Professional portfolios

In this section:

Academic v Professional

Don’t just use your academic portfolio, no matter how proud you are of it!  Instead, use it as a prototype and adapt it for employers’ needs.

When creating your professional portfolio, bear in mind the following ways it will differ from your academic portfolio:

  • A good professional portfolio should be easy to take in and digest in 5 minutes.
  • Your professional portfolio isn’t a record of everything you’ve ever done at university.  You have the opportunity to showcase your most impressive work – choose a selection of work which best shows your ideas, ability and experiences.
  • Unlike your academic portfolio, you don’t need to submit models or sketchbooks.  Use photographs or scans if you wish to include them.

Size and format

  • Ideally, paper-based portfolios should be no bigger than A3 and no longer than 16 pages – make sure yours can be picked up, read and understood in around five minutes.
  • Keep digital portfolios below 1MB if sending by e-mail – overly large files are often automatically deleted or unable to be received.  It may be necessary to reduce the size of image files to reduce the overall size of your portfolio.
  • Send your portfolio in an accessible file format, such as PDF, to ensure it can be viewed easily and as you intended.

Theme

Think about your audience:

  • What type of practice is it?
  • What work do they do?
  • Who are their clients?
  • Do they have a particular design style?

Try to think about the effect your portfolio might have on the person viewing it.  This should help you to select your most relevant work and choose an appropriate overall design.

Layout

  • Put the work you consider to be your best towards the front of the portfolio to help make a strong first impression, rather than simply featuring projects in chronological order.
  • Avoid overblown presentation which detracts from your work or makes it difficult for an employer to absorb.  Your portfolio should be clear and easy to follow while still demonstrating your creativity.
  • Don’t overload the pages of your portfolio.   Well spaced images and a carefully considered layout are key to a clear and easily accessible portfolio.

Content

  • Aim to demonstrate a variety of skills within your portfolio.  Include sketches, CAD drawings, elevations, photographs of models etc.
  • Avoid including lengthy passages of written material, which employers are not likely to read in full.  Keep text brief, concise and to the point.
  • Try to demonstrate your thought processes and show how your ideas and projects progressed from concepts/sketches through to final designs.
Practical considerations
  • First impressions count!  Don’t neglect the front cover of your portfolio.  It should have title and your name.  Use good quality paper and appropriate binding.
  • If you want your portfolio returned to you, check in advance before sending it off!  Not all practices will return your portfolio – they may have a policy of keeping them on file or, even worse, putting them in the bin!   Make sure that you keep backup copies of your portfolio in case you don’t get it back or it gets damaged.
  • If you choose to create a portfolio website, you should ensure it is well structured and easy to navigate.  Avoid overly complex designs and layouts.  Instead, use clear menus that show what employers what they can find on your site at a glance.  Try watching a friend browsing your site to see how easy it is to navigate and understand. Make sure images are appropriately sized for online viewing, to avoid slow loading web pages.

Additional resources

Two copies of each of the following titles, which include useful examples of portfolios, are held in the Robinson Library:

  • Andreas Luescher (2010)  The architect’s portfolio: planning, design, production [720.28LUE]
  • Katerina Ruedi Ray, Lesley Naa Norle Lokko & Igor Marjanovic (2003) The Portfolio : an architectural student’s handbook  [720.23 MAR]

Example portfolios

Dexigner – directory of architect’s portfolios

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