Please review my portfolio. Be harsh.

Background: Junior/Mid-Level Designer. Graduated in 2009. Worked with Milwaukee Tool, Harley Davidson, Briggs & Stratton, Volvo, Kimberly Clark, SC Johnson, and a bunch of smaller companies with bigger products. I’ve won a few design awards. I’m looking for a change of location, need to get out of the midwest. I’ll go anywhere. China. Hong Kong. Europe. Only places I’d really like to avoid is NYC and California, due to traffic.

Please give me some feedback! This is what I am currently sending out, due to a number of my projects having NDAs in place.

Thanks for sharing. The portfolio is getting there. Graphically I think you are close. I would stay way from all the colored boarders just go to a nice neutral color and use pop colors in order to get different looks. The colors tend to compete with your products and sketches. I would maybe consider decreasing your line weight on the boards around the projects this will allow the projects to breath a little. Each page feels a bit cluttered. Also I would try to bring your sketching up. Your marker work is not particularly strong I would take that out or redo in a software program like Photoshop.

Your Milwaukee project looks very strong expect for your sketches they are particularly rough and hard to read. I would take most of the red out of graphic for that project it makes the pages very red. I know this is Milwaukee’s color but just keep it in the sketches and final product.

My favorite project and easiest to read for me is your speakers. Your sketching is strong on that project but your model is a bit weak. I would almost say go to a 3d model and give it some nicer hardware details. I think the very large hex bolts make it look rough. I would design a hardware detail for it and just generally tighten up details and surfaces.

The flow of each project seems good and your projects are a really good length. I think with a few adjustments you will have a really nice portfolio.

Daniel Stearman

Your text is very large. I suggest reducing the size significantly - maybe 12-16 pt font? This really helps something feel more professional.

I would also eliminate the borders and reduce the amount of color. Color is much more powerful when it is used sparingly. Like the guy above, I suggest using only a few splashes per page within your product images, and maybe color one text element, nor more. I would also axe the colored text boxes and swoopy arcs. They don’t look bad, but they are another element that can distract from your content, and unless you are really good with graphics and layouts (and few IDers are).

Your pages feel very claustrophobic. I would recommend no more than 3 visual elements per page. If that means more pages, so be it, your portfolio didn’t feel too long so this shouldn’t be a problem.

Don’t be afraid of generous spacing, cropping big images off the page, and eliminating things. This will make it easier for the portfolio reviewer to quickly understand each page.

I think your wall scanner project is presented the best, because you show context. Context is powerful. I would even suggest blowing up the image of you holding it against the wall and eliminating the huge rendering in the front of the page.

Your greener gadgets thing should have more context up front. Ask yourself ‘if I were banned from using text to communicate this story, how would I tell it visually?’ - that will help you understand how to improve your presentation.

I would fix the sketches out of perspective in photoshop (wall scanner) with the distort tool, or overlay and fix them.

I’d suggest 2-3 render images per page rather than 4-5. Think of clever ways to arrange them and crop/fade them so you don’t have lots of borders everywhere.

I would give your speaker a catchy name since it seems like a student project that doesn’t really have a story.

Also, I’d do a quick weekend project or two to replace old student work like the speakers so your portfolio better communicates your current skill level even though you can’t show your NDA work.

Best of luck, your work looks pretty good and well thought out, it’s just the presentation that is the hard part.

Even though you’re a recent grad, you should remove the entire paragraph after “Greetings”.

It sort of makes it sound like you are apologizing for being a recent grad. You should focus on your accomplishments, and your education should be the foundation of those accomplishments.

Also, remove the years from each project. You should also have 2010 say 2011 at the front page.

Oh yeah, I would second the recommendation to remove the intro paragraphs. Put your resume there, and at most one or two sentences with some personality.

Thanks guys. The color and borders are remnants of my original layout from 2007. They definitely need to go, and you’ve only reaffirmed my suspicion. I definitely have layout issues; I’m not a graphic designer. I guess my main problem communicating is there is so much information about each project, I don’t know how to get it all on there. The wallscanner project could easily be 7 pages, but I think that is too long, right? A portfolio should get clients interested enough to bring you in for an interview, not necessarily answer all their questions, right?

If you have several ideas per page, then 7 pages is too long for one project, but if you have 7 different aspects of that project, one idea per page, then I would say it’s fine.

I would list out the main aspects of each project. There shouldn’t be more than 3 or so. IMO it’s best to focus on one idea per page, something that can be digested in 5 seconds from a great visual.

The nice thing about not being a graphics guy is that you can just eliminate everything but maybe a title and a short caption. Captions may even be too much - labels are better. You could make the wall scanner ergonomic studies one page, and have a title ‘ergonomics testing’ and then a callout like a circle or arrow around the best one that explains why it was ideal in one phrase.

I second all of the above.

Cameron’s advice below is gold. No one really has time to read lots of text (I even dare to say that a busy reviewer will spend about 2 minutes max to go through your work). Keep it short and try to imagine how someone else seeing your portfolio for the first time can easily understand what it is all about.

Ask yourself ‘if I were banned from using text to communicate this story, how would I tell it visually?’ - that will help you understand how to improve your presentation.

What I personally do is have an intro page with a hero shot together with short info like project name, description, my contribution/role, location, date, awards, etc.

There are several types of portfolio in my opinion:

  • The sample/teaser portfolio which can be in various formats like print/pdf/website. The goal for this type is to attract attention to your work and show each project in a condensed manner (a few pages per project). Here you show your nice hero and money shots together with some process pics and sketches. The trick is to find the right balance for each project and the way you create attractive layouts. Remember that it doesn’t show all sketches, renders, etc that you have. Save the rest for your main portfolio. At the end of the day a sample/teaser portfolio needs to impress and communicate your skills whilst leaving the reviewer wanting to see more!

  • The main portfolio goes much more in depth in all projects, showing tons of research, (rough) sketches, renders and what not. It is mainly meant to bring to interviews where you will have the opportunity to better explain the choices you made throughout the process and connecting all the dots. Also it would be nice to have a “joker” which you didn’t show in your sample/teaser portfolio. This could be another well thought out project, or simply a feature of a project you showed before.

Creating a great portfolio takes a lot of time and attention. Also try selecting the right projects for each interview, customize! Good luck!