Purpose of the Portfolio
A portfolio can be described as a compilation of your work, carefully curated to display your skills, talents and character in the field of architecture.
An Architecture portfolio can be put together in many formats, including a physical paper book or file, a digital pdf, an online access portfolio, or in some cases even video.
In this guide we will look at all the aspects of an architecture portfolio and take you through the steps to create the most effective awesome portfolio.
Different uses of the portfolio
Beyond study, the architecture portfolio is used as a tool to gain employment, and in many cases is given more weight than a CV or resume. The portfolio is vital in giving potential employers a view of your work, your skills and your character.
You will not only be judged on the content of the portfolio, but the portfolio itself. Make sure the design of the portfolio is well thought out, clear and well put together – this is an opportunity to use your creativity, but don’t get too carried away.
The two types of portfolio
There are two types of portfolio used when searching for employment. The first is what I like to call the introduction portfolio. This is usually a two to five page portfolio that is sent with a CV or resume and covering letter when applying for a job. This introduces the potential employer to you, gives them a small flavour of your work, with the hope they will like what they see and invite you to an interview where you can take your full portfolio for review. Never send a CV or resume alone, I would always encourage you to include the introduction portfolio.
The full portfolio features more of your work and is an opportunity for you to show the potential employer your varied skill set, the projects you have worked on, your talents and strengths and so on. This is the portfolio that you would present at interview.
It is worth mentioning that in order to give yourself the best opportunities and the best chance of success, it is advisable to tailor your portfolio for the different practices and firms that you apply to. Having a one size fits all approach will often be pretty obvious to the potential employer, you need to show them that you are really interested in the practice, and that you would fit right in.
Building the portfolio
Who and what is it for?
When creating your portfolio the first thing to establish is ‘who is it for’? What is the purpose of the portfolio? Study the company and the role they are advertising. What are they looking for? Be clear at demonstrating the skills and work that reflects their requirements. If the practice work in a specific sector that you have some experience in, be sure to include that project to demonstrate your knowledge. If they are looking for someone to carry out conceptual work, be sure to include that in your portfolio.
First gather all of the visual content from your past projects and start specifying what is relevant to the portfolio. Look at including a variety of work, from sketches to renders, but only include work you are most proud of. It is about quality not quantity. So if you don’t have any sketches that you think are worth showing, leave them out. Likewise, try not to over saturate the portfolio with one type of medium, try and show a good selection of work.
There are many categories that your work may fall under, some of which I have listed below:
- Architecture Design
- Urban planning
- Architectural Graphics and Representation
- Interior Design
- Other design work (graphic, product, etc)
- Small projects – extensions etc
- Collaborative or group work
- Realised projects
- Model Making
- Conceptual work
- Competition work
When selecting your work for the portfolio, you need to be pretty ruthless. Imagine you are judging this work as if you were seeing it for the first time. Pick the best and forget about the rest. Remember, your potential employer will no doubt receive a large quantity of portfolios to wade through, and its a time consuming process, so make sure you just include your best stuff.
When working on your introduction portfolio, remember that it will be glanced at for a matter of minutes or even seconds, so the projects you choose must have high impact.
The work you collect to include in your portfolio must be your own work. Sounds obvious, but it is important that you are clear on this. If you want to include someone else’s render of a project you worked on make sure you credit them for the work. Everyone knows that architecture is a collaborative field and it is rare that one person works on a project from start to finish with no other intervention. So be clear how you contributed to the project – for example, ‘feasibility study’, ‘prelim concepts’, ‘planning application drawings’, ‘technical drawing package for tender’, and so on.
Show the different skills you have by demonstrating them in a variety of projects you have worked on. For example, if you are a bit of a ninja when it comes to model making, get that stuff in your portfolio! Make sure you take really good photos that show the model off at its best. Or, if you spend hours sketching ideas and design processes, scan it and get it in there.
Don’t forget, you are unique, demonstrate.
Hierarchy and Structure
The structure of your portfolio is really important. Remember, first impressions do count, so make sure you show your best and more recent work first. Also make sure the last project is a good one too so that you finish on a high! Some say chronological portfolios are good as they show your progression and development. This is true, and I would argue that it works well for an academic portfolio, but for gaining employment I think you need to hit them with the good stuff first.
Some people suggest your portfolio tells a story. That is certainly a good option, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a chronological story. Consider how your portfolio would be viewed by someone for the first time.
Make sure you include a contents page if your portfolio is a good number of pages. It allows the viewer to get a feel of what to expect and navigate the portfolio quickly if they wish.
