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Portfolio Guide

Portfolio Basics

what is design portfolio

"A student portfolio is about potential and promise, a demonstration of talent and vision worthy of further development."

-Harold Linton (2012)

What is a Design Portfolio?

"An effective portfolio not only creates excitement by exhibiting your strength of imagination, it is also documentary proof of your practical professional competence, It demonstrates your clear understanding of format, graphic design, typography, concept development, problem solving, and business communication" (Linton, 2012, p.18).

A successful portfolio documents the creative process. It's purpose is to display an evolving, experimental process. Portfolios are used to support your application to new academic opportunities, including internships and scholarships, as well as your first employment. 


Where should I start?

A good place to start is to search for the job that you want on a jobsearch site.  Find a few listings for the best possible position that you are interested in. Ask yourself these questions:

1. What skills are they looking for? 

2. What technical applications do they expect you to have mastery of?

After you've answered these questions, you should have a list of what you need to show in your portfolio. Do they want you to have poster design skills? Then you know you need to include a well-designed poster.

Do they want you to have knowledge of Grasshopper? Then you need to show a project that shows you can do this.

Do they want problem-solving skills? You need to show explicitly what problem you were given and your ingenious solution.

Do they want someone who is an expert in fabrication? You know what you need to do!


10 Tips for Portfolio Design

1.You will be tempted to overwhelm your prospect with your achievements. Resist this temptation. Your job is to capture a potential employer's attention quickly and compellingly. Concentrate only on achieving a strong graphic impact with no more than 8 projects that showcase your best and most relevant work. (2012, Linton).


2You need to make slightly different portfolios for each place you're applying to. Certain designs, for example, may suit some offices, but would get thrown out of another. Study the company, get to know little of their philosophy and create something unique for them (Kogan, 2016).


3. Your portfolio's presentation is just as important as it's content. Even if you have the most amazing projects, an unattractive layout can cause your portfolio to be overlooked.  Avoid over-cluttered pages and pay attention to your proportions (Kogan, 2016).


‚Äč4. Always bring a PDF version of your portfolio with you. Websites are great, but nothing beats a quick, searchable PDF!


5. Put your best project first. If someone only has 30 seconds to look at your portfolio, don't you want to make sure they have the chance to see what you've got?


6Including too many drawings, and particularly, many technical drawings, can only hold your portfolio back; It takes up valuable space. It can be charming, however, to include a 1: 1 or 1: 2 architectural detail that shows your attention to the construction and the precision of the design, but without exaggeration (Kogan, 2016).

7. Your name should be the most prominent element on your cover page, after all, its you that you want them to remember.

8. Utilize neutral backgrounds to really make your images pop. Don't let over-designing detract from your work.

9. Consider your "brand." Does your portfolio match your resume? Linked in profile? CV? Website? You are marketing yourself so make a consistent and compelling story.

10. Make it short and sweet. Student portfolios shouldn't be more than 26 pages maximum. Remember reviewers may only have 30 seconds to 1 minute to review your work. Pair it down to your best.

Reference Resources

Referenced Materials:

Kogan, G. (2016). 12 Tipf for Making an Outstanding Architecture Portfolio. ArchDaily. retrieved from

Linton, H. (2012). Portfolio Design 4th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.


RICHARD WELSH LIBRARY at NewSchool of Architecture + Design

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