Your Portfolio is More than Project Work

We all want to stand out as unique designers while at the same time hoping that our portfolios will be accepted as meeting expectations, right? We hope that our portfolio is good enough gives the right number of samples, contains all the needed information, and projects professionalism. In the last post, I challenged you (and myself) to do more hand drawing as that seems to be one thing that is often lacking in Landscape Architects’ portfolios (and hand-drawing is one place where your work is never just like everyone else’s).

Consider this: if we as designers accomplish the expected professionalism, samples, and information, but nothing more, how are we really going to stand-out and make ourselves memorable? I can’t answer that question for you – each of us is unique – but sometimes what makes us unique is exactly the answer…

…especially if it seems not to fit with what anyone else is doing.

Take a few minutes to check out these three online items, maybe you will find a nugget that helps you answer this question for yourself:

Interview with Mandy Aftel. Ms. Aftel is a perfumer whose career took an interesting path. Of course the lack of abundant work in Landscape Architecture has forced many of us to consider other options, even if only temporarily. I used my professional skills to get temp work in healthcare for a while, and a colleague of mine has re-invented herself as a marketing consultant by re-thinking portfolio materials from her work as a Landscape Architect. Whether you are thinking about going on a career tangent or not, I think the interview here is worth the two minutes it takes to read. Consider also how a career tangent can come back and affect your current and future work as a Landscape Architect.

Work Smart: Overcoming Consensus Video. It is only a minute and a half long, so give it a look. Scott Belsky is the CEO of Behance (that online portfolio site some of you are using).

Architects Dressed as Buildings. (at 1931 Beaux Arts Ball). Okay, this one is mostly for giggles, but there’s a point. This 32 second goofy little video shows seven architects portraying the buildings they designed (they’re listed on the left). They’re having a good time being dorky. My point? While getting a job and building a career are important, and designing a really smashing portfolio is important to that process, it is also critical to like what you do and to want to keep doing it. Have a bit of fun. Don’t let all this important stuff make you into a somber, super serious, boring person (nobody wants to work with those people anyway).

So we as designers must look for the aspects of both ourselves and our work that makes us stand-apart from other designers. We must pull together everything we need to solve the design problem of how to demonstrate that we are smart creatives, desirable employees (or someone clients want to hire), and people who bring more to the table. In doing so, at least have an idea of what it is that does make you different and what the value in this is.

I read through the discussion threads on Land8 and usually see a lot of negativity about the lack of work, lack of respect, and so forth. I understand the desire to vent, I really do. However, it seems to me that the easiest and least expensive thing we can do (even cheaper than sketching!) to advance ourselves as design professionals is to like what we do and demonstrate that in our attitudes. We must spend time figuring out what it is that makes us different from our colleagues and demonstrating it in how we present ourselves and our work.

When a prospective employer or client visits your Land8 profile and reads some of those same discussion threads, what kind of information will they find linked to your name? Is that what you want them to see?



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