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HOW TO KNOCKOUT A KILLER PRODUCT DESIGN PORTFOLIO TOGETHER

By Weaam Hassan Published in Product Design Journal

The best way to predict the future is to create it.
– Peter Drucker

I would advise reading my journal on HOW TO OVERCOME THE STRESS OF DESIGNING YOUR PRODUCT DESIGN PORTFOLIO before reading the practical steps I took to knock one out.

If you’re ready to get started in putting together or transforming your killer product portfolio then keep reading…

I needed to show how designing your product design portfolio can be stressful.  Especially when you have a busy life but it’s a tool we need to always have.

Your product design portfolio documents your professional background and technical skills as evidence that you can back up what you put on your CV.
It’s an innovative output and the employer will base their decision on hiring you from what they see on your CV and your portfolio.

We’re going to go through 14 simple ways that will guarantee to transform your average product design portfolio to an exciting, storytelling, detailed design portfolio.

If you haven’t designed your portfolio then this article will be of value to you.

Through time, you’ll begin to notice that your portfolio isn’t just going to be a collection of pretty images.

It will be much more- it’s going to tell a story.

I found the best way of doing this is to show how I did mine…

#1 CREATE AN EXCITING FRONT PAGE

The front page will be the first thing that recruiters and companies will see. It needs to convey impact, as so…

product-design-portfolio-front-page

The images that you will include in your front page will need to express Professionalism and confidence. A simple technique to capture this is by taking a professional photograph of yourself and placing it against some of your design work.

This way your readers will know that you mean business.

My front page is user friendly and easy to the eye. Nothing too fancy and nothing too over complicated. I composed it with three simple parts…

  1. Personal photograph
  2. Design work
  3. Headings

With this type of front page design layout, you’ll get your design companies’ attention at first glance. They’ll take you serious and will be intrigued to no more about you.

Which brings us to the next page…

 #2 INCLUDE AN ‘ABOUT ME’ PAGE

Following your front page; an ‘about me’ page in your portfolio is very important.

It will give the readers an opportunity to know a little bit about you as a person and what kind of product designer you are.

This shouldn’t be written as a biography. Instead write around 50 words that talk about…

  • Where you’re from?
  • What does design mean to you?
  • What’s important to you in design?
  • What excites you?
  • What type of designer are you?
  • What values you believe in?

Short and sweet with a photograph of you doing something creative. An image that says a lot about you, like this one here…

product-design-portfolio-about-me-page

By now your readers will have grasped what sort of designer you are, it’s time to show them your design work and skills that you mentioned in your CV. There’s nowhere to hide here.

Whatever you said that you can do on your CV; now it’s time to prove it.

Before you do, you’ll need to make your readers feel like they’re going to begin a journey. So a great way to introduce your design work is to create…

#3 A TEASER CONTENT PAGE

With a teaser content page you’ll get companies excited and wanting to click onto the next page and the next.

On this page you are only introducing your selected design projects, so don’t reveal a lot…

product-design-portfolio-content-page

When displaying images of your final designs; don’t show the full image. Zoom into the center of the design piece to add curiosity.

#4 PRESENT YOUR DESIGN PROJECTS IN STAGES…

Now you’ve introduced yourself and your work, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty part.

I know how it feels when you’ve got exciting design projects but don’t know how to present them in a portfolio format.

Even worse, minimising the quantity of your design projects.

I stayed weeks trying to figure out how to arrange and present my design work as a portfolio. I knew that every project needed to have its own purpose yet the portfolio itself needed to flow and feel weightless.

And this is how I did it:

I began introducing my projects like this…

product-design-portfolio-introducing-design-projects

I Included features such as:

  • A quality image of the final design model
  • A headline that grabs the readers’ attention
  • The highlights of the project
  • And any publicity it has been through

I then created pages that summarised the entire design project…

product-design-portfolio-project-introduction-page

I created the top section as an interview-  questions and answers about the design concept. Whereas the bottom section highlights the reasons and problems on why I initially created the design concept.

After introducing the project I then moved onto explaining my design process.

