Portfolio Fry-fest

Hi Guys and Ladies,

I graduated this spring and have been mostly working on my portfolio since then- I just started applying for ID jobs / internships in the last month. Since then I’'ve been applying to a few places, hearing nothing back, polishing the portfolio a bit more, repeat… I figure it’s about time to have it professionally fried / roasted / critiqued really hard. I’d be grateful for some criticism!


Thanks so much,
Matthew Tucker

Haven’t looked at a thing yet, but WOW did that page load fast. Fast and lean is good in my book.

You have compiled a pretty crazy set of projects. Lots and lots of great work. The amount of polish you have on this thing must have taken months. The videos and photos are great.

However, in an effort to make you a teensy bit better, here are some things:

Read through your resume again. Look for:

  • Periods missing
  • Duplicate skills
  • Orphan words
  • Lack of capital letters in YouTube (yours is Youtube)
  • ANY reason to remove high school sports


  • What happens to the nail apron when the hip and tail bone bags inflate? The bags appear to be right where large quantities of pointy objects happen to be.
  • Why does the acceleration due to gravity use the metric system but roofers fall using feet?
  • Similarly, why does one fall 15 feet but negatively accelerate over a distance of 200mm?
  • Again, a .6 liter tank releases 55 gallons of gas?
  • If the average roofer does not bother with a $15 hard hat/helmet, why would they pull on an accelerometer-equipped Dyneema air bag vest that costs considerably more?
  • Dyneema is strong but the stab-resistance comes from oriented layers – do you plan to have several layers of material cross-oriented to prevent punctures?
  • ‘g’ is not a unit of force. Newtons, lbf, kgf, etc (I don’t mean to harp on the units, but apparently that is all I am seeing tonight)


  • If you can’t share why the helmet is special, why assert that it is?
  • No one uses jackstands to pry locks apart. Look up what a jackstand is.

Hi Sprockets, Thanks so much for the comments!

-Good call on the helmet. I would hate to read that if somebody else wrote it.
-Haha about the jackstands. I actually do know what a jackstand is, but while I was researching people kept mentioning bottle jacks, which I assumed were the same thing as a jack stand. I’ll go in and fix that.

-The hip and tailbone airbags are packed into really beefy belt loops, so they’re outside the belt, and won’t be obstructed by nail aprons, etc. Obviously when they’re inflated they would probably still make contact with the nail aprons. I was counting on the Dyneema being strong enough to protect against landing on debris, so touching it mid-air would be no problem. Though if Dyneema requires a bunch of layers I’ll have to reconsider. (But since none of that was obvious, maybe I should include a closeup of the belt loops.)

-The only defense I can give for the weird units is in the .6L / 55 gallon example, where a “55 gallon drum” is a pretty standard concept in many people’s minds, and .6L is a pretty standard water bottle size- I chose those to make the volumes easier to visualize.

-With ‘g’, I guess I was referring to acceleration, so I should take out the mention of “force”.

-Woof, I thought I’d proofread my resume! I’ll get on that too.


I was thinking more about Dyneema. It seems that a puncture would not matter so much as a full slice – the time for the bags to fully deflate from an impact is so small and the pressure so high that a small hole would be a torturous path for air evacuation. Furthermore, whatever is being used for avalanche survival packs must encounter similar issues and they are are growing in popularity.

I understand on the comparison units – that was where I figured you were going.

I also thought more about the helmet – the idea that it is unique and patentable is good to include. Just be prepared to deal with questions.

It is pretty much a guarantee that you will find an error in your resume just when you hand it to the interviewers at your favorite company. On that note, what are you plans? What is your ideal position and in what market?

Man, more feedback! Thanks alot.
I think you’re right about a small hole. The plan was actually to have some kind of release valve so that as the worker lands on an airbag, it deflates partially, extending the deceleration distance. (Rather than falling on say, a basketball full of high pressure air.)

I agree about the helmet too. I’ll change if from “a lot more than a stylish helmet” though. I just don’t want people to think it was only a styling project.

