what should one show in a portfolio

When putting together a portfolio should one also put in rough thumbnails? Are should you only show refined sketches?

There are many different approaches to portfolios. You can also use different projects to speak to different strengths, thumbnails are sometimes the most direct insight someone can get to how you think through and or solve a problem, so in that case use it accordingly. Polished sketches are more for presenting the idea than showing the thought behind it.

I would say both. Show your entire process, that’s the portfolio’s job in the first place.

A portfolio should tell the story of your capabilities, the way think, and what you value as a designer. There are no wrong answers as long as you tell that story in a compelling and convincing way.

I have one book (11x17) of finished sketches/presentations as if they were to be delivered to the client. This book is aesthetic only and shows my concepting and sketching abilities.

I have a second book that is smaller (8.5x11) that shows product development, or the whole process. I start with thumbnailing, then more detailed sketches, then renderings, then my comment form I use for first prototypes and how I issue technical comments to the factories, and then the production run.

I think showing clients/employers the behind-the-scenes helps them understand that you are not just drawing pretty pictures.

good luck!

Each piece should start with an explanation of the brief: what were you trying to do. It must show your unique insight or point of view that you wanted to bring to it, then the process you used to develop it: range of visualization skills, form developemnt, undestanding of manufacturaing an materials, and attention to detail and ability to explain complex systems or geometry. it must all pay off against what you aimed for in the brief.

Very important: it is not about “you” it is about solving a problem,and/or creating something worthwhile for the world.