Douglas Costa_Portfolio 2015

Hey guys,

After struggling a little to find a Job it’s me posting my Portfolio here for critique. I’m really excited to hear from you.

I would appreciate any honest commentary and /or suggestion.

I also have a PDF version, but lets focus on the projects first.

Thank you.

Hey Doug,

Seems like you have a solid body of work, good range of areas and some really nice process to talk through on some of your projects during interview. It’s a bit much to take it all in on your Behance since it’s such a range of stuff so I’d be more interested to see the PDF version that your sending to employers when your applying.

What part of the job search process are you struggling with? Are you not getting replies after applying? Are you interviewing places but not getting traction after?

Hey Matthew,

thanks for the reply. Mostly, possible employers tell me that they had competitors with “stronger portfolios” or that I just do not have the company’s profile. I still haven’t got an interview. And I am looking for Jobs since March, when I came back from China to Germany.

This is my PDF version: Dropbox - Douglas Costa_Portfolio - Simplify your life

But depending on employer’s preferences, I’m sending just the Behance’s link.

Hey Doug,

I just took a quick look at your PDF. What struck me right off the bat was an overload of information and lack of flow/heirarchy from page to page. I had to really slow down on each page and find what you wanted to communicate. A good example is on your forklift title page, “SEE & TO BE SEEN ADDRESSING VISIBILITY ISSUES ON FORKLIFT TRUCKS” is the largest text, yet has the least amount of contrast. At first glance I didn’t see it and kept flipping which lead me to have no idea what your project was about. My advice is to try and create a better hierarchy of what you want to communicate to the viewer, if I have only 30 seconds to flip through your portfolio what am I going to see on each page? And will those things communicate clearly what your project is about? Currently I can’t decipher the information and it’s keeping me from looking at any good ideas you may have.

I hope that’s a little bit of help.

Hey Doug

Thanks for linking the PDF. I agree with Aaron, I think you’re not doing a great job presenting your work in a way that is easy to understand.

What sort of job are you ideally trying to land or do you have any preference? Looking at this I think that your strengths are CAD, model/prototyping and craft skills. You seem very curious and genuinely interested in a broad range of topics which I think is valuable to a lot of employers. I don’t see much strong sketching or solid 2D communication/exploration which I think leaves a lot of your form language under developed and basic. For most entry level ID positions this might be an issue.

Taking a deeper dive into the content of the projects, I’m left questioning some of the major design decisions. Projects like the coffee maker show a lot of great process in terms of model making, prototyping, craft skills, reverse engineering etc. but leave me with some really big fundamental questions like:

  1. Does the machine rotate after each selection with an internal motor or do I have to rotate it? Either way this seems like a waste of energy to have to do after each step, and I don’t see any benefit other than novelty. Why break the architecture of having them all positioned to be gravity fed?
  2. You mentioned one of your key insights was that most machines interfaces are non-intuitive, and that you were briefed to follow the principles of Universal Design. Why are there no intuitive markings that tell me which is water, coffee, and milk. The icons you created have no reference to Universally accepted icons for either. Why does a circle with a line signal “coffee”, and an open circle mean “water”?
  3. Most importantly which direction do I move the slider to increase or decrease? The only indicator that you provide is the surface crease that seems to be indicating that down increases the amount and up decreases which is the opposite of intuitive behavior.
  4. There are no markings or scale references on the slider so how am I to remember the settings if my wife comes in after me and moves them around for her coffee?
  5. Why is this wall mounted only? If it’s only to allow for the rotation then I don’t think that’s a good enough reason. This is a huge limiting factor for who would buy/use this.

I realize this might come off as harsh and too critical and I could go back and look at my own student projects and point out just as mainly fundamentally troubling questions, but these are the sort of questions that employers are going to be thinking about. When you’re interviewing for full-time the stakes are much higher for them. It’s a big financial commitment to hire someone so they are going to want to be confident that you can think deeply through these issues and you can think beyond simple concept.

I think you have the passion and ability to make it in the field, I think you just need to take the presentation and thought process of your work up another level to be competitive in the job market.

Hey guys,

thanks again for the reply. It’s nice getting the opinion of other people who weren’t there on the making of this projects. It’s grand and very much appreciated.

What kind of job I want? I really like technology and I like learning all about a product’s context (technical and semantic aspects) and then insight and presenting an out-of-the-box solution. Mock-ups and models were the means I found easier to get my point made to engineers. And also in my university, that values the rational discourse, so making ideas physical very eraly was also really encouraged. Then sketching falls a little behind. I consider that I can sketch correctly, though not incredibly well. In many projects I consciously decided not to put them there because they were not decisive in the creative process (and to shorten the portfolio).