I am hoping to work in design consulting, though I would also be happy working in a design-minded corporate place like Dyson or Fiskars. (Doesn’t need to be that high-profile.) I’d guess at most places a junior designer is just a junior designer, but in a few years I would love to be focusing on functional innovation. I’m not certain what field that would be in, though athletic gear seems focused on and hungry for it. Ideally I’d do something more socially helpful than $600 tennis rackets. Tools / appliances/ outdoor gear would be great. I really enjoy the strategic / business / logical decisions side of design, so if I can morph that with inventing new functionality, that would be awesome.

Virginia Tech consistently puts out great thinkers - I enjoyed viewing your portfolio. I think the problems identified, the process presentations and your proposed product solutions are excellent. Like someone mentioned earlier, your site loads fast and views quickly from page to page. Nicely done.

BEGIN ROAST: The big drawback I see is your sketching viscomm. Its traditionally been a weak spot at VT, not your fault. I would highly recommend taking this time between school & job to challenge yourself with rising to a higher level than what they’ve taught you so far. If your viscomm was CCS / ArtCenter / Ohio State quality it would be the final step in making your portfolio a winner.

Your digital-contrast-on-Canson-look stuff is cool, it’s the beginning pen sketches that would be more impactful if they were more visually communicative. It takes a learned patience to refine on the fly in the middle of sketching…to underlay and critique one’s own perspective, spacing and proportions - right now I think you get there by the time you’ve reached a final design but to make yourself stand out most employers look for someone who can communicate 80% of the final idea in a quick sketch from the start. :END ROAST

There are tons of resources that you can use for reference - look for ones that offer good communication of materials, textures, reflections, and all the little details that make sketches special - I like some old school books (the processes are out of date but the end product (great sketches) hold true);

  • Design Rendering Techniques by Dick Powell (look for Seymour Powell online),
    Creative Marker Techniques by Yoshiharu Shimizu and
    Future concepts, the World of Syd Mead

Don’t have a lot of time to go through your work right now. I’ll be on a long flight later and go a bit more in depth.

But make sure to Photoshop your final money shots. http://www.matthewtuckerdesign.com/ID/thread/5.html
Would take less than 30 minutes to go in a smooth out that paint job. Even 10 minutes job with a healing brush would help a ton. I found myself critiquing your physical model more than actually looking at the design.

Overall some really good stuff.

I jumped straight to the process on each project after the first one. Cut to the chase.
Hey Matthew, after seeing your Heliox project remember meeting you at the IDSA conference. Overall good stuff here.

I think the thread project had some really good process and ideas. Right now it is hurt by sketches that are too rough and final models that are not final enough. They look more like sketch models.

Some of you best sketching is on the scivolare (bad name, had to copy and paste it). Sketches should be at a minimum this nice. Also, that is a nice final model!

The Thermotracker project is nice. There is some really hot design being destroyed by sketches that are too rough.

Park bench, neat material exploration, but final model looks weird. Photoshop compositing of the 1/16 scale model is the most impressive part. I think it would have looked better at full scale (or even half) or just a CAD render composited in.

Overall impression is very positive. I am impressed with the sheer amount of content: research, sketches, models, branding, videos, CAD, across a lot of projects. I see a lot of potential and if we were hiring I would certainly consider you highly if the sketches were better. An easy thing to do. Go back into all of those projects and do hot sketches for them.

Hi Scott, thanks for the critique. Your description of being able to “communicate 80% of the final idea in a quick sketch from the start” is really helpful. I’ll aim to get there!

Hey, Emmanuel, that’s a good call too. I’ll have some cleaner shots up today! Thanks.

Hi Michael, thanks so much for all the comments and encouragement. I really appreciate your time. I’ll go in and redo a bunch of the sketches, and possibly just render the final shots for the bike gear. ( The Thermotracker sketches are over 2 years old…)

For Michael and everybody else, any recommendations on whether to do marker or wacom sketches for some of these projects? I’d guess a mixture is good, to convey ability in both, though not a mixture within each project?

In my experience the medium for the sketch does not matter. What matters is the quality of the idea and the quality of the sketch technique. I did a quick overlay of one of your concepts. A few things to work on: cleaner lines, clear writing (we used to have to all caps drills in school, do they still do that?). Anyway, this is not the best sketch, but it is a good indicator of the minimum level you should be showing. About 15 minutes, a pencil and a marker. Also, name and number your concepts. Small things help you to get more credit for all of the work and thinking you put into this.

