Tips for portfolios

Recently I’ve been helping screen and interview design candidates for our team at Citrix. Having now seen a range of portfolios with flaws and weaknesses galore, I feel compelled to offer up a few specific tips to ensure the best portfolio material is being shown and explained well. Here are some tips in no particular order…(and this is really an evolving list that I shall build over time)

* Foremost: Show your best work, and make sure it represents YOU and YOUR design skills.

* Relatedly, make sure your work is relevant to the company/domain/role you’re applying for. If the role is designing a media management app for iPad, your suite of web ad banners probably isn’t suitable.

* Don’t send giant PDFs and PPTs clogging the inbox. Those files get lost in the file system, inbox, etc. Just send a URL.

* Have a website. Seriously, it’s 2010. If you’re gonna be a UI designer, your work needs to be easily viewable online. Either your own website, or something hosted on Coroflot, Flickr, etc.

* A blog is not a substitute for your portfolio. And unless you want me to read your tweets and facebook posts, don’t send those links either. I don’t know you yet, and they’re not germane to assessing your abilities to design.

* Remember that your online portfolio (versus what is shown in-person at the job interview itself) is a teaser that invites me to call you up to learn more, piques curiosity/interest, etc. So show your best, but don’t show everything you’ve ever done.

* Please don’t create a fancy-shmancy Flash site with intros/animations, crazy effects, etc. It overpowers your work. Let your work stand on its own. If it’s good, you won’t need the Flash as a crutch. (speaking personally, if I see a Flash site, I immediately close it and move on to the next candidate, esp if i see “intros”, etc. I’m simply way too busy.)

** Sidenote: if i see a Flash site, I wonder could this have been done in HTML/CSS/Javascript. Was there something particularly unique that required Flash??

* If your prototypes are in Flash, that’s fine, just indicate that clearly and separately. (For ex: Click here to see a Flash demo of a mobile banking app, etc.)

* Clearly label what the project/client/problem is for each image in your portfolio…CONCISELY! No need for paragraphs of text.

* Finally…remember, the reviewer is most likely viewing your work in-between meetings, design sessions, or after work at the end of a long day. With little time to spare, so just made it quick and easy and engaging.

** One more thing ;-) Even if you’re applying for “interaction designer”, make sure your portfolio shows some good taste, aesthetic quality, and looks professional. Clean legible type, judicious graphics, etc. Don’t overdo it with leopard prints, wacky fonts, ugly color combos, and all that.

One Reply to “Tips for portfolios”

  1. Uday,

    Thanks for posting this. I am a recent grad from Florida, with a background in Human Factors trying to break into UX field. Since I am a new grad with limited experience, for my portfolio, I have taken some of the popular sites and apps, just to reconstruct them with my ideas of better design principles such as consistency, visibility, etc.

    Is this a good method to get started when you don’t have much experience?

    Thanks for your time and stay connected,


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