‌Guidance Notes for Creating an Effective Portfolio for Interview

  1. Appreciate that your preparation for interview has already started. Work that is conducted in the studio or classroom is essentially potential work for the portfolio
  2. Conduct appropriate research into courses. There is a need to understand the difference between disciplines and to really appreciate what it is that you are applying to. Find out what the programme you are interested in has done
  3. It is necessary to try and ensure that you have a suitable portfolio for the interview and to make sure that your work can be represented professionally. Appreciate that different disciplines often have different requirements regarding the size of a portfolio
  4. Think about the journey that you have to take to your interview and if you should perhaps consider travelling the day before. Think also about the route you are going to take. Large portfolios can be very difficult to manoeuvre onto a bus or taxi and are very difficult on a train or underground
  5. Aim to arrive in good time and compose yourself before going to the reception
  6. Think about a couple of questions that you might want to ask at the interview and remember that it is a two-way process. Although you might not get the opportunity to ask any questions you have prepared it is worthwhile having some ready.
  7. Think about what you are going to wear for the interview and what impression you want to make. First impressions are important and it is often good to carefully consider this aspect
  8. Appreciate that different institutions have different interview arrangements and there is nothing wrong in contacting an institution in advance to ask the format of the interview. Different approaches might mean that you are going to present or talk through your portfolio, but you may find that your portfolio is viewed without you being present
  9. In preparing the portfolio, institutions are very aware of the different formats that are used by A level students, National Diploma students, Foundation or similar. A-Level students often have a project to present, whilst National Diploma students and Foundation may have a varied body of work to show
    It is always a good idea to try and include some work that you have generated without instruction, something that demonstrates your enthusiasm and commitment
  10. A portfolio needs to inform and be creative but it is not necessary to overload it. A range of work perhaps demonstrating diverse abilities is a useful approach
  11. It is often the case that you are ‘judged’ by your worst piece of work, work which you feel is acceptable to be in the portfolio. Be careful to ensure that all the work says what you want it to say
  12. A poor opening page or a poor final page in a portfolio must be avoided. It is often the case that a portfolio is opened and a discussion takes place before looking at the work or a discussion takes place after the last page. If the portfolio remains open and there is poor work on show it can be detrimental
  13. Know how to open a portfolio. It may sound simple but open a portfolio the wrong way can be unsettling and can even make the work fall out unexpectedly. A simple sticker or marker on the top right corner on the outside of the portfolio will ensure that you always align it correctly before opening
  14. As a portfolio may be viewed without the interviewee being present it is perhaps worth considering putting in a brief abstract or summary of what the project is
  15. In addition to work in the portfolio sleeves it is advisable to include an example of some contextual work ie an essay or report on a design movement or artist and also to include sketchbooks providing that they are demonstrating ability and creativity.

    If you work hard and think logically and sensibly you will probably succeed in whatever it is that you want to do.

Programme specific advice

BA (Hons) Creative Advertising

Applicants should be able to demonstrate enthusiasm for the subject, good communication skills and be able to discuss the work in their portfolio. An awareness of recent advertising campaigns along with the ability to discuss the work of a range of practitioners in art and design is helpful.

Portfolios should demonstrate evidence of creative thinking and enquiry. Visual awareness and problem-solving ability should be reinforced through a range of art and design work. This could include drawing, design work, photography and a willingness to utilise a range of media, materials, processes and techniques. We don’t expect anyone to have done any advertising before they join the course (but we don’t mind if you have!). Your portfolio should show your best work (not everything that you’ve ever done) that demonstrates a wide range of media (drawing, painting, collage, photography, sculpture, design, creative writing, textiles etc.), an inquisitive open mind, creative thinking, intelligence and wit. And when we interview you we are very keen to meet students who are good at communicating verbally as well as visually.

BA (Hons) Design for Exhibition and Museum

Portfolios should demonstrate evidence of a range of design skills including drawing, model making and preferably computer work.

BA (Hons) Graphic Design

  • Enthusiasm for the subject; evidence of a real interest in visual communication
  • Evidence of the ability to visually explore and speculate; sketchbooks, worksheets, developmental ideas and draft versions of finished pieces
  • Abilities with a variety of media, materials and creative processes. This could include; traditional visual and digital media, film, photography and writing
  • Organisation; clearly ordered work demonstrating care and attention to detail, with evidence of supporting process where necessary.

BA (Hons) Illustration

Your portfolio should include drawing/design work illustrating:

  • evidence of good observational drawing skills
  • evidence of basic exploration and experimentation with media and surfaces
  • some evidence of applying drawing/painting skills to textual interpretation.

BA (Hons) Interactive Design

Portfolio and interview techniques

Interactive Design is concerned with exploring the relationships between people, information and technology through the use of interactivity, sight, sound and motion. The programme is based on creativity and the exploration of ideas, underpinned with strong theoretical associations.

Portfolio tips

  • Increasingly students applying directly to Interactive Design have work loaded onto a website or blog
  • If your work is online please bring the domain address, or you have any multi-media, Photography or film work please make sure your CD DVD or external hard drive can be read by both a PC or an Apple Mac.


  • Concepts, ideas and research in sketchbooks (sketchbook pages can be scanned or photographed)
  • Evidence of the process you use for developing an idea, again usually in sketchbooks
  • An awareness of Interactive design screen or otherwise, this can take the form of practical project work or essays and written assignments
  • Self initiated work as well as course work. This is important as it reveals your engagement and commitment to the subject outside of the course.
  • Evidence of any other interests you have that may or may not be subject related.

Interview tips

Interviews are informal and friendly and should be a relaxed and enjoyable event. Applicants should be able to demonstrate enthusiasm for the subject, good communication skills and be able to talk about the work in their portfolio.

BA (Hons) Interior Design

Some applicants may be called for interview, whereby they will have opportunity to go through their portfolio with a member of the academic team. Within their portfolio’s applicants should demonstrate both practical skills (such as pencil drawing techniques, computer-aided design drawing, photography, model-making, use of colour, perspective drawing or technical drawing) and an awareness of Interior Design practice, both past and present. What we are really looking for is passion and a genuine enthusiasm for the subject.

BA (Hons) Product Design

  • Research the programme in advance of the interview and understand what the staff and students do. Ideally visit the course during an Open Day
  • Look to present your work in a portfolio and aim to demonstrate a range of skills and media within the work
  • Think about questions that you might want to ask in advance of the interview. This might be about student visits, accommodation and studio space
  • It is important to read around the subject.