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Ultimate tips to make a 10-page portfolio that will get you hired
February 10, 2021 at 9:00 AM
by Sagar Oke
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The first time someone opens your portfolio, they swiftly scroll through it to get a sense of how well it is designed. For a recruiter, it gives them a sense of how much time they would spend reviewing your portfolio. If they see that your portfolio is too long for the time they have, they may just skim through most of the pages. They look for drawings that are able to convey the gist of each project. As an applicant, it is your job to hold the attention of the reader right from the beginning and one of the best ways to do it is having a concise portfolio with an engaging narrative. This is one of the most important things.

In my experience as a recruiter and portfolio enthusiast, some of the most memorable portfolios have been the ones that conveyed ideas in as few drawings and images as possible. If you’re able to communicate key design ideas for each project in one or two self explanatory drawings, the reader's focus does not drift away from your overarching narrative. Making a short portfolio however, requires good visual communication skills and a basic understanding of storytelling through drawings and images. And the process may take as much time, if not more, as compared to a full length portfolio. If you are planning to make a short portfolio, I would highly recommend you keep the following things in mind before you start.

What is a 10-page Architecture portfolio and why should I make one?

  1. In most architecture firms, portfolio assessment is the first step in a long hiring process. Considering the time that recruiters can spare for checking each application, it makes sense to make yours as concise as possible.
  2. If your graphic design and visual communication skills are good, you can make an appealing portfolio in just 10 pages. If you think this may require cutting out too much important content, feel free to define a minimum page limit for yourself.
  3. Let’s also remember that a short portfolio is not a set of thumbnails. Neither is it a jam-packed collage of all of your drawings. It has just the right amount of drawings to explain your projects. Treat it as an opportunity to exhibit your visual communication skills.
  4. Recruiters usually are used to reading 20-30 page long portfolios. A short portfolio allows them more time to go over each page and focus on your narrative. Here's a great example of a short portfolio made by a friend of mine.

Steps to make an Architectural portfolio

  1. Plan Your Portfolio
  2. Lay The Framework Of Your Portfolio
  3. Organize Your Project Content
  4. Keep Your Visual Tone Consistent
  5. Optimize The Text In Your Architectural Portfolio
  6. Have An Articluated Cover Page
  7. Fine-Tune Your Portfolio

1. Plan your portfolio

If you’re a final year student or a working professional, you already have a fair idea of the kind of offices you will be applying to. Based on that, make a list of projects that are most relevant to the application. The most important step then is to build a narrative for your portfolio. Spend some time assessing your own work and observe where your design priorities lie.

There may be a few common threads across most of your projects such as sustainability, material exploration, form making, etc. Use these to build a storyline/ narrative for your presentation. A strong narrative keeps the reader engaged while speaking to your personal design philosophy.

2. Lay the framework of your portfolio

With an overall narrative and a list of projects in place, the obvious next step would be to lay the framework of your portfolio. Having a page limit makes it more challenging but way more interesting. You may have just 1 page for your smaller projects and at the most 3 pages for larger ones. For instance, if 8 pages are all you have to display 5 projects, you may use a 1+1+1+1+4 format or a 1+1+1+2+3 depending on the complexity of selected projects.

It may look like a daunting task in the beginning but in the process, you’ll realize that every single image or drawing or piece of text plays a significant role.

3. Organize your project content

If you already have a longer portfolio with optimized images and drawings, you may be able to use some of those here as long as your narrative is maintained. If not, you’ll have to spend some time trying to explore both the medium and the method of representation for each project. Some projects may be best explained through a single axonometric drawing, while for some, a sectional perspective works best.

There may be projects where you would represent design development as a series of smaller images. Add placeholders for each image on your layout to get a sense of your final portfolio.

4. Keep your visual tone consistent

Let's say you’ve decided to showcase your projects through the lens of green space. For a clear visual narrative, with minimum text, you may want to use the color green to highlight parts on each page. Let’s also say that you show in each project how the human being accesses the green space. You may highlight this by showing vision lines in section or a pedestrian circulation in an isometric drawing. These elements of visual communication, common to all your images and drawings help you set a visual language for your portfolio.

Consistency in terms of colors, line types and styles, annotations, supporting text, etc. is key to making a great portfolio.

5. Optimize the text in your architectural portfolio

Ideally your drawings should do most of the talking. The text should just answer some obvious questions that may come to the reader's mind about the project. Here's how you should optimize the text for a short portfolio.

  • First of all, your project titles should be brief and they should give a specific idea of what the project is.
  • Secondly, the project description should be not more than 3-4 lines, written in a font size that is legible, but not too big.

Write in a clear and concise manner about how your design intervention solves one or two key issues in the project. You can make a note of project location, design team, floor area, etc. in a separate text box which is consistent for all projects. Try and maintain a consistent tone in your writing and prune your sentences as much as possible.

6. Have an articluated Cover page

The cover should be consistent with your overall narrative and visual language. If your portfolio has a title, it must fit the storyline well. You may choose to add the ‘about me’ page in the beginning or in the end, but be sure to include your name, a brief bio, contact info, and CV. You could add a link to your long portfolio or website for readers to check out your work in detail. The bio should speak more about your personality as the CV already talks about your work experience and accomplishments.

7. Fine-tune your portfolio

Once you think you have all the elements in place, print your portfolio on separate pages and spread them out next to each other. When you keep working on digital media one page at a time, you may lose sense of structure by the time you think it is ready. Don’t be afraid of going back and forth if you have to, in order to thoroughly clean up the layouts, text sizes, white space, image resolutions, so that your portfolio design is consistent.

Once complete, you could use a printed version of your 10-page portfolio as a booklet to carry to professional meetups, conferences, or interviews. The beauty of a 10-page portfolio is that it gives you a peek into your personality as a design professional. Treat your portfolio like your most important design project and you'll be a hundred steps closer to getting hired by your dream office.