I feel like most designers put very little design thinking into their own design portfolio. This is weird, right? I mean, there is literally only one website in the whole world that you get to control 100%. No engineers, no product managers, no executives or sales people. Its just you. Why in the world would designers not take advantage of this?
For the past 5 weeks I have been interviewing junior designers for 6 positions in Tel Aviv. Next, I am going to hire a bunch in Prague. I reviewed nearly 600 portfolios and rejected about 75% of them before the zoom call. After the zoom call, I rejected about 80% of those candidates. In the end I have less than 2 dozen people for onsite interviews.
Zoom interview: Put on your “Design Hat”
Rather than ask “normal” questions, I like to do a realistic design thought process. I ask the candidate to consider their portfolio from a perspective of a designer. It’s my belief that almost every portfolio is slapped together quickly with very little process. So I start by saying, “Let’s go through the process. Where do we start?”
What is the process?
Although there are variances, my perfect answer has these steps right away.
- Who is the design for? (Personas)
- What are their goals?
- What are their specific jobs to accomplish?
- What is their context?
- What is their environment (form factor, where are they, etc?)
- What is the ideal segment of the audience that should be optimized for? and why?
- How to measure success?
- What are the possible pieces of content?
- Other logical considerations?
- How is it organized?
- Possible designs
Most designers I speak to literally start with #7. They just jump right into solutions. What happened to the design process?
Tip: Never start with solution. The process has those other steps for a reason. See Rule #1.
The “About Me” section
Most junior designer portfolios have an “About me” section. These pages fall into two groups. Some people add lots of hobbies and artwork and pictures of them baking cupcakes. Others show 1-2 paragraphs and and that’s it. So which is the better design? and why?
The logic that makes sense to me is that there are two segments of the audience. Hiring managers who care about that stuff and those who do not. If they don’t care, they will not likely even click on the section. Therefore, the About section should be optimized only for hiring managers who affirmatively care about that information. To know who is looking and how, check out my Hotjar for portfolios post.
Tip: Optimize pages for the people who cared enough to click to it.
Pages should pay “rent”
Metaphor: Every page on your site should pay rent to one and only one landlord.
This means that each page has a goal. That goal is the landlord. The rent is the idea that the content on the page help fulfill that goal value. In the About page example, the landlord is “What is this designer about beyond their skills?”
So many designers put a minimal amount of information on this page. This is a clear example of a page not paying rent. It exists, but it isn’t fulfilling it’s intended value. You don’t really learn more about the person.
So many designers have been given terrible advice. Use the template, don’t stand out, don’t be yourself, appeal to everyone, make your case study exactly like everyone else, don’t put extraneous stuff in the about section. Every bit of it is wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s mathematically and objectively wrong. It’s killing me that designers aren’t thinking it through and realizing the truth.
Good design comes from a place of logic and creativity. I’ll end here, but there is a books worth of lessons in this area. Maybe one day.