Your Portfolio Starts Here

Information to get started on your portfolio

Important Notice:

For 2022 Portfolio submission to NCAD will be 100% digital. This means you will scan/photograph/film your work and upload it to NCAD via our website. 

The Portfolio Submission Platform is open now and will remain open right up until the closing date allowing you to submit your work at your own pace. You can save your progress and return as many times as you like, up until the deadline of 11th February.

Please sign up to the Undergraduate Mail List to keep up to date with all key information for applying to NCAD in 2022.


Your portfolio is the visual result of a personal journey, an exploration of the world around you. It involves investigation, observation, research, ideas, testing, exploration of material and method and finally a developed idea.

Similar to any good story, it naturally has a beginning (research/observation), a middle (development) and an end (visual conclusions). This is your visual story, and you have the creative freedom to tell it your way.

There is nothing mysterious about creating a portfolio. It involves time, creativity, dedication and lots of hard work. If you are working on one idea and it takes you to another, then go with it! Have fun with how you create, and show us your passion for Art/Design. It should reflect who you are as a person and as an artist. It should challenge you. It should make you think about how things are made, about the materials that are used in making, about how you would do something differently and about how you interact with/see the world around you.

Explore the Portfolio Website

Read the Portfolio Guide; browse through the Sample Portfolios; discover what makes a good Common Entry / Fine Art / Design portfolio; find out how to submit your portfolio; read through the FAQs for answers to questions you hadn't thought of!

More information to get you started

Important Dates

CAO Closing Date: Tuesday 1st February, 5:15pm.

Portfolio Submission Deadline: Friday 11th February, 4:30pm .

Applying to different pathways - Common Entry and Direct Entry

You can apply to all of the following common and specialist pathways through the CAO. Youy must make a portfolio submission for each NCAD pathway you apply for. 

Common Entry pathway:

AD101 - First Year Common Entry 

Direct Entry pathways:

 AD204 - Fine Art                                  

AD102 - Graphic Design/ Moving Image Design            

AD103 - Textiles, Jewellery & Objects 

AD105 - Applied Art - Ceramics / Glass (Hard Materials) OR Textile Art & Artefact

AD202 - Education & Fine Art/Design                             

AD211 - Fashion Design      

AD212 - Product Design   

AD222 - Interaction Design          

AD217 - Illustration              

Important information - Common Entry and Direct Entry

All students on all pathways, direct entry and common entry, work together for the first semester in a common interdisciplinary shared learning programme. 

First Year Common Entry is a multi-disciplinary year that allows you to explore a broad range of Art/Design pathways. This is an opportunity to embrace new media and ways of working in Art/Design. It will give you the solid foundation in Art and Design that will enhance your knowledge, and career. If you wish to use the first year in NCAD to explore your options and to take time to choose your pathway, then make Common Entry your first choice. 

If your interest is very clearly for a particular Direct Entry specialist pathway then you can make this your first choice. Your second preference could be Common Entry, which will allow you the widest range of possibility, including a second opportunity to gain entry to your first choice pathway at the end of year one. Or you can choose a definite second preference pathway. You can include all common and direct entry pathways as options on your CAO application, in order of preference.

All Common Entry portfolio applications will be reviewed by interdisciplinary staff teams and all Specialist Pathways applications will be reviewed by the relevant specialist staff teams. Your portfolio will be reviewed by all the relevant teams according to your application choices.

All incoming First Year students, including Common Entry and all Specialist Pathways will engage in a shared learning programme for the first semester. This period supports interdisciplinary learning and pathway choice making. 

Assessment of Your Portfolio

Your portfolio will be assessed using the following criteria:

1. Research & Observation

This is your starting point. We want to see how and what you observe around you. What in your life is of interest to you, visually? It could be anything from your sock drawer to your garden. Take some time to investigate everyday things which some people may take for granted. Also research other artists/designers who have addressed a similar approach. How do they do it, what do you like about them and what would you do differently and why? Question, observe and document everything.

Your Research and Observation may include, but not be limited to the following:

Simple sketches

Colour or texture swatches

Documentation of your surroundings/photographs you have taken

Sample work from artists/designers you admire

Objects/products that you would like to improve

Experimentation with materials/media

Mind Maps

2. Creative Ideas – Outcomes of your research and Observation

This is your development stage. Using your own research from your Research and Observation stage, begin to expand on some ideas that interest you. Combine some of your ideas, take some of them apart, mix it up. Address a design problem or give a new interpretation to something that you think could be done differently, and better. Take what you have observed and push it as far as you can - then push it further. Generate new creative outcomes and design solutions. Make your world better through visual development.

3. Developed Creative Work

This is your conclusion stage. While you may never feel like you have truly completeded your portfolio, you should have some fully developed pieces and there will be a point where you will have to stop in order to submit your portfolio. Show us your creative solutions. You should use at least one of the creative outcomes or design solutions from your Creative Ideas stage and pursue it into more developed work. We want to see your creative development through your portfolio and how you bring something that started as a simple idea to completion.

Don’t forget to include your notebooks!

Creative Notebook

Your notebooks/sketchbooks are a very important part of your portfolio. Bring a notebook with you everywhere. Any ideas that come to mind can be noted down or sketched. Ideas can come at odd times, like when you are standing at the bus stop, or eating your breakfast. If you have your notebook with you, you will never forget an idea. Using the analogy of your portfolio as the story, your notebooks would be all of the plot and plan of the story. Your notebooks do not need to be pristine, or even remotely neat. They are a means of recording your thoughts. Your sketches could be very simple and basic, as long as they can convey your ideas clearly. Your notebooks document your portfolio from the first stages, right through to your conclusions. They should show evidence of your awareness and interest in artists/designers. They offer the assessment teams a chance to deepen their understanding of your work and creative processes, as they can show how you might expand ideas that you don’t have time to develop fully. Your notebooks are just as important as your finished work.

Your portfolio will evolve over time and may become something that you hadn't planned when you started this journey. It grows and expands with you, your idead and your work. Enjoy the process!

Helpful Information

Throughout the year, NCAD runs Portfolio Preparation courses, Information Sessions, Workshops & Clinics. These courses and events run over the course of the year, and will be clearly advertised on our website and social media. They are designed by our specialist portfolio teams to help you make the most of your portfolio preparation. 

Explore the Portfolio Website