Dec 30, 2013 Design + Creative

The Importance of Portfolio & Presentation

Another year has passed and with a new year on the horizon it is always a good time to reinvent ourselves. For a designer, that also means brushing up our portfolio. It’s a daunting task because it means presenting ourselves and everything we believe in terms of good design in a succinct, streamlined manner.

For me the biggest question is what is good design? With that in mind I always try to answer this question with the projects I showcase. That means, giving enough information about the business side along with the process behind. At the end of the day, there are two audiences your portfolio might be intended for: business owners and entrepreneurs if you are doing freelance or contractor work and of course designers, if you are looking for a full time position at a company with a design team.

Independently of your case there are some details that should always be present.

Context of the Project:  In any commercial design project there will be constraints based on business goals, branding and the decision making process.

Designers tend to think they are the guardians of truth, but in reality we are the ones that know the least about the product once we start working on it.

It takes time, humility and dedication to understand the whole context behind a project. That is really important to present in your portfolio. Not to be forgotten, goals, legacy issues, the decision making process and results of course.

Excellent presentation: Your portfolio is your identity, it is your first impression and as they say, you wont have a second chance to make a good first impression.

Pay attention to basic things like typography, image quality and clear separation of content. Another important thing to keep in mind, if you are applying for UX design position or Visual Design Position, make sure that your portfolio site is really good. If you don’t know how to code, use services like Square Space, Cargo or Behance Pro Sites .

Sending Dribbble profiles are not recommended in my personal opinion. Ultimately, because the images are really small and usually there’s not enough depth in the description of the project.

Talk a little bit about yourself and what makes you tick: I know this might sound weird, but a good presentation about yourself is like the cover letter on your resume, you can make it unique to you whether it be funny, quirky or simple and straight to the point.

Try to tell the readers what they will see in your portfolio, it is also a chance to set the tone and guide the reader on what to pay attention. Like an exhibition, this is your introduction so make it memorable.

Separating personal/commercial projects: I like to separate my portfolio by what is commercial and what is personal.

The way to present both cases should be the same. If it is a personal project, try to provide information about the goals of the project, timeframe, inspiration and results i.e. if people really liked it on Dribbble or Behance, if it got featured on Blogs or other design sites.

Those, for me, are some simple check points when creating a portfolio. The rule of thumb is to make it simple and memorable.

Avoid presenting all your work on trendy perspectives or using lots of laptop frames. They tend to distract from your work.

Always use good sense and moderation. Designing your portfolio might be tricky but it can and should be a fun exercise. Remember, there’s no right or wrong and you can always learn no matter what. That’s the beauty of it and in my mind, the only way to keep evolving.

Header Image Credits: Copyright: bloomua, Courtesy of Shutterstock 

About the Author Fabio is a Brazilian product designer based in San Francisco, California. Currently working for Google, he's also the founder of Abduzeedo. Over the years Fabbio has produced work for MSNBC, Wired UK, Adobe and Digital Arts Magazine among others. In 2011 Fabio joined Google as senior designer at the Mountain View headquarters working on projects from Doodles and icons to major products like Google Wallet, Ventures and others. Currently Fabio is working with the amazing people on the Search/Knowledge team. More by this Author