Tear My Portfolio Apart, Please!


I am graduating in May 2016 (like so many others). I am looking for a gut-wrenching portfolio review with honest feedback and suggestions for improvement. I am hoping to appeal to more “artsy” consulting firms rather than corporate, however, will be applying in both sectors. I mention this because my portfolio is magazine style which I felt would separate me from horizontal portfolio fodder. (No offense to you horizontal folks out there, I was just looking to do something different!) I imagine I would print this magazine style (see issuu link) and if sending a PDF, I would send a PDF with spreads rather than pages.

I am mostly concerned about length and repetitiveness. I want to add my thesis project in addition to these 3 projects which I am concerned may add too much length. My thesis project is a furniture project and could easily replace my first project once completed.

Thank you all + shout out to Yo! Cant wait to see you during our school’s spring show!


Thanks everyone for the feedback so far! Immensely helpful! I’m going to start working on condensing my portfolio “teaser” down and separating the bulk of the information into process books. I will be hopefully posting an update in the next few weeks, of much smaller proportions.

I’ve heard it before on hear and i would tend to agree the double page layout does not read very well (go with a single page same size). But if you feel you must on do the double page take a foundation que from magazines - one should try never to have images cross the center. Even with your digital version the shadow and mock center line is distracting and takes away from the layout.

Hi Caitlyn!

First off, I think the overall length is too long, and each project is too long. If this is intended to be your online or mailer portfolio, I think you want to have enough material to warrant an interview at which point you would show the rest of the process. Hopefully some others will chime in with their opinions, but if I am a hiring manager and I see 76 pages for only 3 projects, I might just flip through for something eye catching and move on if I don’t find anything.

Now for the more detailed feedback:

Your first project, took me a couple of pages to figure out what was going on. On the project brief page, all of your text is hyphenated making it extremely hard to read. Considering that hiring managers probably don’t want to do much reading, I would make the design brief very quick and easy to understand with as little reading as possible. Then I got to the foam prototype, flipped the page expecting to see a final rendering in the space or a final model in a museum with people sitting on it only to find the title page of the next project!!?! I think you can easily go back and render this into a final environment with the expected materials.

Project 2 - I really like that you incorporated more sketches! I want to see the process! You just graduated (or are about to) show me how you think! Page 1 of this project you talk about how “it’s all about the yummy fruit” and then make no mention of the fruit until 10 pages later… Also - Why did you pick the dragon over the other concepts? What made this the best idea? Do you have any final renderings? Or just the sketch concept project?

Solo - Show me a picture of you wearing the glasses that you wore to show the 20/400 vision. Show that you immersed yourself in what it would be like to be visually impaired. Don’t put a little foot note explaining that, to be honest I missed it the first couple times I went over the page. Maybe show me what it’s like to be visually impaired in one or two pages, and tie that in with the cooking. Concept 1 and Concept 2 aren’t easily defined, and they look super similar… I thought they were the same idea just the next steps in the process.

Internship projects, maybe give me a title page that works as a better transition? All of a sudden, I’m looking at an online store? I would remove the turned bowl all together unless it is a more in depth design project. (As well as the ‘woodworking’ title from your title page, again unless you have more woodworking projects to share)

All in all I think you need to condense and find a better way to tell your story. Personally, I would move the cooking project to be your lead off project, as I think it is the strongest, and move your furniture project to last. Remember you aren’t the only person applying, and you need to capture my attention as fast as possible. Finally - Show me as much as you can instead of telling me.

Hopefully that’s helpful!

With dblaveino’s last comment i would recommend making sure your portfolio is easily editable so you can arrange the order and the content based on who you are sending it to and what they are looking for. Remember you are telling a story and the story may need to change depending on the audience.

Not going to sugar coat it. Since you asked for it. Im going to give you my thought process on going through it.
Your portfolio started strong and then tapered off pretty quickly.

Pages 1-7. Beautiful Presentation. Feeling Good.
7-11. Wait whats the project about? (no one reads all the little type on the first pass) Oh furniture.

