.: 12 March 2016 :.

Tips for presenting School Projects on your Design Portfolio

The chance is high that your first portfolio consists of merely school projects. Presenting them is an effective way can be challenging. Sometimes you may get a lot of freedom to guide your process and product but sometimes your school gives you many constraints. I hope that these tips are valuable regardless of the level of freedom of your project.

The one thing I often notice in school projects is avoiding responsibility. It is very easy to hide behind the design brief given by your school. It is very easy to blame your team for bad results. It is easy to say you have run out of time to do user testing.

I think that students often avoid responsibility because they are insecure. They are insecure about their results. Well, here is the thing. It really doesn’t matter if a design decision turned out to be wrong. What is more important as a student is that you made a conscious decision which you can justify. I think what separates mediocre and great students is being intentional about design decisions.

It doesn’t matter that you feel your project failed. You are at school to make mistakes. Most portfolio visitors understand that. The trick to dealing with “failure” is showing you have learned from these mistakes. That’s why I always recommend to include a personal reflection on your project page. Embrace the learning process. Reflect on what you learned, what went well and what you will do better in the future. That’s how you can turn failure into something positive.

Whenever you will get a full-time job, you can’t avoid responsibility either. You will be accountable for the work you deliver. Taking responsibility is a skill. Recruiters look for that in a portfolio. Your portfolio’s visitors don’t care about your excuses. They care about results. Good or bad.

So take responsibility. Take responsibility for every part of your project.

Take responsibility by showing that you were in control of your design process, not your teacher. Focus on the design decision that you did make and explain your personal arguments. Write about your role within your team.

Take responsibility by showing that you were in control of your design process, not your teacher.

How do you present multi-disciplinary team projects on your portfolio? This can be a challenge. You have contributed to the final product, but the product wasn’t possible without the help of the others. How do you take credit for your work while staying transparent about your personal contribution?

Thinking about product and process as two separate page sections can really help to tackle this problem. The product section is dedicated to show the final team results. Here you can include the type of material you presented during your final presentation at school.

Think about product and process as two seperate page sections.

Even though you are showing a product that will probably never see the light of day, make it look real. Present your product as a real product and aim for a professional level.

Whereas the product is about the team, the process section can be more personal. While guiding your visitors through the design process, you can focus on your personal contribution. You can highlight the work you did to help the team. This is how you can stay transparent about your role. Don’t show all the industrial design renderings and the decisions behind those, if you didn’t work on this.

Hopefully you collected a lot of documentation material during your project which enables you to explain your process in great detail. I think that as a student you are in a unique position which you might take for granted. You don’t have to worry about non-disclosure agreements. It is super easy to document your process. Make use of this. Have your camera ready at all times.

© 2020 Martijn van den Broeck
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