How to use Instagram Stories to make an epic portfolio

Jul 2, 2018

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These days posting a portfolio is dead easy, but you’re frozen by the endless choices (the paradox of choice). You can put it up on a portfolio site like Behance, create a website in Squarespace, or display video-based work on Vimeo. Those options are just a few of the big names, but you can get even more niche with platforms like Dribbble and DeviantArt.

If we dial it back a bit, what’s the point of a portfolio? In essence it’s a curated selection of your work, easily viewable for potential employers, clients and peers. Back in the day that meant a physical portfolio folder that would get lugged between agencies. Just like dragging your portfolio to meet with a Creative Director, nowadays you’ve still got to meet them where they’re hanging out. I don’t mean stalking the poor person at a bar, I mean where they’re hanging out online. Ten bucks says 90% of people who might hire you are on the ‘gram.

Instagram is now by far the most popular visual-orientated platform. The app, which once was simply a place to over-filter images of your brunch, has become a huge business development tool for the creative industry. With new features to engage with like Stories, this doesn’t show much sign of letting up. There are now over 300 million daily Story users, almost double that of Snapchat. At the end of 2017 Instagram introduced Story Highlights letting you group up your previous Stories (only published for 24hrs) and display them on your profile as evergreen content.

Instagram Story Highlights are now the secret weapon of creatives who are Insta-pros.

Why are Story Highlights a good method to show off the pride and joy of your work? A few factors make them ideal.

  1. Stories appear right at the top of your profile meaning that people can immediately start tapping through.
  2. You can easily mix types of content in the Story; static image, video, and some of Instagram’s other formats like Stop Motion and Boomerang (please use that one sparingly 🙄).
  3. It does what it says on the packet. In other words, it lets you tell a story. The linear nature of Stories mean you can control the narrative you take your viewer on.

The possibilities are endless for the kind of content you can put together in Stories. Here are a few formats that suit creative portfolios.

The Showcase

This format is great for giving people a quick tour through your work. You might like to do a logo showcase for example, with a logo on each “slide.” Or you could organise it by project, showing off the different deliverables.

Branding agency, Anagrama (@anagramastudio) does a great job at this, breaking their Story Highlights into projects.

The Reflection

A reflection on a particular event or period of time can be a great way to give people an insight into your work and process. Some people do summaries of a year of work they’ve completed.

Art director and graphic designer Leta Sobierajski (@letasobierajski) is one creative who does this and uses collage on each slide to curate her highlights.

The Reel

Use short clips of video or animation work grouped up as one Story Highlight to create a mini reel. Because of the portrait and full screen format of Stories, regular widescreen video will display pretty small. Consider teasing your audience with the video zoomed in to full screen portrait.

Motion and graphic designer Pablo Alfieri (@helloplayful) uses a range of Story formats to show off his animation work.

The Case Study

If you have a project that involved a design-thinking process or perhaps a lot of experimentation and iteration then a case study Story could be a great way to show it.

Wes Anderson’s right-hand graphic designer Annie Atkins (@annieatkins) does a fantastic job at this. Her Story Highlights are a bit longer than most, but she draws the viewer in with an interesting narrative about her process.


This type of Story is great for craft-intensive work, showing off your personality or educating people about your process. Documenting this with tools like Timelapse or Rewind can make them even more fun for your viewers. Here are some accounts that do a great job of their WIP and BTS.

  • Motion designer, Jacob Eisinger — @yippiehey
  • Lettering Artist, Kristen De Palma — @kdpletters
  • Designer and illustrator, Sarah Beth Morgan — @wonderfall

Bonus Ideas:

  1. Wallpapers: Got some side project designs that would make a great phone wallpaper? Chuck them into one Story Highlight for people to screenshot.
  2. Products for Sale: These days creatives have lots of ways to earn income other than just billable hours. If you’re got pins, patches or stickers to sell, show them off in a Story Highlight. Perhaps you’ve got an online course people can join? Show some sneak peeks to get followers interested.
  3. Resume: The possibilities for Story Highlights are endless. Why not have a Story Highlight resume? Make it visual and in keeping with your personal brand.
  4. Press and Awards: The “humble-brag-corner” in other words. If you’ve been covered by press or blogs, you can use Story Highlights to compile them together. Got some awards? Throw them in here too.

Final Tips:

  1. Get the length right: Make sure you’re not dragging things out too much on your Story Highlight. Edit down and show the best of your work, like you would in a regular portfolio.
  2. Think about the cover image: You can select a cover photo from your images in the Story Highlight. Choose one that will look good down really small on your profile. Help give viewers an idea of what to expect when they’re viewing by choosing something relevant and visually interesting. Some people also use custom images like icons to keep their Story Highlights looking organised.
  3. Use an Instagram Business account to track metrics/engagement: Connecting your Instagram account to a Facebook Page means you can use an Instagram Business account. This unlocks a whole bunch of tools that helps you track the engagement and metrics for your posts and stories.
  4. Compose the work to look good in the portrait format: Crop or resize work to look good at full screen in portrait. Sometimes you can let Instagram do this for you but often it can be tricky to show the right focal point.

Remember your portfolio isn’t a static thing that exists in one place. Make it fun, interesting and easy to engage with across all the places that your community hang out in.

Kate Darby is the co-founder of Dovetail X, a platform for creatives to collaborate and assemble project teams on the fly. A designer herself, Kate has worked for global agencies, freelanced, moonlighted and everything in between.