How to Make an Interior Design Portfolio

By Michelle Ecker on October 18th, 2017

If launching a legitimate interior design business is something you’re seriously considering, you should definitely start developing a beginner’s portfolio. Especially if you want to be your own boss and work as an independent interior designer (as opposed to working under the umbrella of a larger, more established local firm), portfolio development is crucial. Without the legitimacy of a known firm’s name in correspondence with your work, clients will need to see some form of evidence that they can trust your design capabilities. They’ll also likely want to ensure that they’re into your specific creative vision and decorating style as well. By creating an organized visual portfolio of the kind of work you do, this provides them with exactly that opportunity.

Traditionally, an interior design portfolio is literally a physical portfolio designers can keep in their office or bring along to home visits and consultation meetings. A loose-leaf presentation typically laminated and put together in a binder, portfolios can be filled with sketches, AutoCAD print-outs, and most importantly, digital photos of finished designs. Before and after sections displaying room or home transformations after being updated by the designer are also a popular format of displaying work and aesthetic design capabilities.

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Creating a portfolio like this should be pretty simple for beginners, especially if you’re a NYIAD student. Even if you’ve never worked with a real-world client, you can still create a beginners portfolio using solely the work you completed throughout our curriculum. From sketches or drawings of the rooms you’ve designed to furniture sample presentations to sample budget layouts and copies of your interior design certifications, this binder full of work and credentials is all meant to show clients a little picture of what you’re capable of, and why they can trust you.

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Through what you include in your portfolio, you want to demonstrate the fact that you’ve been formally trained, that you know how the interior design process works, and that you’re an organized, thorough and capable professional. If you’ve never done any real-word projects, even for family or friends, simply organize a nicely laid-out arrangement of the NYIAD projects you’ve completed and show those to clients as you’re getting started with your career.

If you’ve done some smaller projects (even for friends, family members or in your own home), be sure to photo document those if you’re a beginner (before and after shots are always helpful) and include those novice projects for sure.

As soon as you book your first client, be sure to pack a camera for your consultations and walk-throughs, and thoroughly document the process so you can begin to build your portfolio to include a real project you’ve done for a paying client.

When you’re finished working for someone, it’s also really helpful to ask for a testimonial, and include that along with any pages in your portfolio featuring shots of the work you did for them. At the end of the day, from pictures of beautiful work to satisfied words of praise from happy clients, all these things should come together to prove to potential buyers why working with you is totally worthwhile.