Your best creation should not be inside the portfolio, it should be the portfolio

5 Tips to add value to your UX portfolio.

Pick your best creations and show variety

Your portfolio should be the collection of your best works, which means you should have enough projects under your belt to be in a position to pick and choose projects. Over the time your portfolio should also evolve as you become a better designer. Never back away from replacing and refreshing your works.

Show variety, you can be a UX researcher but adding a logo or an infographic will definitely fetch you versatility-points. Variety can also be within your UI design projects; don’t show 3 landing screens — Mix things up!! show me one landing screen, one form and a logo.

Another way to show variety is you can dive deep into information architecture in one project while in another project you pay less space to IA and focus on the responsiveness of your design. Having done this, by the end of your portfolio, the recruiter will have a clear understanding of your versatility.

Numbers!! Total projects =10, pages per project =1–3

A +5 or -5 is acceptable but 10 is the sweet spot for me. Beyond that, it would either show — you have insufficient work experience or you lack the ability to choose what’s better (and this is spot death for a UX guy.) Also, having numerous projects will dilute your portfolio, where the best ones will be paid lesser attention than they deserve. Another risk is having a sub-standard piece of work; it can be suicidal.

I can tell you from my experience — If I see an insect floating in my glass of water, I won’t take a spoon to remove that insect and drink the water, I would dump away the entire volume of water. (and unfortunately, if the recruiter is a guy like Raghu Ram, he might throw away the water along with the glass… on your face!!)

Dedicating 3 pages or even 5 pages to a project is not a problem according to me, cause you are a F-ing UX designer, you should tell the story — the journey from the inception of the idea till its execution and the reasons and emotions behind the decisions that were taken.

Okay, tell stories, not bedtime stories! Limit your words.

Tell stories, show details but don’t overkill. The sentence you write should be well framed. Try to write clearly and without showing off your ornamental wordsmithery. Be precise and guide the reader’s focus to what is important (I assume you already have a good grip on information design.)

Understand your user here — the recruiter — he has gone through 126 portfolios and thousand three hundred pages of colourful literature and he is tired, now he gets your book. Your stories need to be refreshing enough to punch his sleep away. Aim for a “Fuck!! this is awesome” reaction, even if you end up in “wow, this is good” — you’ll be hired (unless you are an immigrant in America.) The last thing you expect him to shout in the midway of your book is “Shut Up!!”

Add personal projects — show them what you love

I have explored a hell lot of portfolios before writing this piece, and one thing that I observed is that most of the best works are personal projects — the projects that were done when the designer was given the full creative control. Personal projects add to the variety and show that you’re a Designer by choice and not by degree only. (Clearly, only a person who loves his craft can sacrifice his Friday night alcohol to play with pixels.)

Arrange them like — “woahh” , “nice”, “ah great”, “nice” and “woahh”

This tip is very specific to printed or pdf portfolios where the recruiter’s attention is expected to flow from page 1 to ‘thank you’ in one direction. This is different for an online portfolio which is usually scanned in a different manner (that’s a story for another day.)

Pick your top 3 and place one at the beginning, one at the middle and one at the end. This is a safe arrangement and is inspired by the logic of how an impactful YouTube advertisement is planned, but it’s not a rule, you are free to explore better logic. (And please let us know in the comments if you have/find one.)

Design the damn portfolio — The collection of your creations should be a piece of perfection.

From the material of the cover to the choice of words for your ‘thank you’ note that everything needs to be Awesomized. It should feel like a branded bestseller rather than a pile of paper. Invest time in designing how to represent your artwork since that’s your only creation, the recruiter is going to interact with. Give him an experience he can not forget and he will give you the offer you can not reject.

Caution: just to make it look visually outstanding you should not compromise on the clarity of content. For example, putting in isometric views and mock-ups might make the representation interesting but it might make the content difficult to consume. Avoid it.

What’s the first thing that you see in people that attracts you the most?
The lad said DP.
The lady said Profile.
The designer said… Portfolio.

Hi there, My name is Bharat and I hope you found it infortaining. I am a noob writer but a better UXer. I am in process of a major revamp of my portfolio, hence I went through tonnes of literature and portfolios online to plan ahead and thought of sharing my learning with the community. Big thanks to Sonalisa for refining the content of this story.

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More at www.bharatapat.com