Why your next Design Portfolio should be a Blog

This episode is part of a series called Portfolio Principles. In this series, I help people to build a more effective portfolio. Get weekly portfolio building tips.
All opinions my own.


Today I want to be totally honest with you. I have been writing about design portfolios for the last thirty weeks but today I came to realize that your design portfolio shouldn’t actually be a portfolio.

I have been writing about design portfolios for the last thirty weeks but I came to realize that your design portfolio shouldn’t actually be a portfolio.

If you want to get the most out of your design portfolio. If you want hiring managers to approach you instead of you begging for their time. If you want to connect with like-minded individuals. If you want to attract clients. If you want to get noticed at all, your design portfolio shouldn’t be a portfolio. It should be a blog.

It should be a blog that you update regulary. A blog in which you make your followers part of your journey. A journey in which you struggle, a journey in which you learn, a journey in which you show the unpolished version of yourself.

Unlike portfolios, blogs display the most relevant content on top. Projects are displayed in chronological order. As a result, the first project that your visitors will see is the one that represents your current skill level best. If it doesn’t, you just didn’t give it all you got.

Have you spent the last weeks tinkering with virtual reality? Are you currently teaching yourself to code? Does your school project show your concern with internet privacy? Nothing shows what you currently care about in the way your most recent work does. The blog format puts a focus on this content.

If your recent projects don’t show what you want to be showing you may consider doing a side project. However, if this is a reoccurring theme, if you are not proud of your recent work, you are doing the wrong work. You should probably quit whatever it is that you are doing.

If your most recent projects don’t show your best skills neither do they represent the type of work you want to be doing, you are doing the wrong work.

Being transparent about the day of your last blog post may sound scary. On the positive side, it encourages you to keep your portfolio alive. A portfolio that has not been updated for more than a month is an outdated portfolio. A portfolio that has not been updated for more than half a year, is a dead portfolio.

Visitors will only follow portfolios that are alive, which brings me to the second point.

Visitors engage with blogs. A big difference between portfolios and blogs is the level of audience engagement. Portfolio visitors just look at your portfolio and then leave. Blog visitors however, comment on your entries, share your blog posts and return for your next posts. They follow you.

Blog visitors comment on your entries, share your blog posts and return for your next posts. They follow you.

Visitors are useless, but followers matter because you can engage with them. You can build a relationship with them. To me, here lies the true potential of having your own space on the world wide web. It’s the real reason your should have a portfolio. More than anything, you need other people in your career to succeed. Followers give you opportunities.

They are a fan of you. This brings me to the next point.

Blogs show more of your personality. Compared to portfolios, there is fewer noise between what’s on your mind and what you actually share. Blogs are often less polished and more authentic.

Why does your personality matter? Well, just as much as a portfolio is about demonstrating your skills, it’s about showing who you are. People follow your blog because they appreciate your content. Recruiters hire you because they think that you as a person would fit their culture. Not just because you demonstrate excellent technical skills.

Just as much as a portfolio is about demonstrating your skills, it’s about showing who you are.

Showing your personality is a great way to make your portfolio stand out. It’s a great way to get noticed in the sea of portfolios.

Blogs are content driven, portfolios are design driven. One of the first things you learn at design school is that form follows function. Still, most designers start their portfolio design process by pushing pixels, ignoring the actual content. As a result, most portfolios succeed in demonstrating visual design skills but lack depth. In reality, your visitor’s experience is impacted by your words just as much as by your pixels.

Most portfolios succeed in demonstrating visual design skills but lack depth.

A blog encourages you to focus on content. This content driven approach will ultimately benefit you and your visitor. You might even build your first design portfolio in Medium.


Design Challenges

Should your next design portfolio really be a blog? I think so, but only if you are willing to play the long game. A blog which doesn’t get updated frequently has a negative effect on how you are being perceived. There is no way to hide.

The blog format also brings up some design challenges that I quickly want to address. The biggest challenge is dealing with the increased number of content. In short, you will have longer posts and more posts, but your visitors will have fewer time. Compared to a portfolio, finding a project in a blog might be harder.

You will have longer posts and more posts, but your visitors will have fewer time.

You don’t want to throw all of your blog posts into your visitor’s face right away. It will overwhelm them. That’s why designing your information architecture gets more and more important, but not impossible. Think about Wikipedia. There is a huge amount of content on Wikipedia but it’s still fairly easy to navigate between pages and find what you are looking for.

Another design challenge would be dealing with older blog posts. Over a period time, blog posts lose some relevance. It’s just the result of your more recent posts being more relevant. There is an opportunity to process older work in a format that is easy to consume. One solution would be to summarize a past month of old blog posts into a single post that is easier to consume.

One solution would be to summarize a month of old blog posts into a single post that is easier to consume.
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