The 4 main projects were made in cooperation with the respective companies. They demanded a lot, I learned a lot, hence they end up being very complex. I could easily answer all of your questions, Matthew, but there comes the problem.

If I explain all my design decisions, with a little information page, by page, the protfolio would end up being too long. Which is also tiring. If I don’t there’s the risk of causing the impression that I haven’t thought through any of the decisions. And if I put a lot of text, nobody reads anyway, as it seems.

Accepting that some edition is necessary, what is then necessary to show and to know in an “entry level” position? Am I the only one struggling with these predicaments? How to make curious without giving the impression that I don’t know the answer for these questions? Some insights?

I also worked all the time while I was an student, and just finished a trainee program in China, doesn’t it make any difference in the entry level?

Thanks a lot guys, your help means a lot.

Best wishes,
Douglas Costa


I don’t think there’s one way to go about a portfolio, but a successful way to show all your skillsets is to emphasize certain skills in certain projects, this will allow you to showcase more with less pages. However, in the process of creating your portfolio I don’t think you should be concerned about length. My personal workflow is to lay it all out without concern for the amount of pages and make sure your story and process is clear. From there you can work on condensing any redundancies while making sure you aren’t creating any gaps. I have more success cutting the fat from a 20 page project than filling the gaps and trying to cram everything in a small amount of pages.

At my school there is a fear of having a lot of pages and I think it really hurts the students work. While looking through University of Cincinnati senior work I saw many projects with 15-20 pages. While it may be more pages, I was actually able to navigate and understand their projects quicker and clearer than many projects that condense everything into say 8 pages. Use however many pages you need to explain each of your individual projects but be sure to put a rigorous filter on the quality of work.

I hope that helps on the topic of portfolio length.

Ive always tackled my portfolio projects layout as if I was giving a presentation. Imagine getting in front of a crowd and talking through your project deck. How would you lead the narrative? Tweak your slides to help tell this story.

Also remember your portfolio doesn’t have to have every step of the process on the slide. When you have an interview the last thing you want to do it read your slides to them. So make sure your slides hit the major points and tell the broad story in its visuals. But leave the nitty gritty to the in person interview.

Hey guys,

thank you a lot, all of your hints were very helpful on what to think about. Really, really great. I could now think better of how I want to present myself and the new version is almost done. I feel way more confident now about it.

All the best,



I took a spin through your portfolio this morning. Overall, very strong. good variety of projects, good examples of thought process and visually presented well. Two areas I think you could strengthen that are related are iteration and sketching.

Iteration: a lot of your projects do a good job of showing how an insight lead to a solution, but they don’t show iterations and variations on those solutions. It is important to not only show your linear thought process, but your exploration process as well. Think of the design process like the below diagram. There is a start point and a divergence from there and then there are several points of convergence and then iteration as you get to the final idea.
Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 9.45.52 AM.png
Sketching: in you sketch section I’l like to see 10x the amount at 2-3x the level. Bench mark others who you find successful and analyze why you think their sketches are working.

Other than that I think it will largely be timing. But these two things will give you something to work on in the mean time. aim to have new content added to your portfolio once per week, maybe twice. The sketch section is a good place to add to and it will keep your portfolio at the top of the searches.

Hey Doug,

I think your work looks great. Some awesome renders and great form work…you clearly know Solidworks/another modeling program!

If I was you I would show your process and communicate (through sketch iterations) how many ideas you came up with. Show us the decisions you faced and what brought you to choose idea 123 over 78 as you narrowed down your selection.

Hope it helps and best of luck!

Patrick Bowers

Hey guys, thanks! :slight_smile:

But then I have a question. I know that showing the process is important. But, does it really has to be in the portfolio? I mean, showing that I have good Ideas and already giving a teaser of how I transform my insights in design shouldn’t be enough to invite me for an interview where I would show more details of my project?

I managed to get in the mean time feedback of one of my former bosses and the head of a german company (I will call him here “couldhavebeenmybossinanalternativereality”) who wouldn’t invite me to an interview but took some of his time to give me some feedback.

  • Former boss - many and different exciting projects, he says, and as it was already done here, complains of the volume of information. He wonders if there is something left to be spoken in an interview. In his view, the portfolio should be only a really short teaser showing that I can (1) transform problems in solutions, (2) have a nice style and (3) can communicate through sketches. All the rest is to be spoken in an interview.

