Dan Dao is a Reporter at Fueled, an iPhone & Android app development agency based in New York City, where he writes about the tech industry. You can follow him on Twitter @da0_o and read the blog on Fueled.
Employers who hire designers are often not designers themselves. That reality can cause a disconnect between what designers display in their portfolios and what employers are actually looking for.
If you’re curious about the types of design portfolios that shine at job interviews, why not learn from the employers who loved them? Below, three employers share useful tips about maximizing the appeal of your online portfolio.
1. Choose the Right Hosting
Make sure you choose the right hosting and content management system (CMS) to feature your work. Whether you’ve built your own website or plan to use a portfolio service (like Carbonmade above), make sure your site will translate identically across all web browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.).
Image courtesy of Veronica Pisano
2. Simple, but Professional Presentation
The goal of your portfolio is to make your work accessible. Fancy, animated designs may look interesting, but they can distract from the actual work you’re attempting to showcase. Simplicity will translate as professionalism more often than fancy, overdone graphics. As far as aesthetic and visual presentation, keep it simple and neat, and let the work speak for itself.
- David Lifson, CEO of Postling: “Oftentimes, designers will have brochure websites, and I find that those are not helpful. I look for data-dense examples, something where there’s more usability than visual design. That’s what I would say highly functional websites are built on.”
- Merill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser, co-founders of Food52: “Whatever you’re shown, whether it be a website or a specific presentation…[it] should be very professional.”
- Carter Cleveland, CEO of Art.sy: “Although it is an opportunity to show your chops and do something fancy, I’ve seen more examples of people failing to pull it off…I’ve seen more ‘fancy’ websites done badly than done well.”
Image courtesy of Alastaire Allday
3. Make it User-Friendly
Stubbs and Hesser warn that although employers may like a designer’s visual work, the designer “might not understand the user experience implications of their designs.” By making your design portfolio user-friendly, you’re displaying an understanding of navigability and user experience. If your portfolio is user-friendly, chances are the product you design will be user-friendly as well.
Start by reducing the number of clicks and links, as well as the amount of scrolling needed to access all of your content, suggests Cleveland.
Image courtesy of We Are Sofa
4. Know Your Audience
Each employer will have different hiring needs, and you need to adapt accordingly. Food52’s Hesser and Stubbs needed a designer with experience in building social sites due to the strong social aspect of the company, while Lifson and Cleveland were looking for someone with experience in product management as well as design. Smaller companies in particular will seek designers with versatile experience, which can include knowledge of different programs like Photoshop and Fireworks.
Seen above, designer Jordan Fretz provides a full list of tools with which he is familiar alongside a detailed description of his background.
Image courtesy of Jordan Fretz
5. Have a Varied Portfolio
Hesser and Stubbs say, “A portfolio that is varied is important so you can work with as many different types of clients as possible.” Food52’s designer Camillia Benbassat features works in her portfolio that use different types of media. Dragging your mouse over each photo in her showcase reveals the name of the company, the type of media, and a few essential details about the project. Each is clearly labeled and categorized, whether by web design, mobile app, user experience, identity, print or packaging.
Image courtesy of Camillia BenBassat
6. Be Organized
While including many examples is a plus, you still need to clearly sort and organize your work in the porfolio. On Elliot Jay Stocks’ website, the top header showcases featured work, but the remainder of the showcase is organized by client and project type.
Image courtesy of Elliot Jay Stocks
7. Be Accessible
Your contact information should be the easiest thing to find on your site. Include multiple forms of contact, if possible. Designer Jared Christensen nicely presents his LinkedIn profile next to his resume, in addition to other social networking sites under his About Me page.
Image courtesy of Jareditigal
8. Keep it Current
Frequently updated portfolios show that you take enough pride in your work to actively produce more. Even if your portfolio contains a few unfinished projects, provide samples alongside a “work in progress” note, as designer Matt Bango does on his portfolio.
Image courtesy of Matt Bango’s Portfolio
It’s important to build and maintain credibility. This means you should be able to reproduce and tweak everything in your portfolio. Part of Postling’s hiring process involves contracting the applicant to complete a small (paid) work assignment. “I want to see that [the designers] can actually produce what their portfolio says they can produce,” Lifson says, “because you never know if sometimes they get some help.”
Hesser and Stubbs look more at past experience. They believe a designer’s former employment indicates whether she is accustomed to deadlines and memos, and maintains a level of professionalism.
Cleveland also looks for what he calls “social proof,” in other words, past work credentials or testimonials. Providing links to these things on your site makes it easier for the employer to get an immediate sense of your professionalism.
Image courtesy of Jamie Kim
10. Share Your Portfolio
Once you’ve created a stunning portfolio, share and advertise across multiple platforms. Postling says designers need to “get their work out in the open, whether on Forrst, Dribbble or Tumblr. Provide links to your portfolio from various social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as in the signature of your work email. You’ll get more views of your showcase, which can lead to more interviews.
Image courtesy of Postling
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