I disagree somewhat regarding the emphasis on in-depth case studies. Detail and process is all good, but don't go too crazy with it. I often subcontract work out to other freelance designers when I get overbooked, and end up looking at hundreds of portfolios at a time. The number of times when I've actually read through somebody's 5 paragraph long case study? Zero.
I've found that many candidates now include gratuitous images of sketched layouts pinned up on a wall, wireframes, etc. However this kind of thing is starting to turn me off since it seems so obvious they are trying show how "UX-y" they are. It doesn't mean your thinking and research is sound, it just means you followed the same damn process that everybody else does.
If I want to hear you explain a process/challenges/etc. to me, that's what the interview is for. Process can be easily taught and often varies from company to company. However when I'm looking at a design portfolio I'm strictly looking for taste and empathy for the user. A 10 minute long case study shows zero empathy for your user (the guy looking at hundreds of portfolios).
Great point. It can be incredibly tedious to read through dozens of case studies when you're in the thick of reviewing resumes. And often, it's difficult to get the full context of a process from just a photo.
I think Mason Lawlor makes a great point: presenting the information gives the user (the interviewer, hiring manager, etc) the option to dig deeper.
So spot on. Understand that the person looking through the site needs to see some visual hook at a glance. Don't assume they care as much about the minutia of what you've done as you do, and that they're just dying to pop up some popcorn and read through your long-winded process. They need something they can show their boss, who is also very busy, that communicates at a glance that you essentially get it.
When you get the interview, then you can put on your smart designer process pants and get down and dirty with the details.
Thanks for writing this great post Emelyn! As a student who's graduating next year, this is truly helpful.
About the cover letter part: I think most people understand it's important to write a personal cover letter, but sometimes it's just impossible to know who's the person reading it. What's your suggestion for situation like this?
In terms of interview: I totally love it when I can actually go into an office, and get interviewed by one of the designers. No matter I get the job or not, it's a great experience and I always learn a lot. However, I've been experience with "screening" process by one of the internet giant. The screening was conducted by some random HR person who don't know the heck about design, and asking a list of questions which I don't think can evaluate a designer in any way. This kind of thing is truly sad.
Hey DN! I've been talking with students that're building their portfolios and compiling advice. What've you guys learned over the years about building portfolios?
Awesome article, it was a palate cleanser to read a designer's opinions that I surprisingly agree with. That sounds pretty cynical, but I've just seen a lot of clickbait articles on here lately.
Mike Wilson below has a point, but I think if you make your portfolio structured, organized, and easy to consume then you should be able to skim them quickly, but also present the option of reading deep into their thought process and results if you want. Why not give people the option? Most high-ups with budget decisions are going to be all up on that sorta thing.
Thanks dude — I appreciate the kind words!
I agree — having the option to read case studies is nice. When you're skimming 20 portfolios in a sitting, you won't read every single case study with depth. But when you find a portfolio that stands out, you can delve deeper and find out if that designer might be a great fit for your company/project.
Emelyn! I am so excited to see your post here. I'm working on redoing my portfolio so this insight is exactly what I needed :)
Presenting your own work is possibly the hardest thing to do, you are your own worst client!
When I put mine together I followed my own simple brief; show work that is real, solely my own, focus on the aesthetics and link to live sites. This made curation very easy as live work that wasn't up to the standard I wanted didn't make the cut.
My portfolio is not extensive (third piece being added this week) but there isn't any fluff and there's no pretension. It's clear as to what I do and if someone wants to see more about process (visually) they can view more on Dribbble and for validation of experience they can look at my LinkedIn profile.
There's no right or wrong when putting your own portfolio together but you have to live with it and stand by it.
Loved the article and you made some very good points especially for those just starting out.