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Portfolio Decks: Yay or Nay?

7 months ago from , UX/UI Designer

I've noticed a recent trend of designers using "Portfolio Decks" to solicit full-time employment.

For those unfamiliar, Portfolio Decks are a cross between traditional design portfolios and the pitch decks that startups use to raise money.

My questions to you are: Has anyone tried using Portfolio Decks? How do you even use them? Do you send it with your resume? How are they superior to an online portfolio? Does spending a lot of time on a portfolio deck negate the needs for a design challenge deck? Is this a fad?

Thank you

21 comments

  • CJ CiprianoCJ Cipriano, 7 months ago

    Decks are important. You will be asked to present your work at most companies and generally the best way to go through your process is using slides.

    9 points
    • Du Hoang, 7 months ago

      Usually, when I am at an onsite interview, and they ask me to show my work. They tend to want to do a deep dive into one or two projects. And not go through a slideshow of all my work, since they have already seen my online portfolio.

      I guess it would be nice to have decks for one or two of projects that are deep dives. But I'm still not convinced of a portfolio deck usefulness in that scenario.

      0 points
  • Fred ZawFred Zaw, 7 months ago

    I always send along my portfolio website with my resume. The website contains longer form case studies in the style of blog posts, but also some projects that are lighter on content.

    When I am asked to come in for a presentation, I present my portfolio as a deck where the stories may be tweaked a bit to suit the format.

    I always thought though that this was the proper way to present work because case studies on websites are often just too wordy for a good presentation. My assumption was that this is how most designers did it, but I could be wrong.

    5 points
    • Du Hoang, 7 months ago

      When I'm onsite for an interview. Usually they request a deep dive into one or two projects, instead of presenting my portfolio again, since they have already seen it. This has been my experience through out my career.

      2 points
    • Darren Krape, 7 months ago

      This is my experience, both from interviewing other designers and applying for roles myself.

      When I'm applying for roles, I certainly like having a prepared portfolio desk to go through for several reasons: It helps guide the conversation better than going through a less structured website, I can focus attention much more strongly on specific elements/screens/points, and (importantly) it works offline and is very reliable across computers, connections, etc.

      When I'm involved in hiring, I generally find designers that have spent the time to do a dedicated deck have a better portfolio review for the reasons I noted above.

      Of course, these tools will suit different people in different ways, so I certainly don't think my approach is the only, or even best.

      0 points
  • Ted Curran, 7 months ago

    I don't use them, mostly because interactivity is so core to my work. I'm generally distrustful of vendors and people who let you "look but don't touch" at their work - I get suspicious that it would break if they let me really use it. I'd prefer to put up a real working model of a learning interaction so people can see how it works from the inside. From that point, you can always take a bunch of screenshots and animated gifs of the experience to put in a slide deck or video for someone so busy that they will only spend two minutes on it.

    3 points
  • Ariel VerberAriel Verber, 7 months ago

    i only did it once, when i was asked to. I wouldn't do it otherwise - a portfolio is a good way to show your skills and get that interview. some employers want to see your presentation skills, and in this case you might want to edit your portfolio in a form of a presentation

    3 points
  • Account deleted 7 months ago

    what's the difference with a PDF portfolio and a portfolio deck? It's always nice to have a PDF version but sales pitch? As a designer your works should sell itself. If you're trying to sell something doesn't desirable, then there's a problem with it.

    1 point
    • Du Hoang, 7 months ago

      Portfolio decks are more than just PDFs of your portfolio. It has more biographical information about you, your interests, what you studied, if you took a gap year to travel, etc.

      And also how you can contribute to X company in Y ways. So it is sales-y, and I've seen similar things on Twitter as threads.

      I wonder if it works, and whether to adopt that practice.

      0 points
      • Account deleted 7 months ago

        I do have two versions of my portfolio. One is with the content you've mentioned and the other one is for presentation mostly visuals. I do send out the one with the information if I'm not presenting my works. While presenting I'd prefer to tell the content instead of displaying, also can show my works under NDA -which I can show but can't share.

        Maybe it's me but it still sounds the same. If you're just sharing a PDF it should have the content you've mentioned. If you're not, no need to include the picture of your school's building while presenting. Presentations are boring for everyone it should be kept simple and to the point.

