Whether you've just qualified as a UX/UI designer or are planning a career change, a strong design portfolio is the key to getting the job you want. Before you start scanning your drawings from high school art class (don’t get us wrong, we’re sure they’re beautiful), think about what employers are looking for in a portfolio: project-based work that shows you can take a brief and turn it into something extraordinary. A good way to get a kickstart is by signing up for a bootcamp, since the work you do can form the basis of your portfolio. Or, if you're already established as a designer, look back over your projects and choose the ones that inspired you most. These will form the backbone of your designer portfolio.
Previously, portfolios would have been physical pieces of work carefully bound into a book. Today, they're online and can be easily shared with a few clicks, so prospective employers see a lot more portfolios than they used to. That means your work has to stand out and make an immediate impact. How do you go about creating a design portfolio that will “wow” whoever takes a look at it? The Ironhack team has put together seven inspirational tips to help you do just that.
1. Aim for Quality and Diversity
Time and attention spans are short and — wait what were we talking about? Oh yeah, attention spans. Hiring agents have many applications to review so it's important not to overload them with a crowded portfolio. Yours should be compact, crisp, and compelling, delivering an exciting reflection of you and your work. Aim to include (depending on your experience) between three and ten examples of work. Go through your work with a critical eye, choosing pieces that you're proud of and that received positive feedback from clients. Aim to show your range of skill by including, for example, a website designed for one company and an advertising project for another.
2. Bring Examples to Life with Backstories
Images are central to your portfolio but they don’t always speak for themselves. Brief accompanying texts should answer these questions:
What was your brief?
What inspired your idea?
What did your design achieve?
Did you encounter any problems?
If so, how did you solve them?
What would you do differently in retrospect?
And don’t be afraid to brag a little. If your design gave the client a measurable upturn in business, talk about it! If a project received a glowing testimonial, include it! Not every example needs to be a complete case study but pick one or two and use them to highlight your design process in full. Providing this extra information helps prospective employers decide whether you and your ideas will add value to their design team.
3. Make the Portfolio "Yours"
Once you've selected your best designs and created backstories, you need to put them together in a cohesive way that sells you and your work. You need to create your “brand.” Think about how the different examples work together and then choose a consistent color theme and font that complements them. Avoid distracting movements or animations. Instead, let one image roll gently into the next.
4. First Impressions Count
Your portfolio's homepage is the first thing potential employers see. It should be as attention-grabbing as an album cover or a movie poster. Easy-to-find and follow navigation links such as "my work" and "about me" are non-negotiable (you’re a UX/UI designer after all!) but the layout and colors of the rest should give readers a clear idea of you, your brand, and your style. Have contact details clearly visible, ideally via a link from every page. Create a standout homepage and reap the rewards with a new career in UX/UI design.
5. Showcase Your Work and Skills with the Right Web Host
Your portfolio is ready and now you need a platform for it, one that makes browsing a pleasure. To some extent, this choice of platform depends on your technical know-how. The most flexible ones assume some coding knowledge (HTML or CSS) while hosted websites such as Carbonmade and Dunked are easier to work with but have fewer customization options. If you have coding skills to show off and want a fully customizable platform, choose a self-hosted website or create your own website from scratch. Whichever route you take, ensure that all images are correctly sized for your chosen template. Prospective employers don't have time to wait for oversized photos to download. Make use of tools such as TinyJPG to compress pictures without sacrificing quality.
6. Get it Checked
You know when you hear a word over and over and over again, and it just starts sounding like gobbledigook? While creating your portfolio, you’ll be looking at your text and images so much that it’ll all kind of just become a blur, making it easy to overlook errors. Ask someone you trust to check it. Does it look professional? Is it easy to navigate? Does it flow seamlessly? Finally, double (or even triple) check it for typographical, spelling, and grammatical mistakes. You're looking for employment and nothing damages your credibility and chances more than basic misspellings and punctuation mistakes.
7. Promote your work
Even the best designed portfolio only produces results if people see it. Promoting it is essential:
Join an online design community (such as Dribble or Behance). Other designers can see your work and give feedback. This improves your portfolio while creating a business network for you. Also, employers visit these sites in search of exciting new designers.
Use social media. Publish links to your portfolio on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Remember to keep the links updated. Friends and colleagues will remember your portfolio when they hear that someone is looking for a designer.
Channel the power of “word-of-mouth.” Show former and existing clients your new portfolio (especially if their work is in it!) and ask them to share it if they hear of a job opening.
Once you've created, launched, and promoted your designer portfolio be sure to keep it current. Schedule regular review dates on your calendar for editing and adding your latest design successes. Taking an Ironhack UX/UI design bootcamp gives you the hands-on skills to succeed in the design world. The design projects you work on during your course can form the basis of your portfolio. You'll have a headstart when it's time to look for a new career.