Starting to overhaul my entire portfolio

Hey all,

I’ve reached that point where I’m ready to find something that’s not my first job out of college, but looking at my portfolio I know that I have a lot of work to do to fix it up to current standards (esp if I’m looking to move to a more consultant type of environment).

So before I scrap everything, I figured I’d put what I currently have out there and see what you all thought.

Feel free to be as harsh as possible, I’m not opposed to redoing entire projects if that’s what it takes for me to move on.

Thanks in advance!



Hey Mike,

You got some great content in there. I’d start with finding some new layouts to highlight what you got. All sketches seem really small. I know you circled the ones you moved forward with, but I think it’s better to make those stand out more. A more fluid and dynamic layout with appropriate hierarchy.

The whole portfolio feels very sterile/medical. Maybe it’s just the colors, but I think you can set a better tone for the work with a little less hospital blues / gradients. You rarely break your grid. What ends up happening when I look throw is nothing stands out.

I think your updating process should start with brainstorming how to better communicate the stories you want to tell about each product. That’s what will help people connect with your projects and remember your work. From there I think the rest naturally falls into place. You’ll see what content works/doesn’t work and if you need to update anything.

I’ll say a few things as well.

Cover page is lacking. This is your first impression and it’s not doing anything for me. “Industrial Design Portfolio” is the largest thing on the page. Followed by the blue box, then the picture of your school, then your statement and finally your name in tiny letters.

Which of those do you think are the most important and where do they rank in order of hierarchy.

Grid is alright, but again isn’t adding anything. It might actually be distracting. Your page numbers are bigger than your sketches at time. Is knowing that I’m on page #18 really that important? I’m guessing the blue boxes o the top some type of progress bar? Again not necessary and adds more visual clutter to the page.

You can still keep these elements, just integrate them a bit nicer. Or make them secondary reads as opposed to prominent graphics on the page.

Your sketches are tiny at times. Example page 7. It shows that you did lots of concept, but also doesn’t highlight any of the sketches themselves. If they aren’t up to par, re do them, blow them on the page and show off those ideation skills. That’s one of the most important skills that is looked for in junior level designers.

Same thing with the shoe sketches. They are smaller than your page number. :confused: Also why those forms, why those break ups? Who is the consumer, what is the mood your trying to convey, You touch on it in the medical shoe project. But hit me over the head with it.

Another thing. I just downloaded your portfolio. I like your work, how do I get in contact with you? No resume, no email address, no phone number. :wink:

Trying to view your portfolio, taking forever. Jw big is the file?

Thanks for all the advice! What you all are saying makes a lot of sense. I do plan on redoing a lot of the sketches, some of those are all the way from my second year! How do you feel about the length? As sketchroll noted, it’s kind of a big file (at 8mb), and this has been the most compressed I could get the 53 pages. Is there a point at which you think it’s just too long?

I would axe the first shoe-project. Its kind of lacking substance and a story. The renders are very nice but lack context and take a lot of room + you have a great shoeproject at the end. (like Sain said)

The whole colorscheme of the folio is a bit washed out / too much gamma. But that personal taste i suppose.

What I miss I a definitive end. Just now I was waiting a bit for additional pages to load, but I assume page 53 was the last slide?

The length should be determined by the amount of strong content you want to present. I would agree in saying that you don’t need both footwear projects (especially since the second one seems to be better). Each project you showcase should come with a purpose. Why are you showing us these projects? What are you trying to highlight about your skill set? I won’t say there’s a definitive rule to follow about a portfolios length, but it should only have as much content in it as you see fit to convey your points. Anything more and it tends to read as filler and get’s less interesting. I’ve presented the same project 2-3 times now and each time I end up changing the length of it in my portfolio. Each time I’ve refined the story, what I’m trying to communicate, and how best to execute those things.

As always ask for advice along the way. Maybe redo a single project and post back for a review or check with fellow designers. I personally tend to get lost in execution and lose track of what I’m trying to communicate.

