Showcasing design developed through CAD

Hi all!

I’ve been working in a great firm for the past few months as a junior and have a really cool project I want to showcase in my portfolio.

The only problem is major design developments in the process happened in a way I’m not sure how someone more senior to me would like to see it in a portfolio.

My sketch development is great and the concept was on track - however when I modelled the design there were major details that needed to be refined. These adjustments were only spotted when we saw the design in 3D and further iterations were done whilst in 3D.

What I want to know is how would I go about documenting this. It was a major part in the process and has shaped the overall design of the product and I don’t really want to ‘lie’ by adding in sketches since it wasn’t true to the overall process and journey.

And feedback? Thanks!

Hey Grad,

I run into this from time to time… First, make sure you can actually show any of this work publicly. Always respect the NDA.

If you’ve been cleared to show it (including all the incremental versions), the next think I would ask is: Did you save any of the incremental versions of the design as it was developed? If so, you could show a progression from sketch to 3D modeled concept, to refined design, etc… If you have those previous versions, you could treat them as if they were ‘study models’ and bring them into a rendering environment where you can render them as a collection of iterations.

I do a lot of my development within SolidWorks as I find it to be much more productive and, because I am working with internal components that have to be accommodated, much more accurate representations of the concepts. Of course, you have to be fast to make this approach time-effective, but it think it’s worth it.

Your sketches aren’t a ‘lie,’ they probably gave you your initial inspiration. But as designers we need to be able to convert these concepts into viable, workable solutions. That’s what separates us from artists.

So see if you can show those incremental CAD models as if they were physical sketch models. If you don’t have those earlier versions, you might need to ‘recreate’ them to show your process.

Hope this helps,


This same gap will appear in most projects. I have taken to printing out steps along the CAD evolution of things and sketching over the top. This serves two functions, the first evolution, the second to provide a more visually consistent trail.

Thanks for the advice Warren and nxakt!

I have to double check whether I can post the work online but this was more a question for my interview portfolio and being able to talk through the project with a potential employer when that time comes. Like I said it is a cool project that outshines anything else I’ve done which is all my junk from school.

I’m happy to see that the same scenario happens to the best of us. I was worried I was just a kid relying too heavily on CAD to design but there really was no way to have foreseen the changes required.

I have different iterations as the models have had to be restarted due to major form changes that required new surfacing etc so thats not a problem. I think I’ll take a mix of renderings and sketching on top of the print outs, I think just as long as there is a visual a brief explanation would be enough.

I didn’t mean my sketches were a lie, I meant I didn’t want to sketch out fakes of the design changes I made in Solidworks as it isn’t true to how the project took shape if you get what I mean?

Thanks for the advice!!

As mentioned above, this is pretty normal. It is rare that a product makes it from sketch to shelf looking the same… and if you think about it, it makes sense. As you are building it in CAD, hopefully you are not just acting as a CAD monkey, but as a designer, taking every opportunity to learn, refine, and design.

A couple of “post documentation” sketches never hurt and it is a quite common practice. You would be surprised how much this is done… all those super hot car sketches you see are usually drawn over top of final CAD after the design has been worked out and refined. It reinforces the mythology of design, but is also fun.