What we noticed reviewing 2000+ Design Portfolios — It’s almost like Speed Dating

Over the last few months the we’ve seen quite a few portfolios come through Availo. With this in mind we thought it would be a good idea to write down a few points that make a portfolio stand out for us.

Start with You

It’s important to know tell us about you, unfortunately no one will have the time to read your life bio so keep it tight and relevant… your name, location, experience and skill set. It is way more informative than a 500 word self bio that people skip over, and no one in design is a ninja of anything, unless you are actually a ninja in the traditional sense.

For example…

Hi I’m Steve, a UX Designer based in London, with 5 years agency experience across many markets including fashion and music.

Also making it too long can be an easy way to lose people’s attention at this early stage if they feel the information is not focussed enough for their needs. It’s ok to give a deeper insight into yourself, so consider moving the detailed part to an about you section. Social links are also a good way to show your personality, just make sure they’re safe for the office. People don’t mind if you don’t share your Twitter details, but they might judge you if there’s a few dodgy photos kicking around.

Visitors to Paul’s portfolio quickly identify with him

Case Studies

We’ve seen a lot of different ways to present case studies and examples of work. From our experience it’s a mix of clear examples and detailed closeups that stand out, with notes on your involvement and execution on the project. Here are a few quick tips to help you in presenting your work.

Don’t show Everything

Picking a handful of examples that you’re proud of is a great way to showcase the projects that you want people to see. It’s also important to keep them fairly relevant.

Consider Timing

Work that is only a few years old can quickly make a portfolio look outdated on current trends. In the world of retina devices its surprising how much a retina showcase can help improve the interpretation of a portfolio also.

Pick the Hits and the Classics

Picking a solid 5 or 6 projects is usually enough to show someone your talents. It is also a good way to show your own curation skills and develop yourself as a designer.

Mike Harrison’s clean project showcase

Talk About Your Involvement

With some projects as big as they are these days, chances are you were part of a bigger picture. It’s important to give a clean indication of your involvement in a project. If you were responsible for executing the CD’s creative direction across a project that’s great, likewise if it was your creative direction tell us. Leaving out details can usually make the viewer a little suspicious.

For UX designers like Davy it’s important to explain his involvement and process

Mockups

When showing your work, make sure it isn’t lost in a large mockup. If you do use a mockup make sure it’s tightly framed or you have a hi-res version to see. We are a fan of mockups as they are a great way to quickly showcase a project you may not have hours to work into a full case study.

Aled shows his projects in context

Logos as Thumbnails

We’ve seen a large number of people using company logo’s as thumbnails. It’s great that you’ve worked for these companies but people are more interested in the work than the client. Consider adding them to your clients section if you have one or adding the client name to the project label.

Animations

A couple of portfolios we’ve seen we thought were built in Flash there was so much animation going on. Animations are a great way to add polish to your site, just make sure people aren’t waiting too long for the animations to see your work.

Daniel’s subtle use of gifs to bring life to his site

Explore

When we were juniors we all looked at those of the forefront of design and the projects they created and their own sites. It can be an easy way to see common trends and the platforms people are using to showcase their work.

Learn to identify what it is that makes you appreciate portfolios over another and how you interpret them.

The Semplice showcase can be a great place to see variations of portfolios

Final Word… Skill Charts — just don’t

Novelty for sure, this has been covered a lot but telling someone you're 87% skilled in Photoshop isn’t the best way to tell people. Seeing a portfolio case study of a responsive design you created tells me that you’re pretty solid when it comes to using the tools you describe. What does 87% skilled in Photoshop even mean?

If you think we’ve missed anything or have some suggestions feel free to comment below or share them with the team @AvailoHQ .

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