Ok, so if I repeat anything other people said… my bad!! It looks like you’ve got a lot of great feedback, but I figured I’d give my crit too. This is going to get long, but your work is so good i want to make sure i hit all the points… anyways…

Before I start, I’m going to assume that you will be scrapping your entire layout as it is now- while you might be able to salvage an element or two for a second iteration, I think you will notice how much better your work will look like in a totally fresh and well designed layout. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but graphically, what you have now is pretty bad. The work is pretty good (those shoe, shower stand, and chair renders are pretty cool), but the way you presented it feels like a really boring presentation from an office or hospital, not from a designer. The main reasons why it’s bad, to me, (I guess so you don’t repeat them next time around) are:

  1. The color- As someone mentioned, your portfolio feels very sterile. You picked the main color of surgical gloves/cap/hospitals as the sole bright colors in your folio. It’s such a strange contrast to the work that it overpowers everything on your page, especially with all the gradients. (just so you know, while some people can work magic with them, gradients are really bad to try and design layouts with, and always end up being distracting and overpowering everything on the page, since it seems like an attempt to add shading to something that well, shouldn’t be shaded). With your current layout, if you had everything that was a gradient be solid color, it
    would instantly look a million times better. If you need help picking colors, a powerful tool can be found at Also, I’d try and avoid using a different color for each project- that tends to distract from the work. Color should be used in hierarchies (as in one color is the main overall color, and there are a few not so dominant colors to add interest and visual movement) rather than as a differentiator between projects… It gives each color more purpose, instead of being one and done.

  2. “graphic elements”- you chose to have these squares on every page- an idea borrowed from powerpoint. Try to avoid using graphic elements so obviously- they end up being distracting. The important thing is the content, not the page it’s on (I’m sure you’ve heard that before… hahahaha), and adding the same four squares on every page is not only distracting, but really boring. If you were worried about the page looking empty because of that, you shouldn’t be- white space like that works as a graphic element in itself, and it brings together all the separate parts of the page.

  3. Page numbers… dear god those are HUGE. personally, I don’t put page numbers in mine, but if you decide to use them, make them much, much, much, much smaller. They are useful in phone interviews when you want to quickly reference some work or something. But other than that, you’re only drawing attention to how long/short your book is (in case it hasn’t been said, length doesn’t matter. It’s all about the story your projects tell.)

  4. Page flow- Each page should have a visual flow to it, where the text is subdominant to the work. Right now, your titles, subtitles, and descriptions all feel too similar in font and size- Try picking 2 fonts, where one is your title font and the other is for descriptions. Don’t be afraid to make the description font much smaller and even a dark grey instead of black. You’ll find that pushing text to the back and bringing work to the front makes your pages look much nicer.

So, moving onto the way you present your content- there’s no smooth flow to your presentation. This is caused not necessarily by the pages you have (you go research->sketch->final which is good), but more because the pages themselves are confusing… here’s a page by page suggestion list for the first project:

page 4. shower caddy intro paragraph. You should have a much shorter intro to the problem/project- like a really short sentence. Then you can have a longer description paragraph. And I would avoid the word “brief”- that makes it sound more like an assignment then something you were passionate about.
page 5. research- this page is really hard to follow… research pages are always really difficult to set up, but they should show some kind of discovery process, not just an observations and trends list with some photos. Try looking at some modern graphic design blogs for some inspiration.
page 6. user segmentation? This sort of thing usually falls under some variant of an “understanding the user” section, and the way you’ve explained it now sounds more like a marketer than a designer. As designers (and especially in portfolio pieces…), we design for people, not an average of ages and genders (how are families not male and female (yes there are gay families… but still seems redundant)? aged 25-55? "Size of house: mid level- type of home, house? These statistics apply to so many people it’s ridiculous. someone aged 55 would be looking for something much different than a 25 yr old… anyyyywwwayyysss I’m getting to caught up here… Make this section more personal to a specific person or type of person, and describe who that person is with visuals and text.
pages 7-9 Your sketches need to be laid out in a manner that shows process- One of the hardest things to do with a portfolio (after research…). You want to start off small with the sketches that weren’t applicable, and sort of work your way to sketches that led to your final direction through size variation and composition (like putting similar concepts near each other and making more final sketches larger). Be careful to not make it look like sketch vomit/wallpaper (exhibit 1: sketch vomit
page 10. final render… not too bad. Maybe put a glory shot without any text covering it up on the page before so we can get a better idea of the design.
page11. I couldn’t tell that was a photograph!!! that looks awesome! You should just have one large image- no need for three- so It’s obvious that it’s real! real models are always a win! The text on this page… kinda lame. Try, instead of bullet points having a title and paragraph- “Working final model” “I prototyped this project using blahblahblah…”
page 12 those tiles hurt my eyes… other than that storyboards are always nice.