Information and Text
Make sure you provide information with your images, but keep it brief. In most cases there won’t be time to read through copious amounts of text – either the employer won’t have time, or you would be better explaining the project in person rather than reading the text from the portfolio. Stick to the basics:
- Project title
- Build Value (if relevant)
- Phase of design
- Software used
- Responsibilities on project
You could also include if relevant:
- Site details
Layout and Design
The layout and design can make or break your portfolio. It is key that the presentation is clear and uncluttered. You may have wonderful work, but if not displayed correctly they can be easily overlooked.
It is a good idea to create a template for your portfolio that has all the general settings. This will save you time as you put together all your pages. Try to go for neutral colours, and a simple background that won’t detract from your work.
Less is more…. I’ll say it again, less is more! Don’t overfill the portfolio with too much content or it will get completely lost. Let the images speak for themselves with lots of white space. Generally a minimal design that sets off your work is most favourable.
Make sure you consider the format of each page, using margins to give your content space, and a simple background. Consider proportion of the images and text.
When selecting a font, keep it simple, be consistent, and make sure it is legible. Check for typos!!
Make sure the images you use are high quality. Don’t use pixelated or out of focus images, it looks terrible and makes you out to be unprofessional – if the images aren’t up to scratch, don’t include them.
Once you have chosen and prepared your content for inclusion in the portfolio, you must decide what format your portfolio will be presented in. For the introduction portfolio, it is most likely you will be emailing or writing to the potential employer. So, will you send out a CV in the post with a print out of your portfolio? Or would it be better to email your CV and PDF copy of the portfolio?
Printed and PDF portfolios used to be a proper option in the past, but an employer will receive hundreds or even thousands of portfolio and CV requests. Your portfolio will be bound. You’ll spend a ton of money (professional printing) and time (design and travelling) just for being on the list. Do not be another candidate on the list, and show them how avid you are with an online portfolio. You will show not only your architectural skills but also marketing, communication and design skills.
Architecture + Marketing + Communication = SUCCESS
Do you want to show them your portfolio? Send them your online porfolio link, and you will know who read it, from where and how many times. Do you have that information with a printed or PDF portfolio? Do you??
You need to change the rules. Is your CV being sold or is the employer buying your talent? Is a different negotiation when a employeer sees your great portfolio, you know they saw it, and when they will call (because if they liked you, they will), you’re the one that has more information and will be able to negotiate better.
Order and neatness
Don’t forget, the portfolio will give your potential employer a good idea of what you are like as an architect/member of staff. Does your portfolio look sloppy? Could this suggest you are a sloppy worker? Does it looked rushed and last minute? Is it giving that impression of you.
Keep your portfolio neat, tidy and in good order to demonstrate how you work in general.
Don’t forget to create front page, or cover that gives a brief description of the portfolio, your details. For your introduction portfolio it is worth adding your contact details.
Length of portfolio
On a very developed printed or PDF portfolio you might be limited to 40-50 pages in A4. To me 50 pages are too much.
An online portfolio is much more powerful than a printed porfolio, because length is not measured in pages, but in links and deepness of the portfolio. You could link Revit families to several projects, jump from one project to another, relate to external publications…
Who cares about the length of the pages? Who reads 50 pages of portfolio in a row? Instead, how much do you like to deep dive into a portfolio from related articles and projects to other examples that help you understand the context?
Don’t forget that the architecture portfolio is representing you and your personality, make sure some of that shines through. Allow the employer to get an idea of who you are and what to expect of you should they decide to take you on.
Presenting your portfolio
So, you get the interview.
Make sure you know your portfolio. This is something we can easily forget to do. You may be asked in your interview “so, talk me through your portfolio” – be prepared for that.
Think of things that would be interesting to the interviewer. Perhaps a challenge with the project that you overcame. Mention a key feature about the project, or a particular element of the design you were proud of. Also consider things like client satisfaction, staying within budget and other factors that a business would consider more than personal design ego!
Speak clearly, make eye contact, be honest and be yourself.
You could also leave behind a copy of your portfolio, perhaps in a smaller format, as a little reminder. Again, this shows you are passionate about the job, proud of your work, and it keeps you fresh in their mind.
Building a portfolio is part of your brand. The portfolio is the 24/7 commercial agent that will be working for your firm or studio, while you’re designing new projects.
Now you already know how to create an awesome portfolio, let’s start with your own.
Open an Online Studio
Photo Credit: Gabriele Bertoglio, Mathia Skafte Andersen, Natalia Kozyra
Source: First in Architecture