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UX Designer: Is a proper portfolio really necessary?

almost 3 years ago from , Designer

I am curious what companies look for the most in a UX Designer as far as past work and experience.

Is it really important still to have a traditional portfolio with your best work? Or are case studies more important overall for one to be looked at as a potential hire?

These two categories I feel both qualify as a "Portfolio" but I guess it's more the style that is most desired when looking for a designer to hire.

I want to know some of your experiences, and thoughts are on this matter.

22 comments

  • Kamile Mieliauskaite, almost 3 years ago

    Hi! I spent about 6 months searching for a new UX job and can share my experience...

    What if noticed from all the comments I got - for UX or digital designer roles it is important to show the process or the way you approach the problem, so case studies always work better. Unless you are applying for pure UI or artworker role - traditional portfolio would work just fine.

    I think it is always good to show a mix of skills in your portfolio - after I got my UX job 4 months ago my manager mentioned that a lot of other candidates were kind of one dimensional - were very UX focused and had no UI skills or had good UI skills, but didin't take UX in consideration enough. That I think applies to the portfolio too.

    8 points
    • Michael NewbonMichael Newbon, almost 3 years ago

      In Designer roles I have found the same, the fact I do video has got me a job as a web designer more times than my web work has. People like to know you are flexible and diverse in your skills.

      3 points
    • Nathan NNathan N, almost 3 years ago

      To add on to this: I successfully finished an eight month job search in Fall '16 and most of my interviewers asked to see a portfolio. Ironically, I ended up getting hired based on skill set and not my portfolio.

      1 point
  • Andrew C, almost 3 years ago

    To be short—yes you need a portfolio. I hire all the time, and the first thing I do before even looking at a resume is load up the portfolio/website and look through the work. With design, skills are easily demonstrable with a portfolio. Good portfolio's have these things...

    UX – If you want to do UX you must showcase and demonstrate your understanding of the problem and use cases of your users. Wireframes, personas/jobs-to-be-done, and user testing is key to demonstrate here.

    UI – How well did you take the wireframes and translate them in to thoughtful interaction? Did you reinvent the wheel instead of using common patterns (and why did you do that?)

    I tend to hire UX/UI as a singular position so I look for both the research and the final mock-ups or screenshots but there are those that split the role.

    But you need a website to showcase your work regardless. It's the first or second thing a potential employer will research if you're being considered for a job.

    5 points
    • Spencer Bittle, almost 3 years ago

      That is excellent feedback, I appreciate you going Into detail on what you look for as a hiring manager.

      I proposed this question, because I've seen and heard conflicting answers.

      Some have used Medium as there platform for case studies (seems a little lazy to me, but could work)

      And others I've seen go all out on there online portfolio website.

      Thanks again for the feedback.

      0 points
      • Andrew C, almost 3 years ago

        Ah—I hadn't thought of that and haven't seen Medium used. I suppose if the work is easy to follow then why not? My only concern would be seeing a breadth of design work... I'd have to go and read a designers medium contribution history to get a fuller picture of their qualifications.

        With a website you're packaging and selling your skills so it might be a more useful experience for the employer.

        0 points
  • Jason Giglio, almost 3 years ago

    As someone who has been on the job hunt for some time, I just want to say I am seeing some really thorough responses. Thanks DN'ers!

    From the feedback I've received for UI/UX/Product designer positions, employers want to see both compelling visual design capabilities and in depth case studies.

    2 points
  • Lucian .esLucian .es, almost 3 years ago

    Case studies describing your process, the problems you've faced and how you have solved them. They can be lengthy at times: www.lucian.es

    2 points
  • Steven CavinsSteven Cavins, almost 3 years ago

    The UX knowledge/problem solving/communication skills I'm confident a productive interview could reveal, but a portfolio that demonstrates basic skills regarding UI/composition/color/care & craft is still very important in my opinion.

    2 points
  • Luca Candela, almost 3 years ago

    I reviewed an insane number of designers and portfolios in the last 3 years (I build design and product teams for companies that have never had it before). There's a few cases where portfolio didn't matter but they are RARE, I pretty much don't look at the resume until after I skim the portfolio.

    In every portfolio I check the following (in order):

    1. taste
    2. knowledge of fundamentals and language of design
    3. proper process (doesn't have to be identical to mine but it needs to be obvious the person has spent time thinking about how they work
    4. BONUS: mastery of tools. Shows they care about the craft.

    A bad looking portfolio, even for an IA is a bad sign. You might be a bad graphic designer wrapped in an incredible interaction designer (rare though) but if you don't have even the minimum decency to get a friend to review your typography and choice of colors, or the time to buy a $25 template and use it... we aren't going to get along.

    1 point
  • Charlie McCullochCharlie McCulloch, almost 3 years ago

    What matters is that you clearly articulate: what your responsibilities were; the problem you solved; how you solved it; any interesting outcomes. Probably it's a combination of portfolio and case studies. Images alone are never enough for a UX role because so much of the job is about facilitation.

    1 point
    • Sean LesterSean Lester, almost 3 years ago

      Yes — something I've noticed in interviewing candidates for Match is that a lot of designers have learned to talk a lot about what "we" did, which is great that that team aspect is acknowledged... but when you're talking about teams of 40 designers I also want to be clear on what YOU did specifically. Yes, tell me about the product, the problems your team solved and everything, but also tell me what your role was. Don't expect me to intuit it from your title.

      Also if you're a really straightforward UX professional showing rather unsexy work, but technically good for your role — make sure you also talk about something really creative like a passion project you're working on. We just had a visual designer in who has only worked in very clinical design environments and who displayed no creative passion or edge in his work, so a passion project that made up for that deficit would have made a big difference.

      I always like to see people who did something unsolicited for maybe a local business they interact with, a restaurant, whatever it is. A scenario in which they spotted a problem in real life and attempted to solve it because they were driven to do it. Because it's in their brain to think this way.

      0 points
  • Ste GrainerSte Grainer, almost 3 years ago

    I wrote about this a couple months ago here: https://uxcellence.com/2016/11/05/every-designer-should-have-a-portfolio

    Here's the TL;DR version: You might not need one to get hired, but it can't hurt. You should still expect to walk through your existing work in interviews. There are reasons beyond hiring to consider having one:

    • It helps you learn from your work.
    • It helps you share ideas you've explored and teach others.
    • It can help you shape future work you want to do.
    • It can help you get clients/work you may not be actively looking for.

    I also wrote about what makes for a great portfolio here: https://uxcellence.com/2016/11/17/craft-a-captivating-portfolio

    0 points
  • Perttu Talasniemi, almost 3 years ago

    I have real problem describing or presenting my experience what comes to project management which seems to be most cases part of the UX Designers role. At least to manage that everything goes as planned and as smoothly as possible. Do you have any tips how to present this kind of work or roles where there isn't anything visual to show?

    0 points
  • Cody IddingsCody Iddings, almost 3 years ago

    I'm testing out a website where I don't show any work: codyiddings.com

    I think you get to a point in your career where the quality of the work is a given. However, I think UX designers have the expectation to have an online presence—case studies, blog posts, podcasts, etc. Creating yet another soft-skill we need—content curation.

    0 points
  • Ben GoldBen Gold, almost 3 years ago

    I think what everyone else here has said is very good. The things that people are going to be looking for in a portfolio will vary a little from company to company, but I think showing process is key.

    I like to walk people through recent projects rather than just sending them a formal case study. This works well for freelance or smaller companies, but you won't always get this opportunity if you're talking to a bigger organization.

    0 points