so to sum it up- you have quite a bit of work ahead of you, layout wise. Work wise, I don’t think you have to redo anything (unless you feel you’ve improved since the last time you’ve done this… in which case, you might want to consider that) - you just need to find a better way present it. Especially the research.

that was way way way more then I expected to write. dang. hahaha I should do this on video instead next time… good luck and post your process, and i’m sure you’ll get feedback along the way. Also don’t take everything I say to a T… I can sound opinionated, but this is nowhere near a “my way or the highway” sort of deal :laughing: (I wouldn’t be surprised if I contradicted someone already)- These are just some suggestions based on personal experience. I’m in the process of redoing my portfolio now too, so I find critting other people’s work helps me know better what to do for mine.

anyways, good luck!!

I think your gut instinct is correct in that maybe you should consider creating an entirely new portfolio. I like that you highlighted some products in the market that needed to be addressed, however in my humble opinion you really dont have any major branded products to look at.

I wouldn’t waste time re-working old designs. Start some new projects! Spend your time designing new more relevant work and I guarantee that it will be looked at more positively. If you want to be a product designer, within a consultancy you should be able to demonstrate your range and knowledge of brands. For example; what major brands do you think of …for a kitchen appliance, consumer electronics, digital camera, sports equipment, medical device, gardening, transportation, packaged goods & beverages or even cosmetics/grooming?

I would try to emphasize your core sketches, maybe start with you front running/primary designs that you are most happy with in each project first, then put a page or two of supporting exploration and theme development pages. Sometimes its ok to just show 2 or 3 slides that demonstrate a hot idea. You could also consider including branded services/experience/interfaces if you feel comfortable in that realm, but just have a major brand in mind and solid rationale if you do that.

In my opinion you don’t no need to go through the whole process in ever single project, especially for an online portfolio sample. I can see that you are trying to cater towards an unmet in the market and that you are trying to empathize with user needs, but try reduce the number of images dedicated to this section, because it is not helping your overall portfolio. I would suggest using just one key image (or even just well laid out text in this area).

Graphic layout…maybe consider hiring a graphic designer to help you. I would remove any and all "graphic’ elements. Just focus on a nice font that is clear legible and consistent throughout the entire portfolio. Oh, I also agree with the other that your cover page should start with you name first, then all supporting information should follow.

Whoa it’s a DAAP party in here :laughing:

Lot’s of great advice, but I’d have to agree with JD, you could definitely put time into sprucing it up and come out with a better result, but if you’re serious about showing what your current skillset is I’d start from scratch. Except maybe for the one project that you feel very strongly about, and you feel represents your current abilities well.

imho pretty solid portfolio you got there!

what struck me the most were following things:

Colors - try some new themes that look a bit more pleasing. Looking at something like Adobe’s ‘kuler’ or top-agency color palettes might help. Generally less saturated look with some highlighting would work better imho

Typography - Did you use Arial? I get the intent, but there are much nicer sans-serif out there. I personally like the ‘official’ touch. I would just try another sans-serif. The typography in the ‘Breeze’-project could also be changed.

wow…this feedback has been amazing. thanks all for the effort put in critiquing my portfolio, it’s nice to hear some honest opinions instead of a classmate or teachers “yeh, that looks good enough”, in my experience, good enough doesn’t get you called back.

I’m going to start playing with some layouts/graphic design elements, and will post up a couple options once I’ve got some that I think are ok, from there I like the idea of redoing an entire project to really make sure I’m showing everything I want to in the best way possible.

does anyone have any suggestions for graphic design blogs they like to read? or any other inspirational websites for portfolio layout?

Thanks again for all your help,


in no particular order:

the dieline, lovely package, information aesthetics, brand new, we love datavis, yummy fresh grain, card nerd, i love typography, gridness, swiss legacy

good luck! and post your process!!

It’s a shame they aren’t as honest with you. Luckily there are other places to go for good feedback. I find that most designers are happy to give an opinion.

does anyone have any suggestions for graphic design blogs they like to read? or any other inspirational websites for portfolio layout?

I draw lots of inspiration from the web these days. Lots of similarities in presentation layouts. I also tend to find more current trends in web design rather than related print.

I came across this a couple weeks ago, and think it’s a great source.

New years resolution: finish this portfolio!

