Make an impression the right way
When submitting an application for a design position - focus on time. Not your time but the time of the person who’s looking through your application. I have hired junior, mid and senior designers, interns, interaction and visual designers and the one thing in common is the small amount of time I have to look through applications.
Design jobs are really competitive so each position gets a lot of applications. If I have 100 applications to look through, I might only spend 2 minutes on each application. Do the hard work to make my job easier and make your application stand out.
Start with content
As a designer, I know its tempting to jump straight into the design. Don’t. If you are putting your portfolio together, start by writing about yourself and your projects.
Your best chance of making an impression is in how you communicate your work. Craft your words first. It’s the most difficult and important part of any portfolio. The visual elements like layout and colours need to fit your words, not the other way around.
Make what you write easy to read
If you only have 2 minutes to make an impression, make sure what you write is easy to read. There are plenty of tools out there to help you write better like Hemingway App and Grammarly. The more time you spend writing, the better you’ll become at explaining your design work. Don’t use big words you wouldn’t normally use or bore me going on about your design process and how you use the double diamond.
I know it sounds terrible, but a spelling or grammar mistake can really taint my impression of somebody. If I come across a mistake in the little time I spend reading an application, it comes across really badly.
Good designers know how to take away what isn’t necessary to communicate their message simply. Reduce the distractions in your application.
A lot of designers think they need to show every project they’ve ever worked on. Believe me, it’s better to clearly communicate 1 project then badly communicate 5 projects. Try to only show your best work. If you are going through recruiters, they might ask you to show more work. Try and stand firm if you think that two or three projects show off your skills best.
Have style and taste
So many portfolios I see try and grab attention in the wrong way. Big vertical headings that no-one can read. Navigations that slide over body copy. So much animation it feels like a 90’s powerpoint presentation. Stop with all that shit and get your message across with style and taste.
I get impressed with subtle use of colour, typography with good rhythm, and well crafted content. Good designers notice style, however subtle.
Know your audience
Research the organisations you are applying to. See what they write about in their blog and Twitter. This will give you a better idea of what they are looking for. I care about accessibility so if I have time I might dig into the code of a portfolio to see how it was built. If I can see good, semantic HTML and some use of progressive enhancement, that’s a big tick in my book.
Being able to explain your design work is the most important skill a designer has. So the ability to do that will always trump anything else you do in an application.