Portfolio requirements

See what’s needed—and how to excel—when applying to the Algonquin Graphic Design program with your portfolio.

Why a portfolio?

Portfolios are an extremely important part of the Graphic Design field.

Submitting portfolios is something we do professionally when trying to get jobs—not just part of the school application.

Portfolios, whether for a job or for school, showcase your ability to work within constraints; illustrate your process; feature your problem solving aptitude, your communication skills, and your creativity — not only your raw talent. They help us, and employers, determine if you are the right fit & can accomplish the work we expect.

Portfolio submission

As part of the application process for the Graphic Design program, you are required to submit the following items:

  • 1.
    Drawing test

    Draw a self-portrait in pencil that shows off your attention to detail, your style, your cleanliness and your ability to follow instructions.

  • 2.
    Layout test

    Redesign a jewellery store advert showing us your creativity, your communication skills and your ability to work within constraints.

  • 3.
    10–15 creative works

    Demonstrate what you can do with samples of your absolute best work: layout, typography, painting, drawing, web design, interface design and sketches.

Submissions accepted until program is full

Email a PDF to design@algonquincollege.com
More details below.

Important notes

  • Plagiarism is not tolerated! Applicants who have submitted work which is not their own will not be accepted to the program.
  • Please supply photographs or photocopies or your originals.
  • If you submit work that was part of a collaboration, indicate what part you played in the process.

Drawing test

Demonstrate your attention to detail, pencil control, style & cleanliness by drawing a pencil-only self-portrait.

  • Draw a 6″ × 9″ self-portrait centered on an 8.5″ × 11″ piece of #27 (smooth) white illustration board.
    (If you purchase the Portfolio Kit it will be 10″ × 15″.)
  • Render your portrait in pencil. Attention to detail, style and cleanliness are very important.
  • Include a copy of the reference photo in your portfolio.

Below are some examples, some good & some bad, of self-portraits in varying styles.

Highly detailed & realistic
Good proportions & shading techniques
Interesting cropping of the figure
Interesting use of strong lines with shading
High realism with good shading
Well executed with stylistic flair
Visual interest with incomplete hair
Too simple, seems like a sketch
Poor proportions, very smudgy

Layout test

Show off your creativity, your ability to organize content and your communication skills by redesigning a jewellery advertisement.

  • Select a jewellery advertisement from the yellow pages, newspaper, or from a magazine.
  • In pencil, redesign and re-draw the ad to a new size of 6″ wide × 9″ high on an 8.5″ × 11″ piece of #27 (smooth) white illustration board.
    If you purchase the Portfolio Kit the illustration board will be 10″ × 15″. Just centre your 6″ × 9″ layout nicely on the larger board supplied in the kit.
  • In your new layout, include all of the text, as well as the company logo from the original ad.
  • If your ad has no image, draw any piece of jewellery (watch, ring, etc.) and include it within your newly designed ad.
  • Include a copy of the original paper advertisement in your portfolio.

Below are some examples, some good & some bad, of redesigned jewellery adverts in varying styles.

Portfolio of work

Exhibit your skills & talent in a series of works that demonstrate the best of your design abilities.

Be very critical of what you put in your portfolio. Only include pieces that you are very proud of.

We suggest including between 10 and 15 pieces in total. Quality, variety and presentation are important. If you don’t take care and pride in your portfolio, it will say a lot about you and your commitment to being accepted to the program.

You should explore and research all aspects of graphic design. You will discover that graphic design is a very broad field. Graphic designers do not only sit and draw all day long.

Including only a large number of drawings in your portfolio will not sufficiently demonstrate your design abilities. Your self-portrait will showcase your drawing skills. If you have many drawings, go further by including them in your own advertisement design. If you include many cartoons or animé pieces, maybe the Animation program would be a better fit for you.

Consider including the redesign of an existing logo or package in your portfolio. If you do, include the original design.

Typography is a crucial and important part of graphic design. Any piece that incorporates type would stand out. Explore type shapes and possibilities in design. Create abstract images with type. Or layouts that incorporate your images and type.

You’re encouraged to come to Algonquin’s portfolio workshops where you can get feedback and direction.

Things to include:

  • Layouts
  • Typographic design
  • Sketches!
  • Logos & packaging
  • Website designs
  • Interface designs
  • Photography
  • Paintings
  • Illustrations

Mediums to include:

  • Hand-rendered

    Hand drawings are great, but we’re mostly interested in the layout & communication—the drawing skill is secondary.

  • Computer-generated

    Computer-created work like website designs, page layouts, logos, packaging that communicate clearly are wonderful.

  • Thumbnail sketches

    Show your process to the design solution. This is especially important for computer-generated pieces.

  • Photography

    Photography can show interesting use of space, organization & cropping. It will speak to your design eye.

Below are some good examples of work previous applicants have included in their portfolio.

Book cover design for “Paul et Virginie”
Music festival poster design
Package & card design for a wedding
Hand-painted postcard
Hand drawn typographic lettering
Anime inspired character design
T-shirt illustration rendered digitally
Ideation sketches for a jewellery advert
Logo design for Belisle Paul
Package design for a video game

Submit Your Portfolio

Submit a digital PDF. But make sure to get your portfolio in on time to be considered for the Algonquin College Graphic Design Program.

Portfolios will be accepted until the program is full.

Submit a digital PDF

Send us your portfolio in a single PDF file named “Graphic Design Portfolio”. Each piece should be clearly labeled indicating the title and medium used, as well as the dimensions of the actual work.

In the PDF, include your name, e-mail address, telephone number and student number.

Email the single PDF to design@algonquincollege.com

If the file size of your PDF is too large to attach to an e-mail, upload it to a cloud file sharing service, like Dropbox or Google Drive, and share the link with us.

Questions or concerns

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact one of the Graphic Design coordinators:

I’m Interested!

If you’re excited by graphic design—apply now!

Do you have questions before signing up? Ask Alain