Selecting key parts that brought the concept together…

product-design-portfolio-ideation-phaseproduct-design-portfolio-ergonomics-development-phaseproduct-design-portfolio-visual-languageproduct-design-portfolio-testing-phaseproduct-design-portfolio-3D-printing-modelsproduct-design-portfolio-technical-insightproduct-design-portfolio-designing-for-assembly-phaseproduct-design-portfolio-presentation-materialproduct-design-portfolio-final-outcome-shotproduct-design-portfolio-context-shotproduct-design-portfolio-exhibiting-design-project

Then finally to wrap up the project, I included my presentation material, and fun photographs of exhibitions.

By organising your design projects like this you’re creating a journey. A journey that shows your readers your design thinking, your skills, your passion, and your problem solving techniques.

Your portfolio will not just be a collection of beautiful images of your design outcomes. Instead it will show your process and tell your story.

#5 SHOW YOUR DESIGN PROCESS THROUGH STORYTELLING IMAGES

Have you ever heard the saying of ‘a picture is worth a thousand words?

That’s so true when it comes to designing your portfolio. Your portfolio should have more images than text, because recruiters and companies will flick through it.

If they’re interested, only then will they thoroughly scan through it.

Every page of your portfolio needs to tell a story. For example this page of mine…

product-design-portfolio-design-development-of-egg-design

It’s got 4 images. For images that capture a glimpse of the design phase that I experienced. I could have put all my sketches, models, and CAD work on one page.

Instead I creatively selected the 4 that summarised that particular design phase.

Anyone can plonk together pretty photographs of design models. But it’s challenging to put a portfolio of images that has purpose and show a process.

I found it difficult to select the ‘right’ images for different pages. I had many choices but had to make the decision in the end. It took time, but it was worth it.

Selecting images from different design phases will work in your advantage.

Why? Because you’ll show creativity. You’ll show uniqueness. You’ll show quality.

#6 SELECT QUAILTY IMAGESproduct-design-portfolio-quality-images

As you have gathered, most of your portfolio is going to be made by images. Images of you designing and making, sketches, 3D models, prototypes, 2D visuals, CAD models, Presentation material and so on.

Selecting quality images will reflect on the designer you are. It will show that you have given attention to detail, and you can deliver quality work.

However, in my Dyson Glider design project I have a few blurred photographs like this…

product-design-portfolio-photos-for-evaluating

They are like this, because it was part of my story, which was designing with a low budget. You see, I knew that they weren’t quality images, but I still included them.

They’ve got purpose. They were part of my ergonomic observation phase. I didn’t have a fancy camera but I did have a smartphone.

#7 STICK TO A USER FRIENDLY LAYOUT

As designers we believe that the heart of our designs is our users. You need to also think like this with your portfolio.

Remember your portfolio is another design project.

So making it user friendly will allow companies to go through it with ease. You don’t want companies to get confused and move onto the next designer’s portfolio.

Instead, you want them to focus and look at your design work. You want them to follow each step that you went through. You want them to understand how you think and what made you think that way.

Here is a rough drawing to help you with your layout…

They are like this, because it was part of my story, which was designing with a low budget. You see, I knew that they weren’t quality images, but I still included them.  They’ve got purpose. They were part of my ergonomic observation phase. I didn’t have a fancy camera but I did have a smartphone. #7 STICK TO A USER FRIENDLY LAYOUT As designers we believe that the heart of our designs is our users. You need to also think like this with your portfolio. Remember your portfolio is another design project. So making it user friendly will allow companies to go through it with ease. You don’t want companies to get confused and move onto the next designer’s portfolio.  Instead, you want them to focus and look at your design work. You want them to follow each step that you went through. You want them to understand how you think and what made you think that way.  Here is a rough drawing to help you with your layout…

I switched page templates to create impact but kept the same overall layout. By doing this it makes your portfolio as one piece of work.

I created my layout this way to keep the enthusiasm going from one page to another.

I also included larger images as well to create impact…

product-design-portfolio-large-images-of-designs

#8 KEEP A UNIFORMED COLOUR THEME

I chose purple, navy blue, a light and a dark grey shade for my colour theme to match my website. I wanted to show companies and recruiters that my website is an extension of my portfolio.

A minor detail as colour selection can make a huge impact in your portfolio.

