In my previous article I’ve explained where to start your Design Career, to help those people who wanted to know how to become a Designer. I gave you the info to better understand the Design industry and some tips and advice that may help you build your skills and as a result you professional value and make your career path more productive and fun.
In this article I’ll try to cover probably one of the most important things in Design Career – Designer Portfolio.
Since I’m a UI/UX Designer, I’ll be talking from that prospective, however principles and rules are similar almost to any Design industry.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Comparing to any other profession, Designers need to understand that the main decision employers/clients make whether they want to hire the Designer or not is based on Portfolio of that Designer. Of course experience, professional and tech skills are considered as the most important in this case, because you have to be able to execute all tasks that are required for a specific role. However, your Portfolio becomes a proof of your skills and talent. And if you even don’t have relatively a lot of experience, your talented designs encourage employers to give you a chance to express yourself and if you do, you’ll land that job! And of course vice versa, if you don’t have a Portfolio, forget about being hired.
Also, to my opinion, not only Designer need to have a Portfolio of their best work nowadays. It’s a great idea to be able to showcase your work in rapidly changing industry, that gives you an opportunity to stand out among other candidates and get best chances in your career. And even if you’re a business owner, you want to make sure that you give an information about clients you work with and projects your company made, and all that is also considered to be a Portfolio.
So be sure you have a good Portfolio!
There are tons of ways to build and showcase your Portfolio. To prove my words, there are:
– Personal website;
– Online portfolio services;
– Behance (by Adobe);
– Dribbble (closed community);
– LinkedIn projects;
– Dropbox, Google Drive and other cloud services to host PDF file for example;
– Printed out on paper, for in-person presentation;
and many more…
But how to pick the best one for you?
Well my best advice here is, don’t limit yourself to only one way of presenting your work. The more places your work is presented the better.
The only thing you have to pay attention to is – what type of professional you want to be and then focus on how that type of professional have to present ones work the best. What I mean by that is, if you’re trying to become a Web Designer, you have to have your own website, not to be a shoemaker without the shoes, if you know what I mean.
I had a PDF portfolio hosted on my Dropbox back in the days, that I’ve just sent the link to it, when I was applying to career opportunities.
But when I decides to transition myself from a Graphic Designer to a UI/UX Designer, no one was replying to my resume. After a couple of conversations with some of the top industry professionals on LinkedIn I’ve notices, all of them have been giving me the same advice, to create my Online Portfolio first, meaning it has to be my personal website.
As soon as I did that, proposals literally boomed my mail.
If you want your Portfolio to work best for your career, you have to understand the main purpose of this attribute and build your Portfolio from that prospective.
Remember, it has to be easy to find, see, study and understand your best work by different people, who might not understand well the design industry in general!
Trying to generate the most creative idea of how actually to present your work in your Portfolio is NOT the first thing to start here.
The more important is to focus on the work presented there, while make the presentation clear, simple and intuitive. What I’m trying to say is, don’t try to make your Portfolio incredibly creative in terms of layout and structure, especially if that’s your first one. Instead, try to generate solid talented projects for your Portfolio and come up with clear short description on what is that project all about, what was your role in that project, what challenges and problems you had to deal with while executing it and what results where accomplished.
OK, HOW TO BUILD?
All Designers face same problems, when it comes to actually building the Portfolio.
What is the best way to present my Portfolio? What projects should I include there? How to structure it? etc.
The best way to build your Portfolio so far is to come up with your Personal Website. There are many ways to build your site these days. For example I made mine with WordPress.
Building your Portfolio as a personal website shows your dedication, your creativity, your skills and your personal brand. Plus, it is convenient to share it and link it with any other online resources. That is why this type of Portfolio is welcomed the most by employers/client.
Just don’t try to make it too complicated. Make your Portfolio simple to navigate and understand.
Make obvious to find and study your work. Try to place most recent and your best projects to your homepage. All other projects have to be in one single place. For example I have 6 very best and latest projects on my homepage and a page named Portfolio on my website where I keep all projects I want to show and a navigation to it through my main menu.
Classification is another great idea to make it easier to study your work. If you classify your work by categories that can be then filtered, it adds a lot of convenience to a user to find some specific skills he may be interested in. But don’t over classify it. Better make 3-5 categories, not to overload users with information. For example Logos, Business Cards and Brandbooks can be grouped into one single Identity category.
Be short. Don’t show too many projects. I recommend to pick and publish the best 20 projects you have and that are related the most to a design field you want to work in. If you have something more and better to share in the future, delete those that are not that good as the others, and replace them with new better ones, while keeping the total number of 20.
Be creative when it comes to a project presentation. Pick a nice featured image that caches the eye as a thumbnail that links to your project from your portfolio. When you’re filling the project page with images try to make them relative to a project you’ve created. For example if you’ve designed an iPhone app, put the screenshots on a display of an iPhone mockup. Or if you made a website, put screenshots into the browser window.
Try to show your thought process. Don’t just put separate images into your project page. If you’re UI/UX Designer and you want to present the app you’ve did recently, don’t post only final polished mockups. Add some drafts and wireframes too, even if those are hand sketched. Also show user flow through the screenshots of the app and how user interacts with it. This allows potential employers and clients to see how you approach your tasks, what is your workflow and how you evolve when solving problems.
Add a bit of a story to think about. By writing a short description of a project, you multiply the understanding of it and, as a result, add more value to you as the professional. This allows employers and clients to understand the main purpose of the project you’ve been working on, explains business requirements of it, helps them to identify what you’ve did exactly and how good you’ve did it and eventually how good you are as the professional in terms of solving problems and satisfying the needs of their business.
And of course, DON’T publish business secrets and unfinished projects! Cause if you do, you may harm your current employer/client and scare away your potential ones. So be sure to get an approval on publishing any materials with it’s owners, before you actually add those to your Portfolio.
LET’S FILL IT!
So you came up with a concept of a site with your Portfolio. But where should you get the content for it? How to gain a strong solid set of projects?
Always gather and collect everything you do for your current company you’re working for. As soon as the project is shipped, and it is something that worth attention – add it to your Portfolio. It is hard sometimes to remember what you’ve did recently, and what is good for your Portfolio, so do it right away as you get a chance, even if you’re not looking for a new job or a client currently.
Freelance work is another great source to gather shipped and running projects. Don’t hesitate to spend a little bit of time doing some side work during your weekends and time off. Aside some extra income and experience, it allows you to get those priceless projects for your portfolio.
Do your personal projects (fictitious designs)! These are types of projects, that nobody asks you to do for them, these are the projects you come up with your own. This is something that many designer afraid of, thinking that these don’t count. Well that is wrong, trust me. I’ve got numerous job offers and opportunities based on this type of projects. Plus, this type of activity allowed me to grow in the direction, that my employers and clients couldn’t give me an opportunity to grow in.
First this is fun and exciting experience, because you can create something that you truly like. Second, this allows you to gain experience in the fields you don’t have an ability to work on during you corporate or freelance work. And third, it gives you additional source to build your Portfolio the way you want it to be, because you have a total control over the creative part of the designs!
JUST DO IT
Don’t wait for a perfect project to put into your Portfolio. This moment will never come. There will be always something that you won’t like about your work. And that is a good and natural sign, meaning you constantly willing to learn and perfect yourself.
You even wouldn’t be able to read this article, if I was concerned about making it better, because there are millions of ways to do it, and it probably would take me a lifetime to publish it.
Just put it out there and improve it as you go!
In my next article I’ll tell you how to create great Designer Resume that will help you succeed in your design career.
As always, thanks for reading. I highly appreciate your interest and support. Check out my blog for more articles.
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