  • couldhavebeenmybossinanalternativereality - Thinks also that it is great and says that I had really great experiences, when he reads my CV, but he finds my portfolio too technical; for his taste; my sketches are ok for his puposes, but he says I didn’t show any ability with freeforms and complex surfaces, which make my portfolio too student-like. He also missed people on my portfolio, to show that my solutions are not only technical, but also human centred. And he told me to delete the AUDI project, the Forklift, though he liked the idea, he found the formal solution too “engineered” and hard lacking some styling and all the other short projects.

I’m trying now to digest all that, since it all came today. And it’s hard not to think that I’m a bad designer after these 2 months looking for a job, and getting just negative responses. And it’s always like that “your portfolio is great, I’m sure you will find something soon” but this “soon” sounds like “never” now.

Back to the theme: What you guys think of these feedbacks? I have to say that with the time I have the feeling, that whatever I decide not to include in my portfolio is what will invalidate me for an especific position.

Right now, I stopped applying at all, to go back to my portfolio.

always very thankful for your kind feedback and input,
Douglas Costa

Footnote: I am applying mainly to jobs in Germany. Then comes China and any interesting position that appears on the way.

@Michael - soon I will put some new sketches there too. I’ve been doing it for some old projects and doing some new sketches too.

And what do you guys think of this project?

I’ve been thinking about including it in the PDF version of my portfolio. It was a very short project (roughly two weeks). Made in literally in chinese rhythm and under chinese pressure. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m not sure because of my overall story. Of course including it I will delete some other stuff, that tell the same story.


I can assure you, from viewing your portfolio you are NOT a bad designer. You have inspiring work and with some hard work and dedication I am sure you will do great things! It’s a tough industry and sometimes feels like a lot of it comes down to the right timing with the right fit.

I think in the first response it sounds like “communicating through sketches” mirrors what Ditullo and I are saying…so focus there.

I disagree with the second response about “being too engineered.” That sounds dumb on their part because products must be engineered. Maybe they do not like your form development or syling but “too engineered” is worthless and invaluable.

Keep your head up and go SKETCH!


all the iterations in that project are pretty much the same. What you need are not just CMF (color/material/finish) variations. You need total concept variations. Different solutions for the same problem. The sketches are scratchy and background focused. Here is an example of what I’m looking for. This is one of my designers. Look how different the initial concepts are from one another, though they are all hunting around the same insight. Small speaker attachment. Also not the sketch level:
Similar with this project:

Thank you Michael and Patrick,

I get it. Soon I will be posting here what changed in my portfolio.

Yes, I’ve been sketching a lot.

I wish you guys a nice weekend.

Hello guys,

I finally bring here to you an update on my portfolio. You guy’s will probably talk again about the sketches, but this is as good as I got so far. I revisited older projects’ development material, and I tried to do again some of the sketches. I feel I got somewhat better, but I still have a lot to sketch to be really good.

Anyway, I could show more of the iterations in some of the projects.

By monday I should’ve sent two applications… wish me luck (since it is a big percentage of what it takes).

And as always I am glad to receive any feedback. There are always place for improvement.

Here is the link: Dropbox - Error

thank you

Hi Doug,
In short, I think you’re lacking design sensibility. You’re great at tackling the problem and finding solutions, but the final aesthetic development seems primitive. They lack form development and detailing. We see it often, students think that being a designer means to create something radically different and innovative every time or they focus too much on the user scenario and experience that they disregard the final appearance of the product.
My feeling is that you need to express your design style through sketches clearly and early in the development process. I think that’s the first thing most employers will look at is your design style. Senior designers, Engineers and Marketing can help guide you through and improve your design process but they cannot and should not sit down and re-do your sketches and form development. That’s the one skill that differentiates designers from them.
Here’s my advice. Design next year’s DeLonghi coffee maker. Use the same mechanism(s) and try to re-use some of the parts. And then design 3 different variations for 3 different retailers. This project will force you too look at all the details and focus on form development and not on trying to re-invent the wheel. Your research, hands on prototyping and problem solving abilities are there, now work on the styling and form development.
Good luck.

[ Deleted ]

wow, it seems rather a little harsh put actually.

So it’s missing styling? I show that I can think, I can transform research in concepts, that I can work in 3D. But it lacks substance? I don’t quite get it. Is it a matter of taste maybe?

About the sketches I know they are not the best. As I pointed out before. But they are understandable. If you mean that I have to improve them, ok! this is something I can work with.

But about ego? is it only about the ‘about me’ or is there something else there. I am applying to jobs that required more information about my background than what says in the curriculum, so intercultural experience, and some things I do to get information about people, would be relevant. Or not? Of course this information is not in application letters.

All in all, gimme something I can work with, please.