Saturday , 19 April 2014

Portfolio Tips for Architecture Students

Your portfolio is a creative expression of you, your skills, your ability to communicate and a general self-promoting tool! It provides a brief snap shot of your talent and gives you the chance to create a great first impression. Therefore, you need to spend the time to get it right! There isn’t really much structure to this post – I’m just going to hit you with the tips! Take from it what you will, make your portfolio work for you and show everyone how good your are.

Format 

What format will you present your portfolio? If you are applying for a job it might be an idea to create an A4 portfolio booklet that can be emailed or posted that gives a flavour of your full portfolio. A1? Often you have to produce your work at A1 whilst at uni, which is all very well but a complete pain hauling an A1 portfolio from interview to interview, especially in the rain! (I’ve been there and its not fun!). So consider an A3 portfolio, it is also much easier to present in an interview. We all drag around the big black portfolios you can buy in art shops or Hobbycraft but will you go for the traditional portfolio style or try to come up with something different (covers and binding options)?

Purpose of your portfolio

Are you applying for a job, or trying to get into further education. Think about what you are wanting to show off. Do they need to see your development, or do you just need to wow them with your best stuff? Sometimes a chronological portfolio is really interesting as it demonstrates your growth as a designer, and therefore shows your future potential. However, some employers want to skip to the ‘here and now’ and just see your best stuff first. Think about first impressions!

Interview portfolio ideas

There are a few quirky things you can do to leave more of an impression on potential employers. Firstly, do you send out a mini portfolio with your application? Do you give the potential employer access to an online portfolio which you can link to on your CV. Do you create a mini website showing your work? This is a tricky one. I used to think that you don’t want to give the employer too much information as then they may not ask you for an interview and make their decision based purely on the images before them. So I always say, give them just enough to leave them wanting more. Show them a few snippets of your work that will impress them, then they’ll want to meet you in person – which is then your time to really shine.

So, you get the interview. Think about your options. Could you leave a booklet of your work behind so the employer can look over it again and refresh their memory? Or maybe a few samples. Perhaps you can leave them with a business card that then gives them access to your website or online portfolio?

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. In the past I have actually made notes about my projects and used these notes as a prompt in an interview to make sure I get across the key points of the portfolio. Don’t be afraid to do this – it shows that you are organised and passionate about your work, and the interview! Go through your portfolio and practice telling someone about your work, pick out some key features that you would want to discuss. Be prepared for questions you that might be asked about your work.

While we’re on the subject of interviews, I always found it was useful to take copies of any written references to an interview, and hand them to the potential employer. It was always received well that they didn’t have to ask for them, and didn’t even need to go off and photocopy them.


The Details

  • Make a plan. Have a look at your work and figure out what you want to show, how you want to present it, and get ideas of how it will go together. You want the portfolio to flow, so consider this first instead of randomly placing images and text to create an architectural muddle!
  • Keep it simple and clear. As always, don’t try to overcomplicate things. The bottom line is that people want to see your work, so make sure that you portfolio does just that – shows your work. If in doubt a few really good impact images are far better than a mish mash of ‘ok’ images. Think quality not quantity.
  • Try and include variety. 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.
  • Make it digital. I would highly recommend that your portfolio is digital and not an old school cut and paste job. It is so much easier to adapt a digital portfolio for specific interviews/reasons, and have different versions for different uses. You can also add new work easily, and take out old irrelevant work.
  • On a digital note – 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.
  • Quality and quantity again. Don’t forget you are trying to show your best stuff not as much as possible. If you did a project that wasn’t great or you weren’t particularly proud of, leave it out. Or just pick out the good bits. Say you did some great drawings of the site, but your design was a bit rubbish, just show the drawings!
  • White is alright. I have seen a few portfolios that have got a bit carried away with fancy backgrounds. I say, go white… or grey… or some light pale colour. The big old crazy backgrounds often detract from the images you have worked so hard to create. So, I’d say, white is alright.
  • Show a range of image sizes through the portfolio. Think about how the portfolio reads, if each page is the same it could get a bit boring.
  • If you have text on your pages make sure it is clear, a good readable size (12pt), and consistent. Maybe use bullet points or captions if you want to demonstrate particular elements of a project, or give a brief description. Whatever you do, don’t use too much text as it takes away focus from your images. I would say it is better to discuss the portfolio than chuck a load of text into it.
  • When putting your portfolio together consider: flow of presentation, range of images, portrait or landscape, size, binding, format, balance, variety, impact.

Many of the online portfolio sites are American and linked in with job boards and job searches so are not ideal, or there are some that are not free. I think that Carbon Made is the best option, it has a specific Architecture category, which many do not and it has good reviews and generally seems to be popular.

Go to Carbonmade

Or if you want to take it further you can create your own website very easily, and for free. Use WordPress for example, with loads of free themes, and its free if you are happy with your site to be yourname.wordpress.com. This option gives you more control in the look and feel of your online portfolio.

Go to WordPress

A portfolio is personal to you, and will only be as good as you make it. I haven’t included examples in this post as portfolios are so individual and formed by your unique work.

Another monster post, well done for getting to the end of it! As always, I hope this has been helpful, if you have any comments or additional tips that you think people will benefit from, please get in touch on our contact form, or come and see us over on Facebook.

Applying for a job – check out our CV Tool kit to help you create a killer CV.

CV Toolkit for Architecture Students

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