Workout that Portfolio baby!

I have always felt and encouraged designers to update their trusty (probably rusty) portfolios at least every 6 months. While many designers feel that they should only update their portfolios when they are looking for new work or job hunting, I find there are another few reasons why it should be done more frequently.
The period you stay in a job can last anywhere from 1 year to 5 years or more. If you were like me in a busy consultancy, you could be working on new projects every 3 to 6 weeks. At the end of 1 year you could have accumulated upwards of 20 design projects! This would be a major investment in time and effort if you needed to update your portfolio right away. Furthermore there could be instances that you can’t find the right images and data for your portfolio because it was lost in that data pile of mess you call a server, or some errant intern could have deleted it. (Has happened!)
Often times, a portfolio crunch comes when you need to update your portfolio for a potential job opportunity, and like most good job opportunities, they do not wait. I had interviewed designers that kept on saying they have better and newer work, as well as gave up waiting on designers to submit their portfolios. Needless to say they did not even get considered for the job. Having a constantly updated portfolio, means you are ready to grab that fantastic job opportunity that rarely comes by in our all too competitive world.
Finally and most importantly, frequently updating your portfolio means you get to take stock of what you have accomplished. In our daily grind of spinning 3D models, managing vendors, and sanding foam etc. we tend to forget that whatever we do is an extra notch in our belt or that it is a foundation stone that builds our career as designers. So by regularly updating your portfolio work, you might find that you feel a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment of what you have done so far. It also allows you to access areas in design that you might or want to improve on. Hopefully this will allow you to rise above that daily grind many designers gripe about and from my experience, its only when you do rise above it that you will achieve greatness.
So do try updating that dusty portfolio and let me know how it feels?
On the side note for my non-designer readers, the same effect can be felt by updating your resume or CV frequently.

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7 Comments
  • olls

    December 5, 2007 at 4:59 pm Reply

    Hi DT,
    Great post with great advice.
    I have a question though.
    What kind of work does one include in the updated portfolio if the design work one does in the office is confidential and ID is only a fraction of the work that one does?
    Is it possible to have a portfolio full of personal projects even though one has been working in a design-related job for about 2- 3 years upon graduation?
    How much of the portfolio should be personal projects, school projects and work projects?
    Hope you can share your views on this.
    Cheers

  • DT

    December 6, 2007 at 6:09 pm Reply

    Hi olls,
    Thanks for your question. Well for one never show confidential work. Next the reality of ID is that it is only a fraction of all the work involved. This is especially true if you work for an organization instead of a consultancy.
    That being said, what you need to do is define all your product and design related roles and add that to your ID bit to tell a bigger story.
    If you have only 2-3 years of experience, don’t be too hard on yourself. Many designers still show school work at that level, an what can be good practice is to develop, improve or rework your school work.
    A portfolio should be a representation of you as a designer. It should showcase your technical skills, conceptual thinking and strengths as a designer. So it does not really matter if its personal projects, school projects or professional work, as long as it works for you. Professional work always has more merit, even though you only did the project management or packaging. Professional work always have strong constraints that designers need to work around.

  • Brandon

    December 11, 2007 at 4:02 pm Reply

    Dt, again great post. Glad I saw it while browsing blogs. I have a follow-up question regarding this topic.
    I am a year out of school, and have quite a few interesting projects under my belt that I would like to add to my portfolio over the holidays. However, the consultancy I am at moves people in and out of projects sometimes to allocate resources. How do I handle projects that have multiple people attached to one design?
    For example, I’ve come onto a project a week after the first sketch review – taken one of the rough concepts – tweaked and refined it a lot, and finished all the detailing / cad / renderings / prototyping – etc etc… But the initial concept drawing was not my own.
    I have also been in a situation where my design was chosen to go forward, but I was not the one to finish up the detailing and CAD / Rendering.
    Obviously in school projects are usually done by one designer start to finish…
    So how do I show this type of work in a portfolio? (especially when the process gets really convoluted). What can I show, what should I leave out?
    Any advice would be well received!
    Best

  • DT

    December 11, 2007 at 7:50 pm Reply

    Hi Brandon,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your great comments.
    Unfortunately, what your consultancy is doing is not the most idea situation, but is the reality of the business. You see, not everyone can do everything, and the majority of people are specialist or are good in a few areas.
    That being said, at this point in time, you should not worry too much if you do not get the opportunity to see an entire project through to the end. In fact I would say prospective employers would be suspicious if you turned up at an interview and said you worked on this design from start to end. This especially if you only have about 1-3 years of experience, as at this level it does not happen. However this will become more important if you are in a more senior role or are looking to get into a senior role.
    So at this time fresh out of school, or with a few years of experience, what you should be focusing on is the fact you work well in a team or with other designers. It is no shame to say in this hugely successful project I only designed the plug.
    In fact highlighting, at this stage in your career, the exact role you played says one thing about you and that is you are honest.
    So don’t be mistaken, school work trains you the process of doing design, in the industry you learn to be a designer. Going forward, I would show your, for example, CAD rendering and details and then a small picture of the end product. Or show some sketches and then the end product. At the end of the day what you are showing are your competence of a designer having the right skills.
    Best of luck!

  • Rob

    December 17, 2007 at 3:02 am Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. Your portfolio is what is important. Keep it up to date and not just before you go for that ‘job’.

  • DT

    December 17, 2007 at 4:36 pm Reply

    Hi Rob,
    Thanks for your comments.

  • olls

    December 20, 2007 at 11:13 pm Reply

    Hi DT, Rob,
    Thanks for your inputs in this post.
    They are really really helpful.

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