The way you put together your portfolio demonstrates not only your experience, presentation skills and attention to detail – but also your attitude. If you don't put time and effort in, it shows. Therefore making effort will pay off!
Over the years we have seen a great deal of very talented and experienced individuals, occasionally struggle to secure job interviews. Believe it or not, we have also had many conversations with candidates trying to convince them to revisit their portfolio and make it better. Responses we come across include:
I have more to show at the interview – The sample portfolio gets you the interview in the first place
It’s all I have – You need to try and find a way of getting more images and more examples of your work
I don’t have time – If you want to set up for a better career in the future – you should really find a way of making time.
Confidentiality – If there are any images on the public domain, including your past employer’s brochure/portfolio of works, social media or website, you should be able to use it to demonstrate project’s you have worked on – as long as it’s for a purpose of securing a new job. You don’t have to give all the exact details and can still maintain confidentially but include enough information to give the viewer a good idea of type of project, scope and your responsibilities.
I don’t like the projects I have worked on - If they show transferable skills to enable you to work on projects that you want to, you can always be creative and present it in a way that shows the project in the best light and focuses on your skills rather than the aesthetics of the project. You can also include this information in your cover letter or CV i.e. I am seeking a company that will enable me to transfer the valuable skills I have learnt to design and deliver projects that better align with my design ethos, interests….
I don’t want to leave any projects out - The viewer can select those of most interest. This is not going to happen in the 30 seconds the viewer sets aside to look at your portfolio. Also, your portfolio should demonstrate the skills you are able to apply now, not skills you developed 10 years ago but have not used in the last 5 years.
Can I send you my portfolio 50mb – You need to keep it between 5-15mb
The list goes on, but these are probably the most common responses we come up against. Since we see more thousands of portfolios in a year and speak with hundreds of decision makers in architecture we are experienced enough to know that 30 seconds is not enough to really determine if someone is the right person for the job. Also, because we recruit for multiple businesses’ we take a lot more time to try and understand someone’s skills, experience and what they might be suitable for.
A direct employer on the other hand, will give you only 30 seconds – if it doesn’t look good and relevant at first glance, you’ve already lost them. This is why we give portfolio advice, and we insist that you put the time and effort you need to present yourself in the best possible way. When you look back at your portfolio, you should be satisfied and proud to share it. The way you put together your portfolio demonstrates not only your experience, presentation skills and attention to detail – but also your attitude.
One thing we would always suggest is, whether you are looking for a new job or not, spend some time and put together the skeleton of your portfolio and CV. Populate it with your experience and continue to add to it as you complete a new project. This will save you time and stress going forward and will also give you a chance to reflect on what you have done to date. Are there any new skills or experience you would like to gain either with your current employer or potentially a new company?
QUICK GUIDANCE POINTS TO CREATE AN IMPRESSION WITH YOUR PORTFOLIO
Selecting projects: choose only your best and most relevant projects. Be very, very selective (5-10 projects).
Content: Good quality photos or visuals are the most visually impactful way of demonstrating your experience and grabbing a viewer’s attention. Make it stand out and add to it to convey your skills with a couple of your best drawings (sketches, overview plans, GA plans, 3d models, massing models etc.,). Add a little text describing the project (client type, project type, scope, brief (what were you trying to achieve), and your responsibilities (including the stages you worked on). Make sure you have white space – let your images breathe. Avoid clutter.
Technical Drawings: Unless you are applying for a technical position, a couple of strong 1:1 or 1:2 selected architectural details are always good to include and sufficient for your sample portfolio.
Sequence: Include a cover page, contents page, and put your best/most relevant project first but ensure the last page is attractive too – start and end with a good impression.
Personality: if you have any creative hobbies or hobbies that contribute to bettering your professional performance, include it in your portfolio. This could be anything, writing, photography, art, sports, - show it visually with good images. Also include any awards or publications you have been nominated for or received.
Layout and Composition: choose 2-3 layouts for your project pages and use these consistently choosing the most appropriate layout for each project. Make sure font is consistent and legible (heading, sub-title, body text, captions). Steer away from distracting backgrounds (go with white or light grey). Generally, 1-2 pages for each project is sufficient, one to three strong project images with a couple of carefully selected and well-presented drawings conveying the story and your skills. Each project should be accompanied by short text. If you are unsure how to layout your pages, InDesign has existing templates but also look online for inspiration (e.g. pinterest, issuu, behance). Whatever you do, don't squeeze 5 projects or all your drawings and images on one page. Avoid lots of annotations on drawings and images - keep them clean.
Format: your sample portfolio should be presented as a PDF, preferably no more than 20 pages and no larger than 15MB. If you are having trouble downsizing, try exporting as smallest file size and compressing images to 150 or 200 pixels (check over the PDF and make sure that quality of the images isn’t compromised - adjust pixel size if necessary).
Are you happy with the flow, content & overall presentation – does it read well as a whole? Does it succinctly portray your best projects, key skills, and experience as well as your personality? Does it relate to the type of companies you are interested in? Have you missed anything out that you think would be beneficial and vice versa? Are you pleased with the quality?
If the answer is yes to all the above, your portfolio is ready to go!
I hope this helps but email us if you would like help or to download our full portfolio guidance, please click here.