WTF is wrong with your Portfolio?
So I totally get it. Portfolio reviews are akin to carefully removing your heart from its rib cage, delicately placing it on a silver platter in the middle of what likely appears to be a gaggle of blood-thirsty vampires (your peers, teachers, potential employers), while you wait in a limbo-like-exile, hopelessly wondering if there will be enough of that precious organ remaining to get you out of the review alive. So whatever you do, DON’T fuck this up.
And after serving on a recent portfolio review board at BDW, my fellow vamps and I have a few key pointers to share:
Don’t Spray and Pray.
Don’t just chuck every piece of everything you’ve ever worked on into your portfolio as a desperate measure to show you have multiple skills or talents. First of all, it’s a pain in the ass to get through. Secondly, no way is all your work that good. And finally, we now doubt your ability to focus on what is important, communicate with meaning, design with purpose and just generally identify something that warrants a second look.
Don’t be a Poser.
Don’t tell the world that you are an amazing UX designer and then fail some very basic usability rules in your own portfolio. Don’t tell the world you are a strategist but then fail to address your strategic role on any given project. Don’t play a part that you either a) can’t define yourself, b) couldn’t think of any other label, or c) just think it’s a title the present job market is seeking.
Don’t be Captain Obvious
Don’t say that you “think” or “make” or “create” or “build” or “tinker” as a means to define yourself in some cute existential way- no shit sherlock you can do those things, but just get out of the way and let the work speak for itself. And don’t define yourself by a medium, it will be clear through the work where your capabilities shine, have potential, or need some focus.
Don’t Play the Dumb Blonde.
Don’t make apologies or offer immediate excuses to as to why a piece of your portfolio is not as good as it should be. If the work isn’t there yet, don’t put it in the book. And don’t bring attention to attributes of your skill set or the work that are weak, and then use some cheeky copy or giggly cute imagery to excuse the elementary nature of it. It’s annoying and you look juvenile.
The bottom line is very simple. There is a lot of bullshit in this world. Don’t add to it.
Show only the very best work. The work that is truly representative of your nature, your passion, your capability and most importantly - work that conveys who you are and why anyone should care. This is achieved through work that solves a problem with an intelligent solution, innovative application and is supported by a meaningful thought process. And make sure we understand your role in all of it, not just by the part you played, but the benefit you contributed. And if you cannot articulate those things, or cannot identify them - then consider it bull shit.
-Bree Thomas, BDW Special Advisor to the Executive Director
Check out the winning BDW portfolios (in no particular order):