11-17. Lots of content. Your clean layout breaks. You don’t show progression of ideas. How did you end up here. You money shot is foam core in a room? Why not a rendering of it in the museum? Your numbers on your solid works concepts are all different sizes and have poor padding (lack of attention to detail). Also they’re just screen shots from Solidworks, no context shots, no sexy keyshot renders. If your not making your concepts hot and desirable when you present them, why should I be excited about it. Show how those interact with the space/people. The idea is to create interactive furniture. Yet you don’t show any interaction in your concepts. Big miss on the prompt.

19 - Nice shot. Oh she interned/projects with Fisher Price.
21- Clean, but type is too small. Again no one reads this.
23-25. Good sketches. You repeat sketches between the pages. Mirroring (maybe she doesn’t sketch that much) Why wouldn’t you just draw more as opposed to faking it? (Oh they’re opacity changed. Its suppose to be a BG. Still feels like a shortcut.)

27- Cool full pink sculpt
29 - Cool Features. Think these are the same sketches as before.
31- Wait what, thats it for the Fisher price Project. Needs a money/ad shot to end.

31- Food project. The blurryness doesnt come off as intentional at first. Thought it was a bad export.
33-41 - alright blasted through this. It didn’t draw me in and was alot of information to distill.
41-61. Just powered through this. Didn’t excite me personally. Lots of information for a teaser portfolio. And not presented in any exciting format.
At page 53 I thought it was over and it kept going.
Thought 57 was the end. Holy crap its keeps going.

Some projects are better for in person presentations and don’t have the umpph factor to work in a mailer. This might be one of those projects.

71- Oh ok finally something else. But feels abprubt. No title slide like normal.
looks greta though, got stuff made and produced.
73 - Nice shot. Thought iwas for Roo and Board, realized it wasnt. Dissapointed
75- Cool more production stuff. She can get stuff done.


Your going for an “artsy” consulting firm. But the bulk of your project is a Research based project with little form development. Actually now that I think back, there is little form/concept exploration. Most of your portfolio is you elaborating on one concept. The musuem thing is all abotu the angled panels. The Fisher Price is all about dinosaurs. The food project i think only had the project sketches that you went with. You need a show a project where you really push as wide range of concepts.

Cwatkinson, Thanks! Yeah, I have it in both formats. When I’m sending it out via PDF, I would be sending it in a single page format which translates nicely. After reading the comments here, I’m definitely going to condense my work a bit. That being said, I thought having a printable double page layout booklet would be a nice touch when going into interviews or sending physical copies out. I’m unsure if it would be worth it- to print 25-30 booklets and send them physically. What do you think?

Thank you! Yes, I was most worried about this. I think I lost sight or didn’t fully consider the difference between a teaser portfolio and a process book. I am going to work on condensing each project down (especially the cooktop) and having separate process books of each project in the current length you saw. I definitely do not want employers to get bored reading my work or feel overwhelmed but I sometimes have trouble delegating what information is most important. I want to show it all! Its very difficult… even the work I have presented here is condensed from the original version. Perhaps I am condensing the wrong areas, or I need to focus on what task I did best in each project and highlight that.

I think I am having huge issues with storytelling. I have answers to all these questions but I am having difficulty expressing them without typing out a paragraph or blurb of information. I also neglected to show my original concepts with this project and I see that hurt me in my story-telling. I chose only to show the ideation of my final concept, for whatever reason. How do I illustrate my reasoning behind my concepts? I chose to do the dinosaur over other concepts (not shown :cry: ) because I felt it fit my target market and age group. It was also the strongest character development, with the play value being larger than competing concepts. This design ultimately won me the Fisher-Price internship. I don’t even know how to begin illustrate all that while also condensing down my materials… though it is helping somewhat to right down the story here. I will have to try that for each project.

I don’t have any final 3D-model renderings. I’m honestly just not there yet with Alias. I am working on a 3D model now but it is no where near where I’d like it to be.

I am seeing now that I am selling myself short here. In this project too, I chose not to show the original 20 concepts required for each project. What you are referring to as concept 1 is a process shot of how the stove-top would work and the pot. Concept 2 is a page of ideations based off my final design direction. I guess for whatever reason, I felt that it was more important to show my final direction and ideation than to walk the viewer through my original concepts THEN my final direction followed by refinements. Obviously, as I am seeing from the comments, its taking away from my process quite a bit.