        0 points
  • Miklos Philips, 6 months ago

    As a design team leader who hires designers (3 companies over the last 6 years), I wouldn't welcome the presentation of a Portfolio Deck in an interview setting. It's too prepared and inverts the controlling of the interview process to the designer, i.e., "I will show you what I want to show you."

    By this time, I've already checked out a lot of their background and portfolio–otherwise, they wouldn't be invited in for an interview—and I'd want to do a deep dive and ask some tough questions. 1) I want to see how they handle uncomfortable questions 2) I want to see how they back up their design decisions.

    This would involve randomly picking designs from their portfolio and ask questions like:

    "Why did you choose that color for the table background or that button?" "Did you test this design on users and what was the response?" "Could you show me an earlier iteration of this design?" etc etc

    1 point
  • Aaron SagrayAaron Sagray, 7 months ago

    Yes. I did an email deck and an in-person deck. I don't have time to code up a new portfolio site (though I've had one in-progress for like 6 months). Downside is less visibility. You are depending on active recruiting to get your deck in front of the right people. A deck is also slightly higher friction for the hiring manager to go through. (Protip: short link or domain that redirects to your deck link)

    You will likely still need to do a design challenge.

    1 point
  • Andrew C, 7 months ago

    If you’re hiring an art or creative director at an agency I could see this format working. As a product designer at a startup a longer form case study is going to be better.

    1 point
    • Fred ZawFred Zaw, 7 months ago

      I'm confused though. How would you present your case study in a form factor other than a deck?

      0 points
      • Jared KrauseJared Krause, 7 months ago

        Website / Blog

        0 points
        • Andrew C, 7 months ago

          Yeah. I can’t recall ever seeing someone present a portfolio as a slide deck before and I’ve been hiring designers for at least 14 years.

          It went from a real portfolio (like with a case) until about 2008 when startups went crazy to website portfolios. I generally like portfolios w a well written case study.

          1 point
          • Jared KrauseJared Krause, 7 months ago

            I worked at a large agency for a couple years and it was very common (and encouraged) to present everything, even personal portfolios for internal promotions, in Keynote format. Just a different mindset, whatever works.

            0 points
            • Andrew C, 7 months ago

              Makes sense in a setting where the pitch often means success or failure. I personally don’t enjoy that dynamic so I think my bias is showing here.

              0 points
  • Joseph BarrientosJoseph Barrientos, 7 months ago

    I agree with most here but I think your experience level and the role also matter. At 6 years in, I have enough experience and active products ive worked on that I honestly only use a dribbble and a few more images in person for my portfolio.

    I've still had to run through my work but usually from a high level as it seems to become a more relaxed process. The interviews (for me) usually consist more of, design challenges and both abstract/detail oriented tasks.

    Starting out, I definitely did put more work into my portfolio work and for someone without much experience that really does make a big difference. When reviewing design candidates I look at the strength in the designers work, not necessarily the amount or the presentation. Those are nice to haves but not that important to me. I may be in the minority on that.

    0 points
  • Marcel van Werkhoven, 7 months ago

    I turned the biggest case we've ever done (which consisted of building multiple sites for a single client over the course of 3-4 years and managing everything in between) into a portfolio deck. The communication or marketing person who might enlist your services is unlikely to make the final call on hiring you.

    The contact that you meet might be excited but then the higher ups might ask questions: "Can we trust these folks? What have they done? Do they have experience with international clients, because they only have 12 people?" . The deck adresses exactly the type of questions a stakeholder might have.

    I used to focus on showing as much as I could. Writing 30 page in-depth proposals and trying to refer to as many relevant cases as possible. I learned along the way that it is more important to focus on specific challenges and to radiate confidence. If you are confident you have this single 3 - 5 page document that basically shows everything that you do or have accomplished for your single best/most high profile client. I also send this deck along with the quote. Knowing that all the work I show in between to the person I'm dealing with directly might not end up at the stakeholders(boss) but the final quote and every document attached to it will.

    So even if my contact does not necessarily understand how this particular case might be relevant to his request, it will have a 99% chance to end up at the higher ups.

    0 points
  • Erhan D'SilvaErhan D'Silva, 7 months ago

    Thinking of switching to a Portfolio deck as well for the main reason of being easier to maintain, update and add content. So my thinking is a short scan-able piece on the web about the project but a deeper sales pitchy portfolio deck for a hiring manager who might not have the time to read through a case-study.

    0 points