Hi, everyone! My name is Ramsés, and I work as a Product Designer here at Sketch. I recently wrote a blog post for Beyond the Canvas on Three mindsets to level up your design portfolio game. Since Portfolio Day is coming up soon, I thought it’d be a great time to open up the floor to any other questions you may have about design portfolios. So, I’ll be hosting an AMA here on April 11, 2023 5:00 PM (GMT+2)!
A little bit about me:
I grew up in the Canary Islands, and I’m living in Denmark at the moment – these days, I’m between Spain, Denmark, and Japan.
What interest me the most about design is how designers work together with other roles and the human dynamics behind it.
When I am in need of inspiration for my projects, I go back to things I love, such as video games, Arashi嵐, or walking outside.
I enjoy working on my portfolio and helping others with theirs.
Here are a few pointers on how to participate:
Please ask a question by replying to this topic one time only, using the Reply button at the bottom of this topic.
Before you ask your question, scroll down and take a look at the existing questions to make sure someone hasn’t already asked yours.
Please don’t reply to anyone else’s post as we’ll be using this space to answer their questions. If you’d like to discuss anything in more detail, you can always create a new topic in a relevant category elsewhere.
Thanks for doing this Ramsés!
How much do portfolios matter when you’re 4-5 years into the job? I’ve come across instances where designers just present from Figma and call it a day. When you’re at a Senior-level do portfolios even matter?
Hey Ramsés, thank you so much for taking the initiative.
Most of the case studies that I see are just fancy UI things with little background knowledge. As someone who enjoys doing big picture UX work more than designing pretty UI, most of my case studies are filled with boring text about my research and conclusions. I always get the feeling that this might not be as appealing as pretty UIs to employers. Do you have any suggestions on how to present such UX work on my portfolio so that I can garner people’s attention?
Hi Ramsés, awesome to see you doing an AMA!
I still have/want to write some case studies for my protfolio. Though, I struggle a little to find the right amount of text for bigger projects where I was responsible for many parts. There’s often just so much to say about the team, what was done before, the process, the details and ideas in the design and so on. I always tend to write too much text, but usually the saying is “the shorter the better.”
So my question would be: Do you have tips on what to focus on for the text in case studies that complements the images? Should I focus more on describing the details and ideas behind the design? Or more on the process itself of how I or we as a team approached the problem? Or maybe something else?
I am Abhinav Srivatsa, a student from Bangalore India. I will be joining a design college in the coming months. Can you suggest ways in which one can make his/her portfolio attractive and also how to create a brand or an aura around the person. That is, at the core you are able to convey a message to the audiences either visually or through the copy, etc. For example, when you look at Apple’s website or the way they showcase their products you get a sense of what the company is like through the visuals, animations, copy, images, videos and more. Additional tips and suggestions would be helpful.
Thank you for chiming in. Even though you don’t have any questions, I appreciate you taking the time to write.
Do you currently have a portfolio, or are you planning on building one? When it comes to portfolios, it’s important to strike a balance between showcasing your work and who you are as a designer. Personally, I enjoy portfolios with personality that build a complete picture of the designer.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when putting together a design portfolio:
Start with the content: Don’t worry about visuals in the beginning. Write a story from your point of view, making sure to focus on your contributions to the project. Graphics, if any, can come later.
Choose wisely: The selection of projects you showcase will reflect your background and aspirations for the future.
Don’t do it alone: Don’t feel like you have to work on your portfolio alone. Ask other designers for help, help others with their portfolios, and learn from each other.
I hope these general tips are useful! Whether they inspire you to get started or bring up some follow-up questions, I’m happy to help.
Thank you for your question, @rshanker It’s a great one!
To me, it’s always interesting to think about the purpose of a portfolio over the years. When I think about my own experience with portfolios, I’ve gone through different formats, and it hasn’t always been a website.
During my early years, my portfolio was a physical book and a CD. It contained projects that I worked on during my time at university. It probably wasn’t my best or most valuable work, but I was also figuring out which direction to follow.