So here’s where I am a little confused. I’ve been told in the past that its good to spend the last few slides sharing products on-market and/or personal interests. You know, it gives the employer a bit of who you are/what you like/other skills. I see the value in this but I also get tripped up on whether or not its related to the work I’m applying for. Let’s say I want to work for a consulting firm that does consumer goods (coffee pots, cleaning materials, packaging, maybe some medical here and there)… well, yeah, I see that putting in a wooden bowl I did can say “Hey, I am a person. I have interests and am well-rounded!” but I don’t want to overwhelm that firm with woodworking projects when it is not directly related to their style/aesthetic/work. I have many woodworking projects as it is a great interest of mine. I also have a teaser portfolio of only woodworking projects but I am not sure putting more in a portfolio is beneficial for me. I also seriously wonder if taking out the wooden bowl removes some depth from myself as a person and designer. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on that bowl and although it’s not a design project, I think it demonstrates my craftsmanship and aesthetic to an extent. What do you think? I also have a lot of mold-making ceramic work. I’d also like to include that for the same reasons.

Thank you, dblaveino, for your feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time to go through my work! This is immensely helpful and I will be posting an updated version as soon as my thesis review is complete!

:laughing: Thanks! I need more brutal reviews. I will be posting on Core77 more often. This was immensely helpful. I laughed out loud at parts of your review (“Holy crap it keeps going”). It is what I needed to hear. I’ve been asking around my studio about length but everyone seems just as unsure as me! You think I’d have this down by now, being a senior, but its a wonderful improvement from my very first portfolio which will never see the light of day. :blush:

Let me first start out by saying that I am seriously considering nixing this project. My senior thesis, which will be complete 4/13, is also a furniture project. It is a very similar concept but applied to a consumer market rather than museum. It’s stronger, more complete, and follows a more traditional process of design (empirical research, concept layouts, refinements, renderings, and an actual model.) The museum furniture project is my weakest project in my portfolio by far but I am attached to it for several reasons.

This project was my “f-u” to the current model of design process taught here, and I say that with the most respect. I wanted to reach out and try different things with this project. First off, I didn’t do a lick of sketching. Gonna be honest. I ideated through small 1/8th scale foam-core and paper models which were shown on page 08. I did 20 but I only showed 09 which I see didn’t help me. Then, I chose a final direction and explored the form via Solidworks. I can see how it may be misleading that page 10 were my ONLY concepts. I then built my final design in foam-core and made a video (but will anyone really bother to look it up w/ the QR code?). I do have final renderings and I even have final upholstered foam but they aren’t at the level I’d like and I’m hesitant to show them.

Basically, what I am saying is that this is an unfinished project where I experimented ALOT. I deviated from the norm but I don’t know if anyone would see that exploration as desirable in an employee. I guess my question is do you think that trait is valuable and worth seeing this project through? And also, is it unclear on page 08 that these are my concepts and that page 10 is an exploration of form? Why is that? I have titles, call-outs, and small blurbs explaining the process lightly.

What does BG mean?

I am definitely going to keep this in my teaser so at this point, I’ll just need to condense it without damaging the story and final design. Question? Would a good story for a project like this maybe go something like this:

  1. Problem: There are no cooking devices for the blind
  2. Orienting the viewer on what its like to be blind (slide 29-31)
  3. One spread of research (probably the experience)
  4. Concepts
  5. Refinements
  6. Sketch page + some mock-ups
  7. Final design + what problems it solves

I think capping it out at 7-8 spreads is pretty doable… is that still too much information for a teaser?

Sorry about that. Do you think putting the bowl first would eliminate that association?

I mentioned this in an above response. For whatever reason, I guess I felt my early concept exploration of 20+ concepts wasn’t very valuable for these projects. I can see now that hurts me in the long wrong. I’m honestly terrified of being hired to do exclusively sketching and am hesitant to show massive amount of sketch dump because of that reason. I’ve interviewed for design positions in the past only to find out they really wanted a sketch artist, disappointing. I will add more of those early concept explorations.

