by Karthi Subbaraman

How to make a FAANG worthy portfolio? How should I think about case studies? How long should be the cases? How many cases should be there in a portfolio ideally? How many mins/seconds will my portfolio get from my recruiter/hiring manager? What makes a portfolio standout? Endless questions come to me in public forums, private coaching practice, our maker community, mentorship sessions and more.

The questions haven't changed in the past decade. In my view even answers haven't changed much.

Proof:

I gave this talk in NID Bangalore many years ago about UX portfolio 👇

Building great portfolios for designers
Evening spent with graduates from National Institute of Design, Bangalore to understand, what does it to make a great portfolio as a designer ! Timely discuss…

By wearing many hats in my professional journey (design manger, a design director, entrepreneur, consultant, investor, a design leadership recruiter, an educator and a maker coach) I learned a thing or two about maker life and our industry. Connecting dots backwards, a few things never change.

One is the designer hiring difficulty as a manager and the other is preparing your case for an organization you admire as a maker.

Here are my timeless tips for aceing your UX portfolio. You could make them timely depending upon your candidature and context.

  1. Design is both a noun and a verb. A good portfolio shows both sides of design in utmost detail. Going high on one makes it lob sided.
  2. Abundance >> Scarcity. Choose upto 4 worthy cases for your portfolio. Explain them in detail. You can include a TL;DR version to avoid cognitive load for the reader.
  3. Tell a story in each case. Every story has all the 4Ps at play. Talk about people, process, product and your productivity in that context. Accentuate the pain, glorify the villain,  celebrate the hero, make the reader see the context (not just tell), make them engage in your storyline (memmory lane), explain what went in your head and also explain your reflections after connecting all the dots. Starting from problem space, take the reader through the path into solution space. Stop at milestones and show how things proceeded. Above all include your learnings, gratitude and credits. In a lifetime we get to do only so many projects. Celebrate them.
  4. Highlight your authentic self. Speak about your role in the project. Showcase your strengths. Be honest about your weakness. They hire you for your competence, credibility and character. Showcase all of them in your portfolio.
  5. We are visual creatures. Make it visually appealing. Make it reader friendly. Think about your reader experience. If your send to a hiring manager, always send both shorter and longer versions. Every Ramayan can be told in 3 lines, 30 lines, 300 lines and 30000 lines. Give them a choice. It is a worthy investment to make a read-worthy portfolio.
  6. If you have only NDA related work, be authentic and share that you can't share much. Voluntarily take up a design task and make it easier for the hiring manager to assess your competence. Put one step forward showing that you are willing to go extra mile to solve the problem.
  7. Have your portfolio online. It should be one click away and available at all times. If nothing have atleast a Notion site. It is 2021 my friend. Large PDF files via dropbox or drive are hard to manoeuver and it doesn't work at all times (firewalls, security and more).
  8. Have a portfolio presentation deck seperately so that you can walkthrough specifics during the connect.
  9. Having a video embed has helped in assessing articulation and communication styles. Visual and Video are brain friendly formats. It always works when presented well.
  10. Remember your portfolio is a representation of your indisputable past. What you worked on is what you showcase in your portfolio. For your portfolio to be cool, work on cool projects. The project could be internal, from NGOs, side-hustles or startups. It is your choice. Choose wisely.

Remember there is no way to make your portfolio look cool without doing cool work. Storytelling, visuals, articulation and jazz can enhance it a little but the meat is your competence. You can't make a cool portfolio based on shitty projects.

Your career is your responsibility!

🥂 to showcase!