Portfolios for Managers

I have a general question for design managers out there.

Do you still use a portfolio and what type of work do you present, if you do?

… only your design work?
… the design work of your employees?
… managerial processes and tools you have created?
… stories about how your design thinking has improved the company?


I would say both. As a manager, you need to show work that you have directed. Even better if you can illustrate “how” you guided the work. You also need to show work that is yours. Lead by doing sometimes is hard to beat.


I only show my own work.

Because it’s tough to draw a clear line on your participation, I’m hesitant to show someone else’s work and claim that I directed the design. I also cast a suspicious eye on someone I’m interviewing that claims credit for directing someone else’s project. How much did they really participate? Where did the innovation come from? Whose form is it?

I use the all-or-nothing strategy. I still design for freelance projects and have plenty of recent work to populate a portfolio. I talk through the management piece with gant charts & spreadsheets.

Just my 2 cents…

Good points, and I agree. But, if you can cleanly illustrate how you directed the design, there is a story there. I am big on leading by example, and you need to show 70% work that is yours alone. Depending on the job, the company might be hiring you to direct people 90% of the time. So, you need to communicate that as well. Cover all your bases.

I know what you mean about the sometime difficulty of showing work that you directed/managed…

I take the tact mentioned by one-word mostly, that is to show work that is 100% mine (my drawings, sketches, etc.) then show more of the management stuff through charts, and writing.

As well, I also often like to explicitly note what aspects I did on a project to be fair on both sides.

In truth, pure management is something I don’t think it is possible to have a visual portfolio for, but rather something that comes across in person or through a well thought-out text blurb about a project. I personally feel that management is somewhat the combination between doing (ie. actively participating to show by example, drafting design briefs or inspiration boards for juniors to follow, etc.) and thinking (ie. consideration of more strategic factors, etc.). Of course it is also about interaction, mentorship and dialog with people both up and down.


It can be difficult to draw those lines as a director, you have input on many more projects. I typically sketch on every project and encourage a highly collaborative atmosphere while there are a couple of projects I still shepherd home with more of my focus.

I haven’t showed my work since taking on a director position, but I think I would focus on how I set the overall direction, guided the business, set the stage for the stories the brand wanted to tell through product, set a consistent design language for the wide range of products in the line, and show how that language intentionally evolved to bring consumers to a new place. A focus on bigger thinking and how that impacted product.