How new should portfolio projects be?

This goes both for if you’re freelance, and if you’re showing your portfolio at job interviews.

My impression is that it doesn’t matter so much if it’s showcasing work on your freelancing site… but I’ve heard that, when looking for jobs, it is best that all your portfolio is from within the last 3 years.

What are everyone else’s thoughts?

I am currently freelance but also am keeping my eyes open for a design agency job.

There are some projects in my portfolio that I would like to keep, as they’re quite different to a lot of the other stuff I’ve worked on — one project in particular involved a lot of illustration, and another involved designing + artworking a 200-ish page brochure.

But these projects are from 4–6 years ago. I would like to keep them as part of my portfolio as it could be a while before I have anything similar to replace them.

a professor told our class to always keep your portfolio updated.
as for me, i have improved illustrations from the 1980s several times.
im redrawing comics i have completed last decade this week while I am making new ones.

but

I would not worry about posting something old that has been published because thats still your creation and a sample of your skills.

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Three years isn’t much time. I see no reason to limit what you’re showing to that short timeframe. A good portfolio, I think, should probably contain work that’s recent, but if someone has work from years ago that’s still good and relevant, I can think of no reason not include it. For that matter, a mix of new and old is probably best since it provides evidence of experience.

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The timeliness of my portfolio has been brought to my attention before, so I use 4 years as a general guideline. I won’t use anything older than that unless I can easily scrub the dates off it.

Recently I’ve started to give potential clients a magazine style publication of my design work, rather than drag in a portfolio case. I have them printed up individually on Blurb, and they are customized to the type of work I’ve done that’s similar to the work that is needed by that client. The good thing about this is I can go back and removed dated material, and fix things and show what I wanted to design, rather than pieces that were screwed up by client changes. It’s a good piece to leave behind.

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My 2 cents is that if you have say 20 years of experience. If I were interviewing you and you had a lot of great, relevant work, but it was all 10-20 years old, I’d be worried because I would wonder if you’ve been unable to continue to produce good work. I’d be worried that you’ve “burned out”.

I think it’s a matter of balancing things out. I’m not saying that this is a “set” formula, but if I were hiring someone I’d expect to see at east 2/3 of their work would be from the last 5 or 6 years. I’d be ok with seeing work that is 10-20 years old, but only if it really helped to showcase a skillset or a range in your skills. I have 20 years experience, and my last version of my portfolio included only 2 or 3 items that were more than 10 years old.

this post makes sense, BUT why do humans flock to art galleries to see the mona lisa? if a graphic design is good from 1987, that should be presented in 2027.

We use whatever is relevant in our company portfolio. When doing a package to answer a request for qualifications (RFQ) for any given project, we research the new project then pick past work that shows we are qualified to do the present work. It doesn’t matter the date, as long as the portfolio piece is relevant to the work being requested.

Same holds true for job portfolios. Your online portfolio should show only your very best work, but if you are bringing a physical portfolio to a job interview (whether freelance contract or agency job) it helps to know a little bit about what you are walking into beforehand so you can sort your portfolio pieces accordingly. You may want to include things not shown in your online portfolio. No one walks into an interview blind (at least they shouldn’t be). If it’s for a job you are contracting or a job at a place you want to work, you have to do some research into the client/company, their reason for requesting the services of a designer and perhaps the scope of work. Then choose projects accordingly. If a 10 year old project shows pretty much what you think the job entails, then use it, as long as it’s good and not too dated in style.

I think a company portfolio is a little different, because as you said you are showcasing what y’all can do and have done, and whether it was 15 years old or 1 year old, it showcases the services you provide. But even as a company, if your examples are all 10+ years old, I’d wonder why you haven’t included newer stuff. It would make me question whether you’re out dated and not keeping up with “the times”.

If you are a freelancer, you are a company. You still have to answer RFQs for any kind of large project.
If you don’t gear your presentation to your audience, you have less of a chance of winning.
Of course not all the projects in our portfolio are 10 years old. But if one project is extremely relevant, or extremely high profile it goes in there.

I don’t think anyone, including me, is saying that including recent work isn’t important. It is for all the reasons you mentioned. What I think we’re saying is that there’s no reason not to include work from years earlier if it’s good work and still relevant.

A lot also depends on the job one is applying for. When applying for senior art director or creative director positions, for example, it’s essential that the portfolio contain not only recent work but work that demonstrates the years of experiences required for those kinds of jobs.

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Hi all, sorry for the late reply

Thanks for all the responses! Some very interesting advice :smile:

I ended up showing a piece from 4 years ago at a freelance meeting with a local design agency (along with some more recent work)

When I said it was from 4 years ago they seemed a little surprised that I was showing it to them… but when they saw it they loved it.

I thought it would be a shame not to show it simply because of it being quite old-ish, as it is still a strong piece and I’ve not had any opportunities for anything similar since working on it.

I think it’s good to throw in a few of the older pieces, it’s always good to see the improvements, however it should mostly consist of the newer projects, don’t include only the best ones though, it should show and present the YOU, if you only put the best work it will create unrealistic expectations.

Nope. No “improvements.” No one cares where you were. Only where you are. A bad project from 10 years ago is not a help to you. A good project from 10 years ago might be. If your work is your best, why would that create unrealistic expectations? Aren’t you always willing to do your best?

If it isn’t your best work, don’t include it.

The age of portfolio pieces isn’t a factor. Unless you show a series of related pieces designed for sequential release, chronology need not even be known to the viewer. Quality and relevance matter, so show your very best work, especially the types of pieces you’d anticipate doing for the potential employer. Take it up another level by showing or speaking to the results of the campaign to which a piece belonged.

This might be reasonable advice for art portfolio formulation, but when I’m hiring a designer of solutions I couldn’t care less whether a piece in their portfolio is 7 years old or 2, or whether their portfolio reflects improvement over time. I want to see something strategic, defensible, and indicative of results they are capable of producing next month.

Quite often, older work isn’t necessarily poorer-quality work. Anyway, when showing a portfolio to a potential employer or client, the objective is to show what the designer can do, not what he or she couldn’t do at some time in the past or how much the designer has grown. That might be relevant to someone, like a tutor or an instructor, who is looking for growth, but I don’t see how it relates to a portfolio shown for the purpose of getting a job. Maybe if an employee is arguing for a raise, it might be good to show an employer how much he or she has grown, but as a general rule, that’s not the point of a portfolio.

I disagree that this is a problem that should be considered. A portfolio is only as good as its worst piece. As someone whose seen, probably, thousands of portfolios over the years, I typically pay just as much attention to the worst piece in the portfolio as I do to the best.

It’s disadvantageous to a designer to show me something less than his or her best since I’ll be assuming I’m looking at the best that person is capable of doing. A less-than-good piece will come across to me as either the designer’s inability to tell the difference, hit-and-miss quality or a lack of better work to put in its place.

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