I started working on some mock ups today of what i’m thinking i might like to do for the intro page to projects. I was thinking that i want to have a full bleed photo, as well as some sort of brief underneath a comment that asks the basic question of the project. Attached are a couple of my first attempts, any feedback as always is welcome.

A few other things i’ve been pondering as well:

What does each page NEED to have?
-page number (unless a full bleed photo is used)
-the title of the project that you’re currently in?
-the overall document name?
-year/month the portfolio is from?

One last thing, photo edit too much? i was trying to draw attention to the clutter within the shower…i fear i’m like that teenager trying to dye their hair though…just too much

What does each page NEED to have?
-page number (unless a full bleed photo is used)
-the title of the project that you’re currently in?
-the overall document name?
-year/month the portfolio is from?

Your portfolio doesn’t NEED to have anything. It’s whatever you deem fit really. If you think its beneficial for there to be page numbers, titles, etc… go for it. But personally I don’t think it’s necessary to have any of it unless it’s confusing to understand for others. Which the only way to find out is to make it without the content you’re asking and to ask others advice on what they think of it. In the end it’s all your call.

@ [dk], I get what you are saying, it will be interesting how this first project comes together. I think after my previous portfolio I am weary of overdoing things a little. I’m trying to focus on the story leading the person through this time, as opposed to little shaded boxes up top.

In that line, I wrote out a kind of outline in the same manner that I would do before writing a paper. I know it’s not for everyone, but it helps me think, to take something that in my head is a huge job and to turn it down into something manageable that fits onto a sheet of paper. In an interest to document the process of this portfolio I wanted to post it up here.

  1. Intro page:

-Is this the way your morning (day?) has to start?
-Create a simple organized experience for the user in the shower routine.

  1. Context (trends—>research—>user observation)

-Shower storage systems (built in or purchased) have not kept up with two advances culturally, the amount of product that everyone uses (One person will have facewash, soap, razor, conditioner, shampoo all individual), and the amount of people using the same shower throughout the day (young adults living together longer before purchasing their own home)

-Overfilled showers lead to many areas of the shower not getting cleaned properly (cite studies about how dirty bathrooms are)

-Cluttered showers also cause stress (cite studies talking about the importance of a morning routine/an organized life)

-Show pictures with call outs of user observations

-Main issues/Take aways

  1. Ideation:



-Alternative storage locations

-systems approach

-add people to sketches? show ideas in an actual shower?

  1. Product Development

-Main components (rail system, accessories)

-Drainage built in

-Shampoo/Conditioner storage dev. (show mock up pictures)

-Suction cup detail (show a cutaway of how it works)


  1. Money shot:

-show shower with the systems in place (multiple positions), redo mirror to fit with the final physical model, add a person to rendering

  1. Use Scenario:

-show that you can break it down to clean, put it against any wall (all the acces. rotate), create your own routine, hold round and oval bottles, mirror can swivel and tilt.

  1. Hero shot:
  • shower in background with system in it (out of focus), system +options in the front
  1. Full scale mock up:

-Show pictures of final model

-Call out all materials and processes used to build model

Thanks for letting me record the process here, and for all your help thus far!

Like others have said, I think your content is really good. In my opinion it could use a facelift to be more engaging.

The portfolio handbook that was posted recently would be a really good thing to look at if you haven’t already.

Using page numbers seems to lock in the order and content of the portfolio. I don’t use them because then I can add certain projects that may pertain to the job opportunity. Also, your strongest projects should be the first and last ones. Wow them from the start, and leave them impressed.

Good Luck- portfolio re-vamping is a lot of work!

@rynaid: I got a copy of that handbook, it is SO HELPFUL I feel like it’s already had such an impact on my typography!

Below is my first attempt at laying out an actual page, I’m not sure I’m 100% on the layout just yet, though I think having something this simple will make uploading it all to a website that much easier. I revamped a lot of my research info, looking at my old one I don’t really tell that much of a story. With this one I tried to add some updated graphical elements, keep it simple on the layout side, and actually tell some interesting info.

One thing I’m still playing with later tonight is tying the text of observations on the left to the pictures on the right a bit better, maybe just putting numbers by the observations and call outs on each photo.

I figured I would toss this up though just to see what you all thought of it.

Great idea with the icons. It’s working much much better. Thanks for sharing, I’m going through my own portfolio when I can.