Following up on “design tasks”. Apparently a topic of great interest, because I can keep writing about it?
Both @michaelbierut and @markboulton (two of my design heroes btw) have this belief in the portfolio. We’ve had over 60 candidates for our jobs. Very few people have portfolios that show what we need: digital product design for desktop & mobile.
If we have to deny based on portfolio alone we would not be talking to many people. I wish there were more portfolios out there that clearly show what people can do.
But they’re just not there. Especially in the 0-3 years experience range. I recently saw a very good one explaining product design problems encountered and how they were fixed through considered design work. But this is an exception, definitely not the rule.
What you see is these very generic portfolios, where it’s very easy to either hide behind group work and have it be totally unclear what your role was in the end result. The hiring manager then has to dig to figure out what the designer can do.
This is why I favor seeing personal projects – at least it’s clear who made them – but an argument could be made that this exclusionary; it favors people with lots of free time to dedicate to passion projects.
What I also see is the same school portfolio over and over with the same tasks executed in a different way. School tasks are NOT a portfolio. Maybe your final assignment is a portfolio item, if it’s custom. It’s what you had to do to get your degree.
I would implore designers to only show the parts that they did, and to be clear about process. If you only did the onboarding of some huge application, show that, not the marketing screenshots of the huge app itself showing parts you did not even touch.
It’s extremely important that things are done by -you-. I would rather have a handcoded website that is simple than a SquareSpace template that is fancy.
I would rather have a custom icon that is not perfect than a design that shows usage of a popular icon set and thus no proof of any insight in icon design.
I would rather have a designer show me a feature they made in an existing context (90% of real-life design work), than think they have nothing to show for after a few years of doing practical UI design work.
You don’t need to wait until the whole app design is yours to put in your portfolio. You just need to be clear about what you did (and have permission to show that, obviously).
If this blog post didn’t scare you… we’re still hiring UI designers! Check out our jobs and don’t hesitate to apply and start a conversation.