How to Make a Portfolio: 5 Tips for Telling your Story

The video above was produced by Newschool of Architecture + Design (NSA+D)to help educate their potential applicants on how to make a portfolio for graduate submissions.  Not only is it a fun and useful guide, it is an example of great marketing.  (It certainly made me want to create something beautiful and apply.)  You will want the same, positive reaction when someone reviews your portfolio.  Whether you are applying for graduate school or a new job, the following 5 Tips will help you create a portfolio that communicates who you are, what your passionate about, all while showcasing your skills and helping you stand out: 

1.  Tell your story.

Ask yourself - is it easier to remember facts or a story?  Sure, it is important to select projects that will showcase your talent and creativity.  However, if you want to be remembered, then you will need to tell your story through the projects you include.  Select projects that tell the story of who you are and why you are the designer you are today.  "Focus on what made you realize why art & design (or Landscape Architecture) are your way of life..."   

2.  Less is more.

Be selective.  NSA+D recommends that you only include 5-10 projects or designs in your portfolio.  Make sure they relate to your story and tell what it is that you are most passionate about.  If you do not have a large body of work, then think back to anything that you have created.  They note that, "anything that springs from an idea can be considered a design."  Which of your designs are you most excited about?  Include them.

3.  Let your designs speak for you.

Once you have selected your designs, include anything that describes the core idea and how you arrived at the solution.  Include things such as: inspiration images or quotes, hand notes and drawings, concept sketches, and even videos.  Include whatever you think will help "tell" reviewers about your creative process - what you have done and what got you there.  

Again, less is more.  "A few carefully selected images work far better than pages and pages of low quality pictures"

4.  Your portfolio is a design.

Think about your story and how you want to package it.  Choose a format that fits your style, exhibits your work best, and reinforces your story.  If you need some inspiration, Jennifer de Graaf has some great resources posted here, here, and here.  You can also find some great examples on dribbble and behance.

5.  Have fun.

Above all, relax and have some fun.  "This is the best way that your portfolio will tell your story." When you do, your personality will come out and your story will be remembered.  You know the saying... "Love what you do.  Do what you love." So... what are you waiting for?  

Hope this helps!  Feel free to leave your lessons learned and tips below...  

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Comment by Andrew Spiering on July 7, 2014 at 12:14am

Thanks, Charu!  Let me if there are any other resources you would find useful.  Good luck on your Masters interview!  

Comment by Charu on July 3, 2014 at 12:04am

This is a very interesting article. Totally going to help me make my portfolio for masters' interview.............

Comment by Andrew Spiering on May 23, 2013 at 2:50pm

@Laurent - Cool, right!?

Comment by laurent pamela on May 23, 2013 at 1:32pm

Well done!!!

Comment by Andrew Spiering on May 22, 2013 at 3:04pm

Hey Jose, totally agree!  Makes you want to get creative, right? 

Comment by Jose Garza on May 21, 2013 at 6:54pm

This is a very cool and innovative way to get the point across. 

Jose

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