Winning Design Portfolio

How to Make a Winning Design Portfolio

For those in UX/UI, graphic design, and coding

BY TERESA FONG

When I was switching into UX/UI from my health policy background, I quickly learned I needed a portfolio to apply to jobs. Not just any portfolio though. I realized after endless rejections that I needed to know how to make a winning portfolio.

After a painstaking process that I thought would never end, I landed my first design job at Skydea (yay! 🎉 ). Here are 3 things you should emulate if you want to do the same.

1. Talk impact

Skip over the “I learned X” section.

When a hiring manager opens your portfolio, they expect to see both your skills and design thinking. You want to make it easier for them to visualize your future success in their companies by presenting your best work.

Focus on how you aligned business goals to user needs because, at the end of the day, you’re advocating for users in order to make your business money.

Your work can be client or non-client based as long as you showcase problem-solving. A designer’s responsibilities include detangling complicated puzzles before creating a solution and the best way to show you can do that is with 3-5 case studies.

The Business Model Innovation Framework

One of many essential strategies Ryan Rumsey shares in his e-book, Business Thinking for Designers.

Consider using “The Business Model Innovation Framework” when putting together your case studies.

These four questions help make the business model tangible and confirm any assumptions you have about your design impact.

Rumsey also notes that these types of visualizations are something businesses “always wanted, but never knew to ask for.”

If you pad your portfolio with design exercises and talk about lessons you’ve learned by doing them, hiring managers only can see that you can follow prompts instead of thinking on your feet.

Focus on how you aligned business goals to user needs because at the end of the day, you’re advocating for users in order to make your business money.

2. Be responsive

Avoid being a potato.

Don’t frustrate your main audience (⚠️ hiring managers) with confusing and unpleasant layouts. Your hiring managers are probably in senior roles with responsibilities filling every minute of their day.

The time they have to glance at your portfolio is at best… 2 minutes. Make it easy for them to go through your portfolio on mobile⁽¹⁾.

If your portfolio is responsive, your application response rate will reflect that.

If you can’t code your own page to be responsive, don’t fret. You won’t be stuck with a potato portfolio. You can use a number of sites from Squarespace to UXfolio and even Notion to glow up your portfolio.

Need some inspiration? Here are some of my design crushes:

Leave the root vegetable behind and think about it this way: if your portfolio is responsive, your application response rate will reflect that.

⁽¹⁾ We are getting more digital, but I would be sloppy if I didn’t mention PDFs. There are still companies today requesting PDF portfolios as part of the interview process. The key is to remember to make your PDF printable and legible.

3. Write passionately

But don’t word vomit please.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to write essays when something drives me; however, this isn’t the time for a wall of text (because of tip #2).

Passion doesn’t equate to verbose writing. Rather, we need to focus on contentーmake it “concise” and “straightforward” with a sprinkle of personality.

Be succinct, but don’t hold back your passion.

If you have a long case study, consider breaking up your work. A great example is Zara Dei, an experience designer in London. She discussed her process of revamping a consumer beauty web platform in one case study while leaving breadcrumbs on how she tackled making that platform’s design system in another.

Bread Crumbs to Not Word Vomit While Being Passionate

One way to have a crisp case study while showing more of your expertise

Be succinct, but don’t hold back your passion. Once you grab that opportunity to interview for that dream position, you’ll thank yourself for following these 3 winning portfolio tips.

Are you ready to apply for jobs? Check out the job board for the latest design positions open in Tokyo.