How to show design process in portfolio? More sketches?


I think that showing sketches is one way to show process. The key, no matter how you show it, is to tell a story of how you reached the final design.

For example, if you are using sketches. Show the early thumbnails and thinking sketches. Then maybe show which of those you selected to make concept sketches. Then show which of those (and Why!) you chose to explore further into refienemnt sketches. Then show that you slelected some of those to turn into renderings. From there you can show orthographic layouts, some sepc drawings, with sections, exploded views, bill of materials, and some photos of a final model, 3d model, or really tight photoshop rendering.

Something like that should show your process skills. A big part of which is not only your ability to ideate and brainstorm good ideas, but also your ability to identify which of those to refine into concepts and eventually a final design.

Did that answer it a bit?

all these should be in the sample set I send out?

a small section of that can be in the samples, but I was thinking more for a portfolio piece.

This kind of thing comes up so often, I think our educational system is failing. Seriously, it’s not the students fault they don’t know this stuff, is it? What schools still don’t teach their kids how to get a job?

be easier to list the ones that DO help


I’ve found that students who take a “portfolio class” tend to have portfolios that all look the same. There are a few instances where the professors teach individuality, but more often than not, the students are taught rigid rules to follow. Kind of like the output you get from a resume-writing workshop. I’ve always felt that a portfolio, a sampler, a resume, etc, should be, most importantly, clear and understandable. It becomes an individual design problem like anything else.

In some cases the kids are forced to work on the kinks in their presentation materials repeatedly to get co-ops and internships. I worked in 5 different corporations/consultancies in college and every time I completely reworked my materials. I’d like to think they got better and better through each iteration. We had a series of 3 professional practice courses in school that covered a variety of design job finding methods. They didn’t get into great detail about right and wrong, but dealt more with an introduction to things like resumes, cover letters, what to expect in an interview, etc.

I don’t know that there are right and wrong ways to present your work, but I do know that every employer looks at things a little differently. Even the most unclear portofolios can ususally be cleaned up with a few simple tweaks.

There’s a few ways to break out a portfolio, I’ve tried a few different methods, but I’ve found the best is to pick a few solid projects that you’re pleased with and use them to tell a story of the development of each one, like Yo said, show early sketches, refined sketches, renderings, models, illustrations. Present it in the order of the project’s flow. Also, it’s not enough to just tell the story in chronological order, but also how the story is presented that makes it more interesting, this shows how you were able to sell ideas through the design process.

Being that ID has become more and more jack-of-all-trades centric I like to then add sections after my project sections that highlight sketching, illustration, graphic design, design related personal work, and model making. This way I get to tell how I design with the projects section, and then display my level of skill and interest in the other areas.[/code]

I am just scanning through all these comments and wanted to say “Thank you” to all of people above. All great tips and very nice all of you to take time to help the students you don’t even know…
I will remember how I feel now and one day I am your position I will try to do same. Thanx everybody. :smiley:


That’s what it is all about.

One thing I have coached soon to be graduating students to do is pick four of your best projects and show them through the whole process. Spend more page space on sketches (and sketch models) and don’t make a huge deal out of your final model. Once you graduate there will be few chances to make a final model.

Next have a well put together notebook (8.5"x11" or A4) of more sketches, engineering drawings and renderings.

Thirdly have another notebook of the detailed research that you did for any projects.

The reason for this is that typically you will interview with people from different backgrounds (more true in corporations). Non- ID people will only want to see only the four projects and spend more time talking to you to see how youe personality will fit. Engineers will want to the technical drawings. Marketers might want to see the design research.

In a nutshell have a few books that each have their purpose and audience. That way you are not forcing everyone to see everything, but you have everything “in your back pocket”. Interviewers have to take time out of their schedules to interview and by showing that you respect their time goes a long way.

Thanks for the comments so far!

I have been out of uni for about a year now. I have always considered my portfolio a very personal thing and tried to let my personality show through.

Although I have always been wondering: How versatile does a portfolio need to be? I mean besides showing developing sketches of ideas what else is worth putting in without it being too much?

My background in design is very mixed. I have studied Product Design and New Media but have always had an interest in Graphic Design. Now I have been working in an Interior Design company (because it was easy for me to get a job there and money is always nice after 5 years of studying :wink: ) working on projects as well as presentations. I dont want to do it anymore and decided to leave at the end of the summer. Thats why I work on my portfolio again to apply for new jobs or go freelance. I am afraid now that my background is not specified enough in order to land a job as either a Product or Graphic Designer. I just don’t feel I have enough to show from one particular field. Will that be a disadvantage? Do you have any suggestions on how I can prepare my portfolio so that this mix turns into an adavantage?

From my previous post you know what answer I would give. Have it in a seperate binder and if the interviewer asks about your graphic abilities (and you are willing to do some Graphic design) then pull it out. If you don’t want to do it at all then don’t show it.

One thing I feel you need to watch for “the portfolio as a personla thing” idea. I am not saying that your portfolio cannot have bits of your personality in it. It is just that after you change portfolios over the years, you realize that it is a body of work used to get a job (a graphic resume) and that like a design it is a constantly evolving thing. What seemed like the greatest project at one time will not even end up in a future portfolio. I went through this recently and I had two mentors go through my portfolio and tell me what should stay and what should go. This gives you a nonemotional test for the quality of work.

One thing I have noticed many graduates seem to forget about portfolios is format. Once the student shows are over how will they translate their large sized panels into a portfolio form that can be easily transported.

Especially if they have to fly to another location. I have learned from many experienced designers that sending a portfolio case through the airport can be torture on a portfolio. I remember spending $500.00 to create a flashy portfolio style after graduation. I got a great job, so it payed off but just imagine spending that kind of money only to have if ripped to shreads at the airport check counter.

I am really surprised not one person on this message board thought to mention format for portfolio when traveling. Hmm.

Here’s a story:
My mentor said she created a good portfolio to show to a major auto
design company after she graduated. She had to fly to the west coast, so she sent her portfolio through baggage check at the airport. Keep in mind that this was the typical student portfolio case with the shoulder strap and handle on top of the box. The size was at least 18 x 24. Just the shape alone raised some eyebrows. When she arrived at the location, she found her portfolio was ripped to shreads. Work was mis-placed, edges worn and stains galore. Lesson learned: Carry your portfolio with you and even 11 x 17 is to large.

Any helpful advice regarding the traveling portfolio??? I’m curious.

Maybe a “portfolio” class should include a portion about people going out and trying to get jobs internships. If the class forces you to go out and show your stuff, get accepted or rejected and coming back to share that experience would be awesome.

The question was about showing process not traveling, but looks like a good thread was just started around that.

Personally I have a powerpoint full of glory shots, prototype shots, and key sketches. And then several simple 8.5 x 11 books full of process and sketches. This allows me to speed up or slow down the interview based on how its going. I also bring production production and a few large scale sketches (in a tube, check it with the stewardess in the first class coat check) to keep the format changing so no one gets board.

Sorry, I may have caused some confusion based on my age.

By final model I am speaking of a lifelike physical model built in a shop. I did not mean that a final CAD or surface model is not important, as these you will be expected to make.