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ATD Blog

Building Your Portfolio As an Innovative Instructional Designer

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

If you ask them, most hiring managers will tell you they don’t particularly enjoy sifting through traditional resumes. Enter the instructional design portfolio.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and properly showing off your talents, skills, and experience with an online portfolio can help you prove that you have what it takes to create winning e-learning courses. When you showcase that you have a powerful online presence, you have a leg up over other job candidates.

Here are 10 key tips to building a winning instructional design portfolio.

1. Research Yourself

Before you even begin to create your portfolio, search for yourself on Google. That will allow you to see what, if anything, people are seeing about you online. Do a quick audit of your LinkedIn portfolio, as well. After all, that’s where professionals are likely getting their first look at who you are.

2. Reset Your Existing Portfolio

If you already have an instructional design portfolio that you’re comfortable with, that’s great! However, there’s always information that could use an update. While most relevant for your portfolio, that also applies to social media. Make sure your basic information and work samples on LinkedIn are relevant and up-to-date. Always have great professional references on hand, too.

3. Use the Right Platform

If you’re creating an instructional design portfolio from scratch, or are considering starting over, make sure your platform supports what you want to highlight. For example, some are more receptive to multimedia than others. If you’re a beginner, it’s probably best to keep it simple; WordPress might be your smartest option. However, other platforms like Squarespace can also be great options, especially for more experienced instructional designers.

4. Highlight Your Skills

Don’t forget what your portfolio is supposed to be: a method to showcase your abilities. If possible, try to showcase a wide range of e-learning course designs and layouts, accentuating the ones you are most comfortable with. Make sure the writing is also strong, from grammar and punctuation to the content itself. Visual elements can also strengthen your portfolio—not to mention make it look cleaner.

5. Pick the Right Projects

Make sure to showcase your best and most relevant work throughout. It’s often easiest to start with a large amount of content and determine what you don’t need, because it allows you to visualize how it fits within your portfolio. Keep your goals in mind as you go, including the goal of getting a job. Don’t use proprietary work; find something else to use, or recreate it by some other means if it truly is some of your best and most relevant work.

6. Pair Each Project With a Description

Be as detailed and specific as possible. Explain the resources you used, including your budget and the tools that were at your disposal. State how long it took you to complete the project. Describe the goals and objectives you successfully achieved during the process, along with how you achieved them. Make the reason why you are highlighting this work sample very clear, and let it show what a great leader you can be.

7. Focus on Diversity

While quality and relevance are key, so is variety. Let all your skills shine through. Experience with gamification, visual elements, and storyboarding is worth accentuating—especially if you’re good at it. Prove you are adaptable by detailing your comfort with various subjects and technology. Don’t be afraid to include multimedia in your portfolio, either, as long as you don’t go overboard.

8. Add a Personal Touch

No one wants to hire a resume. Your instructional design portfolio should include a look into who you are on a personal level. Include sections for a biography and past experiences. Also, if you have a relevant hobby, mention it. Proof that you truly love your work makes you a more favorable candidate, and showing your human side makes you easier to connect with.

9. Keep the Design Simple

Multimedia is great to use, but don’t overdo it. Video for the sake of video can be overwhelming. Keep fonts—styles and sizes—to a minimum, as well, and maintain a consistent layout—visually and in content grouping—throughout your portfolio.

10. Make it Visible

Lastly, don’t forget that your instructional design portfolio is meant to be seen. Share it through Dropbox or Google Drive, and link to it in your resume and cover letter. Provide links to it on your social media accounts, if it feels appropriate. Let as many people as possible see how good you are at what you do and how much it means to you.


Use these instructional design portfolio tips to offer clients and employers a glimpse of what you can bring to the table. While your online portfolio may be a work in progress, if you build a solid foundation now, you can save yourself a significant amount of time and effort when you’re ready to add new experiences and projects to your list of successes.


Here are some instructional design portfolio examples to help you get started.

Need to upgrade your skills? Browse our courses to help you level up your approach to instructional design.

About the Author

Stephen Newman is a former writer/editor for ATD.

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