You can use it to break up your pages; you can highlight parts that you want the reader to focus on instantly. So it’s not just a bit of colour here and there. Like I mentioned earlier, every detail of your portfolio needs to have purpose.

If you haven’t got a website yet, don’t choose random colours to make your portfolio look cool. Cool isn’t enough. You need to select colours that portray you as a designer and that work well together.

#9 LANGUAGE AND KEYWORDS

Portfolios in general are heavy on images. However this doesn’t discard the fact that you write your headlines, subtitles, and text with no focus.

As detailed as your image selection is, you’ll still need to do the same with your words. Selection of words can create impact too.

You don’t want to sound like a robot and like the 90% that all sound the same.

Instead be yourself. Write in a humble and thoughtful way.

You want to be unique. Unique to tell a believable story that will grab companies and recruiters attention.

Here are a few keywords that I included in my portfolio…

  • Manufacturing
  • Prototyping
  • Sketches
  • Adobe Illustrations
  • Ergonomic observations
  • 3D modelling
  • Ideation phase
  • Visual language exploration
  • Design for assembly
  • Test rigs
  • User focus groups

And the list goes on.

Including keywords and talking in the same language as the design industry will show them that you’ve put the effort and done your homework.

#10 INCLUDE DESIGN WORK FROM HOME

product-design-portfolio-design-work-from-home

Including work that you’ve done in your free time will show your passion in a whole different level. This is where you show them real passion.

When I designed the Dyson Glider concept. It wasn’t about working towards a deadline. It wasn’t about completing it for a client. And it wasn’t about getting paid.

Instead it was about me designing and doing what I love.

You can’t expect to say that you’re passionate in design then as soon as the clients are gone, and there’s nothing in it for you i.e. degree, money and so on…

And still say you’re passionate.

Sure your design projects from home aren’t polished as the others. But they are still part of your story and part of you as a designer.

My concept design that I created at home with a low budget has taught so many things. It took my creativity where it hadn’t gone before.

Adding projects like this will add value to your portfolio. It will show real passion, it will show that you can think outside the box, and it will definitely show that design isn’t just a job for you – it’s a way.

#11 ADD OTHER CREATIVE SKILLS

We’re creative people!

So don’t be shy; show them the other cool quality stuff that you’ve made…

product-design-portfolio-including-other-creative-talents

Alongside designing, I also enjoy painting. So if you have another creative talent don’t hide it- show it!

#12 SHOW TEAMWORK AND COLLABORATION

Your portfolio is about your work, your skills, and about you, but a great way to show companies that you also aren’t a self-centred designer is by showing them that you’re still learning and growing every day.

After graduating in 2012 till today I’ve collaborated with many people. I included these two pages in my portfolio after my design projects…

product-design-portfolio-showing-your-passionproduct-design-portfolio-teamwork-and-collabarating

This kind of stuff will show companies that you’re humble and are willing to learn and grow.

# 13 REVEAL THE WAY YOU WORK AND THINK…

product-design-portfolio-showing-how-you-work

Show how you work!

Creating a diagram like this will show companies how you think and what you go through a design process. What makes you think that way and how you go from an initial concept to a detailed manufacturing design product.

Not only will you show them your skills through images, you’re also showing them what type of a designer you are. What you do and what you don’t do.

#14 WRAP UP…

A subtle way to end your portfolio is to create a ‘thank you’ page with your details on like this…

product-design-portfolio-thank-you-page

So if the reader is interested in you they’ll contact you via mobile or email. Thanking them for their time is just polite gesture.

Now you know how long it takes to create a knock out product design portfolio to land your design job you want. I know there are so many things to include.

But now you’ve got a clear direction and you’re portfolio will have purpose.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

I now have a strong CV with a killer product design portfolio ready to fire out to companies that I want to work with.

And so have you!

With this type of portfolio design you will present your work not only in a professional manner, but in a convincing way as well.

So stop panicking, gather your design projects together, and start building your portfolio now.

weaam-bio-photoABOUT THE PRODUCT DESIGNER

Weaam Hassan, passion in product design is focused on the human perception of beauty and interaction with the consumer. So not only must the product be pleasing to the eye, feel, smell, touch but also comfortable in the daily life of the user. She documents her journey in finding a job with an agency, while sharing the process of her product design work on her website.

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