This is something I’ve noticed a few times in interviews. When I have called out that a particular deliverable didn’t seem to match the level seen in other projects I’ve gotten the response of “That is old, I would do it better now”…

In which case I typically reply with something like “why are you wasting both of our time talking about work that does not represent your current capabilities”

The entire purpose of the portfolio is to get you a job by showcasing the very best of your current capabilities. Also, most interviewers look for the very worst thing in your portfolio and assume that is your average operating level (that is how I was taught, and it has served me well). The logic being that we know you are going to show your very best stuff and assume that you will want to add more content so some of your average work will slip in, the thinking being that you are smart enough to edit out your worst work.

A little insight into the mind of a hiring manager.

Ouch. NOW it’s a fry fest! Thanks for that, that’s really helpful. Good to hear it now instead of in an interview. I’m going to re-do all of the glasses sketches, bench, thermometer, and most of the harness sketches. Also the Thread lighing ideation and helmet thumbnails.

And thanks for the sketch demo! It’s helpful to know also how fast I should be shooting to do each sketch. I don’t think I was giving myself enough time before.

That got me thinking, while a comment like that would instantly drop my stomach. I’d most likely respond with “I keep in a few of my older projects in my portfolio order to show my progression as a designer/skillsets.” I’d most likely Talk about flaws in my process on that project and use it as a springboard into talking about how Project X was done differently.

Although that may apply a bit more to recent grads who have limited projects to show. I always thought it helped employers see where you where and were you are now. And if the change was radical enough, it would hopefully show a nice linear progression. The hope being that this thought makes it way into the employers head. “This guy busted his ass and made good progress in the past few years. If he keeps that work ethic up here. I can see him growing at this company.”

If you’re ready to respond like that, that can’t hurt you. Just make sure all of your work isn’t 2 years old…

However, what if you don’t get asked that question? What if they take a look and think to themselves “this kid is wasting my time with garbage under developed concepts.” That might be the end and you never had a chance to defend yourself. I would err on the side of being prepared.

Interviews can be tough. I like to see how someone responds under pressure. Emmanuel’s response was good, but what would be even better is to not elicit that question (or as Chris pointed out, the silent observation, not all interviewers will be as vocal).

In terms of time spent on a sketch. At my first job I pretty much sketched and made models for 4.5 years. On sketch days I would try to develop 8-10 client ready sketches a day. I would spend 30 minutes thinking and creating underlays for each concept, 30 minutes executing the sketch, then move on to the next. This way in 10 hours I had 10 good quality sketches. In this case you already have the ideas, so spending 30-40 minutes each would be acceptable. It might take you a day on each project to redo all of those sketches.

Take your time, this is about getting a job and getting your professional life started. There is a lot about this process you can’t control, who is hiring at what level, how they will respond to your work, your personality, your project choice… one thing in this mess you can control is how good your work is, including you sketch technique. Get the easy stuff right and put you best foot forward.

To be extremely nit-picky, I recommend lettering and not numbering concepts.

I have had more than 1 client do “the math”** and it is a distracting conversation in a presentation. Never had that occur when we used letters.

** “The math” = You are charging me $X. You just gave me Y concepts. That means $Z for each concept? While that conversation may be worthwhile offline, it is a distraction anywhere else.

Please resume your worthwhile replies to this thread …


Interesting observation re numbers vs letters. Makes sense.

Naming can be tricky as well. We nicknamed a concept “The Deuce” and it had unintended ramifications… it was still the concept selected but the body humor jokes were incessant for 6 months. I think naming is nice though because it can be hard to remember numbers (or letters) but a succinct nickname that conjures the core of the concept can be great.

Any progress?

Hi Michael, thanks for the interest! I’ve re-done the sketching for the lamp, glasses, and park bench, and did some quick 3d models and renders to convey concepts for the coffee kiosk. (I also applied the advice of lettering my concepts…) I did these first so I’d be all warmed up when I get to the Thermometer, Harness, and Bike gear. (Starting those this week after another page for the park bench.)

The park bench was most recent.
The old sketches for the bench:

Here’s the new sketch page.