Portfolio Requirements For Art + Design Subjects

It's interview time at many Universities and Colleges across the country (UK) and many of you may be preparing your portfolios. Over the last six years I have worked in Art Schools in India and the UK, and have met with and interviewed hundreds of students in the UK, India, Thailand and Iceland, all looking to gain a place on our course. It's a nerve wracking experience but one which can also be exciting if you are ready and proud of the work you are showing off. So, if you are preparing your portfolio, or starting to think about it for the following academic year, here are some tips to help you get ready.


Most creative Universities and Colleges are looking for talented students who are inspired and ready to further their skills, it's that simple. The best way to show off your skills and interests is in the portfolio so fill it with your most creative, best work and work that reflects you as an Artist/Designer. Select 15-20 of the best pieces of work you have, include mixed medium and a variety of topics.

When selecting work, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is it for?

  • What would they like to see?

  • What level is the course?

  • How specialist is it?

  • What are your strengths?

  • Can you talk about the work?

  • Will you be able to verbally present it? (or will you have to leave it with somebody)

The academic looking at your portfolio will be looking to see what subject and medium you have experience with and how you have produced your work. They may ask you how long each piece took and why you created them so be ready with responses to these questions.

Samples in your portfolio could include:

  • Drawings + Sketches (show variety and narrative, include different techniques)

  • Pages from your sketchbook (lay the book open and take a well lit photo from above)

  • Still life + observation drawings (unfinished work is fine, often of more interest)

  • Paintings (watercolours, acrylic, oil, mixed medium - include your best work)

  • Ink and pencil drawings / pastel work

  • Digital images (poster designs, branding projects)

  • Photography

  • 3D work, models + sculptures (with very clear, well lit photographs, try to show scale)


If you wish to support your images with a short explanation then do so but keep it short, less is more so try not to distract from your work. Summarise a narrative of your work in one or two sentences; {title, medium, explanation of work}


Focus the direction of your portfolio to the subject you are applying for and show key pieces that highlight your interest and knowledge/expertise so far:

  • If architecture then focus on building, material, forms, models, perspectives

  • If fashion then draw figures, models, designs, samples of material and colours

  • If graphics then show branding, logos, typography, posters, photography, etc


There are many different ways of submitting your portfolio, these will depend on whether you are attending the interview or not. If you will be attending then create a small portfolio in a protective folder, A3 is a good size to carry around and present on a desk or table. If you live abroad or will not be attending an interview then you will be asked to submit your portfolio electronically.

There are lots of options for this:


The academic interviewing you will use your portfolio to base their decision on. Obviously your grades and previous experience, including internships awards etc, are an important part of the application process but the portfolio is key and can sometimes raise your chances of an offer. In the interview you will be asked to present your portfolio.

Go through this slowly and calmly, explaining:

  • What each piece is and what the story behind it/brief was

  • If it was a school piece or independent work

  • What inspired/motivated you

  • Why you used the medium (paint, ink, clay)

It's a nerve racking experience, one you will get used to, but you should be proud of your work. Remember, the School you are applying to has given you an interview because they want to meet you and see your work, so show it off. Try to enjoy the experience and ask questions to help you make the best choice for you. 

Good luck