The Fisher-Price project: So here, I did show some concept exploration on page 19/20. I know now based on these responses that I’m really missing concept development. Like all my projects, I do at least 20 concepts initially. Was this page not clear or confusing? I only ask because you mentioned it was all about dinosaurs. I really appreciate your feedback and just want to know why those pages were overlooked and what I could do to improve them. Obviously, adding more if not all of my concepts would be a good choice here.

Thank you so much dblaveino for taking the time to review my portfolio! I should have posted my portfolio here awhile ago!

I’d say that’s a waste of your time and money.
Don’t send the physical booklets. That is not how most hiring managers review portfolios today.

Also it is hard to share. Often the decision makers are not all in the same place. The CDO might be in the US with the Design Director sits in Europe. A snappy PDF is much easier to send over.

Personally, I have found that bringing a large (i.e. Tabloid size) binder to in-person interviews can be really helpful.
Quite a few times I pulled a few projects out and spontaneously pinned them up.
This way you are presenting your work in a way that is familiar to designers and director and everybody gets a full overview over process and presentations.

You don’t have to emphasis or focus on all these concepts. But making a shot where you have a ton of them on the table will help show the process.
A simple shot like this will help a lot.

(but will anyone really bother to look it up w/ the QR code?). I do have final renderings and I even have final upholstered foam but they aren’t at the level I’d like and I’m hesitant to show them.

Nope not going to look up a QR code. A basic link would be 10x better. To push that even further A screenshot of the video with a play button. Would be 100x better.

Basically, what I am saying is that this is an unfinished project where I experimented ALOT. I deviated from the norm but I don’t know if anyone would see that exploration as desirable in an employee.

This is the MOST important thing to show. What makes you stand out from the crowd. The fact that its not a cookie cutter project is way more beneficial than another traditional design project. This is what makes you unique to an employe, its not something you should be afraid to show. Employees can teach their process, they can’t teach a desire to explore design.

Background. Your sketch pages have a blurred BG image of the sketches blown up. Looks like you didn’t have enough sketches to fill the page and tried a trick to make the page feel full.

I think capping it out at 7-8 spreads is pretty doable… is that still too much information for a teaser?

That would be much more digestible for a teaser. You can have the full presentation for when you give in person interviews.
The idea for a teaser/mailer is to have them wanting more. You can go in depth in person. No need to right off the bat.

Sorry about that. Do you think putting the bowl first would eliminate that association?

Would prob help. Also nicer shots of the Room and Board stuff would be nice too.

For whatever reason, I guess I felt my early concept exploration of 20+ concepts wasn’t very valuable for these projects. I can see now that hurts me in the long wrong. I’m honestly terrified of being hired to do exclusively sketching and am hesitant to show massive amount of sketch dump because of that reason. I’ve interviewed for design positions in the past only to find out they really wanted a sketch artist, disappointing. I will add more of those early concept explorations.

What would your dream position be? Junior designer at one of those fancy consultancies, or anywhere, means your going to be doing a lot of early ideating, sketching, modeling and rendering. Its just part of learning the ropes. Gotta draw a ton of forms before you get the opportunity to direct the direction.

Was this page not clear or confusing? I only ask because you mentioned it was all about dinosaurs.

I think it’s just how small those concepts are. My eye instantly went to the top two concepts Green Dino and Elephant (pretty much a dino). Then the other are so small that I don’t see them when Im glancing. The next page I go to the high contrast areas. The dino head exploration and the color renderings. One of which is the exact same from the previous page (the green one).

Hey Caitlyn,

My gut feeling after the first pass was that you would make a very capable and curious intern/entry level designer. I do get the sense that you have energy for the initial phases of the design process, clarifying the problem, conducting primary research, etc. I don’t get the sense that you’re very confident in your sketching/form finding abilities or final presentation but I do feel like it’s something you want to improve. I feel like you’re self motivated enough to keep improving in the right environment.

Like everyone else said, I would focus on condensing and simplifying. Leave the denser content for in person interviews that way you can walk people through it in person.

