.: 17 February 2016 :.

Which Projects to show on your Design Portfolio

How did you decide which projects to show on your portfolio? Did you just show all of your projects? Did you show your most recent ones? Your favorite ones perhaps?

Regardless of your outcome, there is one thing I think you should avoid.Don’t start your selection process by looking at your projects. I think this won’t help you. It won’t help you mainly because you have an emotional connection to your projects which prevents you from making a rational project selection. The project you love is not necessary the project you should be showing.

Just because a painting you did means a lot to you, doesn’t justify it adding it to your portfolio.

Besides that, if you make the mistake of looking at your projects first, you will be tempted to pick your best work. However, because you were an excellent illustrator five years ago, doesn’t mean you aspire to be an illustrator next year.

The projects you did don’t necessary show what you want to be doing in the future.

So how to decide which projects to show instead? Define the person you aspire to be. Think about how you want to be perceived. Formulate the work you want to be doing. And write this down. In one sentence.

Once you have written down your goal, you can figure out which projects support this in the best possible way. Do you aspire to be an interaction designer? Start showing your interaction design projects. Do you want to be perceived as an icon designer? Show icons design projects.

Sure these might not be your best projects. But if you are afraid to show mediocre work you will never become excellent. No one will hand over interaction design work to you if they don’t know that you aspire to be an interaction designer.

If you are afraid to show mediocre work you will never become excellent.

Another thing to consider is how your projects are related. You are probably trying to show your diverse range of skills by showing very diverse projects. You show three app designs, one animation and three logo design. What you probably didn’t realize that you made an assumption. You have made an assumption that your visitors will see more than one project. Probably you are even expecting them to see all of your projects.

You have assumed that your visitors will visit all of your projects.

In reality they won’t. Your visitors won’t see all of your projects for two reasons. They are short on time and you show too many projects.

So instead of your projects combined, each project should be representing you by itself. If two different visitors see two of your projects, they should have a similar idea of what you are all about.

Instead of your projects combined, each project should represent you on its own.

So rather than focusing on how diverse your projects are, focus on how much they overlap. If you want to show your wide range of skills, consider doing it within a single project. For example, you might have some animation skills, but what if you don’t want to be seen purely as an animator? Don’t dedicate an entire project to a piece of animation, but include an animation to an existing project. That’s also how you can keep the number of projects low and put the focus on how you want to be remembered.

Rather than showing a range of skills between projects, show it within projects.

It only makes sense to think about your projects together if you can assume that your visitors will visit all of them. The truth is that you never can. What you can do is limiting the amount of projects.

Don’t be afraid to delete a beloved project. If you delete a project, the remaining ones will actually increase in value. They will relatively get more page views, will be remembered better and they might even be perceived as of higher quality. This is a great way to make your visitors focus on what is important to you.

Make your project selection represents the future, not the past.

© 2020 Martijn van den Broeck
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