How to Get Started in Web Design: Portfolio & Resume

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” — Dr Suess

Many of my students give me the deer in headlights look when the word “portfolio” comes up. Let’s get something straight, you are making it more complicated than it needs to be.

RESUME

Let’s start off with this fundamental lesson, DO NOT EVER give an employer a word doc unless they specifically state that is what they want. You’re a designer, so let’s pull it together shall we? Ideally, you will have cohesive branding that exists on your resume, portfolio, business card, cover letter, and any other material that represents you. A well-designed resume is your ticket into convincing a potential employer to take the time to look at your portfolio. Take a look at what other designers are doing, you’ll be astonished at the effort some designers put into their resumes but it’s always totally worth it.

  • Often times it doesn’t directly go to the design department, remember this. Sometimes it needs to get through a recruiter, hiring manager and maybe even past several other sets of eyes before you’re deemed worthy enough to be placed in front of the creative director.
  • Keep an eye out for those key terms in the job posting that you can include on your resume.
  • The hierarchy of your resume is extremely important. It’s likely whoever gets your resume first also has to scan through potentially hundreds or thousands of others. Don’t make them think

BABY STEPS

There are plenty of designers out there that are just starting, who don’t have any development knowledge and can’t afford to pay to get a website developed. If you’re one of these, don’t loose hope yet. There are plenty of sites out there designed for this specific purpose. Behance and Dribbble to name a few.

The next step up from that would be using a site like WordPress or Squarespace.

You want to show that you take your craft very seriously. When you are starting out the expectations, by employers, will be rather low, though the further you get into your career the higher those expectations will become. Keep in mind that the competition you are up against is vast.

The best designers are obsessed with design in every aspect and a dribbble or Behance account just doesn’t cut it for them. They want ownership over their portfolio and it shows through with a custom website. So as soon as you can get to this point, do it, but your work absolutely comes first.

“The best portfolios are not over designed, they are minimalistic and created in such a way that the design gets out of the way of the work.”
 — Don Elliott, Former Director of Production at Gravitate

Some of you may be feeling the pressure that your portfolio site isn’t unique, special, or good enough. Let me tell what bumble bee, even if you are using a site like Behance to showcase your work, it’s really more about the work itself over how you are displaying it. By all means create a custom site and URL as soon as you can just don’t let it hold you back.

WHAT GOES INSIDE?

For starters, employers don’t want to sift through 40 mediocre projects especially when you could be showing them a good variety of 5–10 great ones. Be very selective with the projects you are presenting. You’re skills will constantly be changing so you’ll likely find yourself replacing your pieces with better work.

…Somewhere on my computer, there is a deep dark folder of my work from when I first started that will never see the light of day, ever….

It’s important to only try and show the type of work you are wanting to get a job for. Want to do mobile design? Make sure the first example they see is of a mobile or responsive web application. That greeting card you made for you grandma last Christmas is great and all but if that’s not what you’re looking to get hired for, let’s let that be for Grandma’s eyes only.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t showcase your other skills. Perhaps you work in photography or calligraphy on the side, you can definitely show this other work off as long as it comes secondary to the pieces that you are trying to be hired for.

Displaying this variety of work shows your passion for other types of design but it can quickly make you look unfocused if you are trying to be a jack of all trades.

Now that you have your best pieces selected how do you show them off?

PROCESS. PROCESS. MUTHAF*&KIN PROCESS.

High quality images/screenshots are always the attention grabber. But, make sure to go into detail about the goals and objectives of each project. People looking at your work can only gain so much from an image.

Be very deliberate and intentional in your explanations. Some key points to consider hitting on would be:

  • The project challenge
  • How you came to your solution
  • Any obstacles you confronted during the process including ones from the client
  • How you concluded to the final product
  • Highlight your outcomes such as awards, increased metrics, user feedback etc.
I’m looking for insight into how they think. The more time they keep me engaged on their portfolio the more convinced I’ll be to reach out to them.
 — Don Elliott, Former Director of Production at Gravitate

Here are some great examples that do a very good job at exactly that:

(https://www.fjordnet.com/workdetail/abc-mobile/)
http://andrewdoherty.com/#about-andrew
http://www.ivanamcconnell.com/design/thinking-with-type.html
http://slayter.design/

GO GET EM TIGER

Just remember that employers are looking through hundreds, potentially thousands, of applicants when they open a position. So the amount of effort you put into your portfolio can make a huge impact on whether or not you get contacted. Try to stand out and differentiate yourself from the pack. Once you have buttoned up your resume, portfolio, and social media presence you’ll be at the job of your dreams in no time.

Check out the first part of this little series here:

If you are specifically creating a portfolio that showcases UX check out this gem:

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