Design newbie looking for advice on starting a portfolio

Hey guys, i’m starting this thread as a totally fresh and newbie in regards to design. I’m a banker by profession but have always been intrigued with design as a whole but due to various circumstances i pursued a degree in business and marketing in my uni days. At the moment i am considering, pursuing an education in product design, however it requires me to come up with a portfolio.

Me being a totally inexperienced in the matter, i was hoping some of the seasoned designer could maybe give me some advice on how to start, and even some tips on the ideation process of things as everything is so foreign to me at the moment and the thought of starting a portfolio is kinda overwhelming.

So was hoping if some of you could maybe mentor or give me some pointers in the right direction for me to pursue my ambitions that’ll be great. Thanks in advance!

Start sketching.

Don’t stop.

Welcome to the Core Boards! I think the two biggest things you have to consider are 1. who is your audience, and 2. what are you passionate about. Think about who will be looking at the portfolio at the university and what types of things they may be looking for. Most universities will not be looking for a lot of skills based things, but will be more focused on seeing how you think.
This brings me to the second thing of what you are passionate about. Think about things that you have created (in whatever medium) that show how you work through problems and the steps you took. Just remember that what you are passionate about will show through in any portfolio you make. Try and show excitement for design and the design process in whatever you put out. But don’t feel like you have to have polished fine art drawings to be accepted. Just start making stuff you enjoy and document it well with nice photos.

Thanks for the reply guys. Very much appreciate the feedback.

do a project.

take a current market product and create a “next gen” concept based off it that meets potential future needs - or fix current design issues that you identify

Portfolios are a daunting task whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned professional!

Look around online at people’s portfolios to see what activities they are doing as part of their design process (sketches, mock-ups, prototypes, etc). Buy a few books on ID process, sketching, etc and get some more ideas. Do a few mock-projects on subjects that you’re already interested/knowledgeable in and implement some of these activities/techniques. Make sure to document the projects thoroughly!

Students at the University of Cincinnati put out a guide book for students on portfolios that might give you some insights:

The UCID program seems to have a decent process for instructing students to create portfolios, and a lot of them put their portfolios online:

Since you’re new to the field, looking at portfolios of younger students will be less daunting than looking at those of older students or professionals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when looking at everyone’s best work no matter what level you’re at. But remember that you’re making this portfolio to get into school so you can learn how to do these things. So for now you’re mostly trying to show the admissions folks that you’re interested and determined to learn.

Other things you’ll need to do:

  • Start learning software: Photoshop & some kind of 3D modeling (some free ones are Onshape, Blender, and Fusion 360)
  • Sketch as much as you can! Don’t get discouraged… practice makes perfect!

Good luck!

I can’t imagine you needing more than 5 projects covering all stages of the design process for getting into a degree. I’m not American so I wouldn’t know that for sure there though. Definitely suggest playing with OnShape and also getting a free 30 day trial of Keyshot later in your experimenting. Photoshop and Illustrator are available on 30 day free trials too, and GIMP, Inkskape and a number of other programs are pretty good free options too.
One thing I will say is being enthusiastic at the interview and showing that you understand what Product Design is and why it is necessary are as important as any tangible skills or theoretical knowledge.