What I Look for in a Designer Portfolio 2018

Disclaimer: My own site isn’t perfect. There are much better portfolios than mine. I have done a terrible job of showing the problem, iterations, and case studies for the work I have done over the past 205 years. I put plenty of energy into this blog, but not as much into the portfolio section.

With that said, I am back into the swing of recruiting and looking at lots of portfolio sites. Some are based on templates and others are obviously hand-coded. Here is some insight into what I am looking for.

Whether you like it or not, I have a specific reaction in about 2 seconds of looking. Part of those two seconds get used by “loading” animations. This is a hard one to deal with because designers want to be detailed about their work, but just don’t forget the real world of use.

By the way, I typically look a portfolio (on average) for 3-5 minutes.

Part of the blink test is graphic design. So many portfolios are ugly to me. Garish colors in some cases and zero colors (all white or all black) in others. I am not allergic to color, but it should be tasteful and modern. This is subjective, but so what. If I think it’s ugly, I am going to take points away. Again, this is the real world. I am looking at typography, color, and composition.

Mobile or App Work
A ton of portfolios are filled with mobile apps. Mobile apps are fine, but I don’t have any mobile requirements on my team. Therefore, when I see mobile, I think “Hmm, maybe they will not be happy working on enterprise business apps.”

Work Explanations
When I click on a piece of work, often I will get nothing. No zoom, no problem statement, no walk through. Nada. Other times, I get a 20,000 word novel. I don’t want either one, but a novel is better than nothing.  Ideally, it’s written to be concise and to the point, but still cover the important ground.

My idea explanation has sections for “Problem Statement, Early Sketches, Design Iterations, and Results”. Pictures are good, but seeing a wall of sticky notes doesn’t really help me very much. I want to see how you design, not how you run a meeting.

One of my favorite parts is if the candidate says what they learned in the process. Failures are learning experiences. I want people who learn every day. I want people who are curious about the world.

Is it boring or does it draw me in? Personality can come in the form of illustrations, animations or even clever text. Do something to cut through. Keep in mind, I am looking at many portfolios in a row. They are all pretty much the same. It doesn’t take much to stand out.

About Page
This page is often under developed. It’s not about design, it’s about story. Writing isn’t easy for many people, but I do read those pages. Most are long and boring. Ask a friend to help you with the story telling. It’s an important part of your site.

Blog, Tweet, Dribbble
If you have one of these channels, it should be active. If you link to something and it hasn’t been touched in a year and a half, then I know you don’t care about it. Either have it active or remove it. It’s not good to see an abandoned account.

I think I have previously declared what I was looking for in the phone screen. I have also published design challenges. It seems like I am giving the answers to the test in advance. Strangely, people still fall short on the tests. Hopefully, the next candidate will have this all nailed.


2 responses to “What I Look for in a Designer Portfolio 2018”

  1. Irene Moghis Avatar
    Irene Moghis

    That’s your opinion on what you look for. Just because you wrote this article doesn’t mean you can single out anybody who is different. Look at Tim Burton, amen And peace out bro.

    1. Glen Lipka Avatar
      Glen Lipka

      I don’t understand. What does Tim Burton have to do with it?

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