I don’t agree with this at all. When I was interviewing for full time positions, probably 30% of the conversation was around the last random little side project things I was working on in my spare time. Obviously don’t dedicate 20 pages to it but don’t remove it. They may not be hiring you to turn wooden bowls but that page to me still demonstrates value: attention to detail, craftsmanship, proportion, material knowledge; all things applicable elsewhere.

Hear hear.

Our mo is to get prototypes into customer hands as fast as possible.

Craft matters.


It’s also good to show a bit of personality in portfolios. A portfolio is just as much about you, as it is your work.
On the bowl a super sweet shot would be a 50/50 spread. Half of it, being a shot of you on the lathe with chips flying and the other half being the final shot you have.

So i glanced through the portfolio since it was too long and I kept having questions after every page so it made it even harder to glance through it. Here are some quick comments:

  1. I personally dont like issuu. Hate the ads and seeing the other portfolios is distracting. Also seems not as refined.
  2. Don’t like the magazine style. Why would you want a seam down the middle? If it’s digital (like you just showed) why would you want a fake seam down the middle? Portrait orientation also makes it more difficult to organize and show your work.
  3. Furniture project. Looks like a bunch of different shaped cushions. What tells the user they can play with them or move them around? Not very exciting, more like an art project.
  4. Dragon. Nice sketches but how did you end up with the dragon. Makes me think you wanted that idea from the beginning. Also, why not do some final 2D orthographic illustrations to figure out the shapes and how they will go together. Are there wheels under the dragon. Seems like you wanted to avoid figuring out how the dragon would be assembled.
  5. Visually impaired project. Great research but confusing. You talk about baking, brownies, full arm gloves, spilling batter, not knowing when meat is cooked, etc. And then after pages of good research here comes a hard to understand mat that rolls over your stove top? Again seems like you fell in love with that idea/technology and made it your final direction (almost inspired by the ipad cover). Also, why would you have multiple colors and customization? If they are visually impaired wouldn’t a bright orange be better. It looked like a “oh, here’s my color studies page”. Why not just fix a simple problem like a)knowing when the meat is cooked (digital audible cooking thermometer), b) spilling batter (a set of cooking pans with a removable funnel or guiding system) 3) Redesign the oven glove…make it less cumbersome. etc. Next time make sure your research matches your final direction.
  6. And then some nice room and board adds. Are these projects?
  7. And then some nice toys r us adds. Are these projects? Don’t make me look for the information. By the way I saw it at Target last night.

My 2 cents. Hope it helps

Hi thanks for commenting. I wanted to clarify that the project is the stove. I am not sure how that was misunderstood but I will work on trying to make that more clear in the future. The roll-out matt is simply an accessory that doubles as protection and a drip pan while cooking. Again, I have answers for all of these but I am finding it difficult to SHOW them. I dont know how to make it anymore clear that its a stove-top than I already have.

Yes, this was my intern project at Fisher-Price. I suppose adding an “internship intro page” would answer your questions.

Overall, some excellent work here well presented. Bellow is my punch list of feedback. A lot of small things.

As said before, I think a single slide is superior to a 2 pg spread. The spreads are fine in printed materials, but digital materials should be optimized for screens.

Only 4 projects, seems thin on project for the amount of pages.

PG3, swap out that picture of a bowl. You have way more interesting things in your portfolio

PG4, your first project should be in the field you want to work in. Do you want to go into furniture? If not I would swap projects around.

Pg11 is the first time I see something you designed and it is just foam mockups… I should be seeing awesome images of things you designed from the get go.

Pg17, this should be a super hot image, not cardboard mockups.

Fisher Price project, excellent. Starts with a good image, skills shown throughout… more like that please!

Cookware, follow Fisher Price cadence. Takes too long to get to your design work, thinking can be made more visual. Don’t need pic of eggs. Sketching is very nice! Show me more and earlier. Good mock ups and final images… way too many pages, edit by half.

Room and Board, this is production work on an internship? Make a bigger deal about this. You have work in production. Full page spreads of lifestyle images. Add a page of sketching. Say clearly it is in production.

Same feedback with Fisher Price internship.

Overall 2 toy projects, a furniture project, and 2 housewares projects. Think about where you want to work and tailor your folio.

I also recommend adding a resume and about page in the beginning or the end.