5 Things Designers Should Spend Time On Besides Your Design Portfolio
The design portfolio has amazingly elbowed its way into becoming the single most valuable piece of work a designer must create and maintain to have a successful career in UX design. I have touched on this subject before and proudly show my own portfolios from years past. I advise students and give workshops on how to make portfolios compelling. But behind all of this i have a nagging belief that:
Design portfolios are overrated
At first glance this reads like clickbait (though, this already made an appearance in a very clickbait-y article a few weeks ago). But to be clear, I’m not saying design portfolios aren’t important, only that we put entirely too much emphasis on their value to a student’s job aspirations, or a designer’s career success.
Why design portfolios are overrated
Before highlighting more valuable activities for job-seeking designers, I need establish what portfolios don’t do well.
For the designers, portfolios over-emphasize proving value and competency in the hiring process. Of all my design hires, reviewing the portfolio is a tiny piece of the process. In fact most UX designers will find themselves interviewing with non-designers who pay little attention to a portfolio. After all, why would a lead developer care how good your portfolio is if they don’t believe they can collaborate with you? A product manager cares little about your visual design if they don’t believe you know how to translate business requirements into product. Portfolios don’t help you establish rapport with cross-functional teams.
Portfolios also don’t help you find good opportunities to begin with. A beautiful portfolio isn’t worth much if you haven’t spent the time finding the opportunity that matches your skillset.
Portfolios also don’t help communicate a lot of the soft skills that go with the design practice: communication, writing, presenting, etc.
As a designer, I worried constantly about my portfolio when I was looking for a new job. And as I peruse dribbble and Designer News, or talk to design students, I continue hearing how critical portfolios are. But ironically, as a hiring manager I…