With this said, portfolios are important no matter what career stage you’re in. What can change is their format: a public design document, a PDF, a website, a profile on a design social site…
Shape your portfolio in a way that makes you feel good about your work and that is easy for people to consume.
Portfolios change over time, and I’m sure they’ll be a great help no matter where you are in your design career. A few example of senior-level portfolios that I enjoy: Yusef Hassan Montero, Glenn Hitchcock, and Nob Nukui.
I hope this helps! Feel free to post if you have any follow-up questions.
Hello @Suzie97, thank you for submitting your question!
I completely understand how you feel. When I started working on my last portfolio, I felt similar to what you described. As I worked on the content, I discovered a few things:
Any content is valuable and should be presented in a way that makes sense to me, as long as it is easy to understand.
I kept comparing my portfolio to those of designers either at a different stage in their career or were designers from a completely different field. I found the process extremely frustrating. Not only did I not know how to present my work, but I also wasted time comparing my portfolio with others that had nothing to do with my field. I stumbled upon an article that helped me identify my areas of design expertise, which proved useful. You can also check out this article to help you identify your strengths in user experience design.
If I focused solely on the visuals without an interesting story, my case studies would feel incomplete. I began by gathering everything I had, then writing around them and creating graphics whenever it made sense.
Overall, I found that a good story with simple visuals worked best for my work. However, it’s important to remember that there are great books that do not have illustrations and are still an interesting read for people.
If possible, talk to recruiters to find out what they look for in candidates interested in working on big-picture UX work rather than designers focused solely on UI design. This will give you more targeted insights for your portfolio work.
I hope this was helpful, @Suzie97. If you have any follow-up questions, I would love to hear more.
Hey @alexkaessner! It’s great to see you here Thank you for submitting a question to the AMA.
Dealing with a lot of project details can be overwhelming. I recently faced a similar situation when I wanted to write about the Discover project in Sketch. Here are a few ideas that could work in this situation:
Pick one or two outstanding aspects of the project and build a case study around those, rather than trying to cover too much.
Focus on the purpose of the project and how your contributions had an impact on the outcome rather than describing your images and designs.
Every case study could have a different structure, so take a more editorial approach and organize each project differently.
In any case, there’s nothing wrong with starting with a lot of text and then cutting it down. Try different approaches each time, such as starting with visuals, then adding text, or starting with a story and then adding visuals. Above all, remember to enjoy the process.
It took me some time, but I found that I feel most comfortable writing case studies as self-contained capsules of content. Although they may include background, process, and project details, I like to present them in a more narrative way.
A friend recently described my latest case study as “as comfortable as watching a YouTube video, and you still managed to show enough depth and process”. Having worked with you in the past, I do not doubt that you will present your work in the best possible way.
Your portfolio is awesome! Thank you for sharing it with us.
Hi @abhinavsrivatsa! Thank you for sending your question. Congratulations on joining design college soon. I’m sure it will be an exciting experience for you
During your time in college, you will have the opportunity to reflect on what areas and fields of design you enjoy the most. This will be helpful in understanding how to showcase the work in your portfolio. When I started working on my portfolio right after university, I picked a simple color scheme that I have used consistently over the years. Ultimately, it’s about keeping a consistent look and feel on your portfolio and ensuring that your work is the focus and speaks for itself.
You mentioned using visuals, animations, copy, and images in your portfolio. These are some of the elements that will be a part of your portfolio. Don’t worry too much about it; you’ll figure out what works best for you over time.
My best advice at this stage is to look at other designers’ portfolios in your field and use that as inspiration. Try to identify what’s working well in their portfolios and why that is. Check out some of the other replies where I shared a couple of portfolio examples, I hope they can be useful.
I look forward to hearing more about your experiences in college.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions to the AMA. I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on my thoughts while answering you. It’s amazing how much we can learn from each other when we ask questions in such a thoughtful way.
Let’s keep the conversation going! If you have any additional questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to send me a message or post here.