help a great deal. I would also like to start using more charts to break up the text and give readers more variety. Over the next six months we'll have plenty of time to experiment to see what works!

Riverfish24 from United States on June 03, 2012:

V cool hub! So useful and loved the pictures and video, makes reading & learning so much more enjoyable.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 02, 2012:

TToombs08, thanks so much for reading, commenting and voting! So happy you enjoyed my Hub. Cheers!

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on June 02, 2012:

Great hub and I love the idea. Well done! Voted up and then some.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 01, 2012:

Thanks for the supportive comment, K. It's rather dry subject matter. I'm happy I was able to transform it into an enjoyable read!

Kristi Sharp from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota. on June 01, 2012:

This is very well written - exactly the advice you are giving in your hub: concise, to the point and easy to read. Very enjoyable. -K

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 01, 2012:

Leah, thanks for reading and commenting! Glad you liked my Hub! :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 01, 2012:

CassyLu, Happy I could offer up some inspiration. Thanks for the vote and share!

CassyLu1981 from Wilmington, NC on June 01, 2012:

I so need to do this for my house! I'm having such a hard time deciding on what I want!!! Great hub :) Voted up and shared!

Leah Lefler from Western New York on June 01, 2012:

Great advice - definitely show off when creating a portfolio of your work! I love the bathroom plan above- I would be in heaven if I had such a beautifully designed home!