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7 everyday habits that save 50% of your portfolio making time
January 28, 2021 at 9:00 AM
by Sagar Oke
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We have all been through the perilous hours before a jury when there is too much to complete and too little time. Even if you plan it out well in advance, we often get so lost in the details, we lose a sense of time and our schedule goes for a toss. Sadly, it is quite evident in a presentation if parts of it have been put together in a rush.

In case of your portfolio, you can’t afford to risk it with deadlines and the quality of presentation. In a jury you still get a chance to explain your projects face to face, but a portfolio has to speak for itself.

If you know what architecture firms are really looking for in your portfolio, you can assess what parts of your portfolio should be given more time to work on. But there are a few things you could start doing today, that will save you half the amount of time. Before we jump to the list, let’s first see how you could prioritize your portfolio making time.

Everyday habits

‘Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) is a French term for having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc. before you start cooking. Pans are prepared. Mixing bowls, tools and equipment set out. It is a technique chefs use to assemble meals so quickly and effortlessly.’ writes Alice Henneman in her blog post on making meal preparation easier. Similarly, the following habits will keep you all prepared for and save your time in the actual process of portfolio making.

When I made my first portfolio, I made the most common mistake of prioritizing page layouts, text, colors even before all my content was in place. That cost me a hell lot of time, but helped me learn a simple rule - ‘the first thing you notice in a good portfolio is the last thing you should work on.’

When you scroll through a portfolio, the first things you notice are overall ‘look and feel’ and graphical consistency. As you read further, you understand the narrative, the content. Though the graphics are a hook for them, the recruiters will pay more attention to your content and narrative.

Make new drawings if you have to. See to it that your content aligns with the overall narrative you are planning to maintain. This will be a back and forth process. After you are done with this stage, you will have enough time to work on the page layouts, fonts, cover page, bio, and all things graphics. It is easier to align (literally and graphically) one or two such pages to the main content than the other way round.

How To Prioritize Your Architecture Portfolio Making Time

  1. Archive Efficiently
  2. Always Be Presentation-Ready
  3. Maintain A Design Journal
  4. Curate A Material And Component Library
  5. Scan Regularly And Edit The Same Day
  6. Click Good Pictures And Edit The Same Day
  7. Don't Skip Test Printing

1. Archive efficiently

Searching for that one drawing you saved ages ago which you need urgently can often get on your nerves. Your folders may be either too badly organized or too well organized to be easy to navigate.

Work out an easy system or hierarchy that won’t need decoding after 2 years; date-wise, format-wise, design stage-wise, as per your convenience. Also be specific with your file names. I recently made a switch to writing more specific file names as compared to the minimal approach I was following before, because ‘staircase railing option 1’ is 100 clicks easier to find than ‘20200606 str-1’.

2. Always Be presentation-ready

There will always be instances (other than your portfolio) when you need to access your files immediately for sharing. To save yourself the last minute hustle, it is always better to keep all your presentation-ready material for every project in the outermost folder.

For all the projects that are either complete or shelved, make presentation drawings, edit final photographs, compile notes etc. Do this at your own pace, but be consistent. Being presentation-ready saves a lot of your portfolio making time.

3. Maintain a design journal

As a personal habit, journaling has immense benefits. The same applies to a design journal. Whether it is hand-written or on cloud-based apps such as Evernote, a design journal is a collection of drawings, bits and pieces articles, blogs, books, etc. that you find interesting. It is like a pocket library you would refer to often, unlike a personal diary.

Your portfolio is a reflection of your designer self. A journal with your favourite write-ups and references is the best resource for you to build a narrative specific to your work and design priorities.

Make your journal as easy to navigate as your archive. When you sit down to make your portfolio, flipping (or scrolling) through will give you a sense of what design principles and ideas are the most important to you.

4. Curate a material and component library

Just like your design journal, develop a habit of maintaining an active material and component library.

Whenever you come across a set of blocks, components, figures, annotations, icons, silhouettes you may use in the future, save it in a well organised folder.

This may take an extra minute each time, but to search for that one component when you really need it, may take at least 15 minutes if it’s unorganized.

5. Scan regularly and edit the same day

If you’re a bit old school and still prefer sketching and doodling on paper, you must follow a scanning schedule. I regret having learnt this much later, so most of my drawings, sketches, notes are either scattered around in different sketchbooks or have permanently disappeared.

How much ever you try, you cannot replicate your first few sketches that formed the core design idea. Even the tiniest bits of notes you take while resolving printed plans by hand, are important (henc you made a note of it) and not worth losing.

You may use one of the scanning apps on your smartphone, but I would highly recommend buying a decent scanner as you’ll have a better control over the quality of images and editing. I use this habit to complement my journal by scanning images and text from books that one can never find on the internet.

6. Click good pictures and edit the same day

For your portfolio, supporting images play a major role.

Site visits, travelogues, process images, pictures of models, are great for narrating the process. If you’re not a pro, you could self learn them online; such as composition, lighting, exposure, color guides, and probably how to minimally edit the images in Photoshop.

If you have a set of unedited images from years ago, try and sort them out and edit the most

usable photos for your presentation-ready folder. If you do this well in advance, you will easily save a considerable amount of time while making your portfolio.

7. don't skip Test Printing

Your portfolio will be reviewed on various screen sizes and resolutions. If your text and images are too small, you are forcing the reader to zoom in and out on the pages. Also, if your images are too large, you may be wasting space that you could have used for additional information or as essential white space.

If you take a test print only when you’re almost done with your portfolio, you’ll be surprised at the number of pages you may have to re-edit. Working on a portfolio on your screen for long, distorts your sense of scale if you’re not used to it. Take test prints of your images, drawings, text that you wish to include in the portfolio while you’re editing them.

A hardcopy is the best way to gauge the scale of things. You then could set the right size of placeholders on your document and save a bunch of time scaling your images up and down. Portfolio making is a long process, be it a 10-page portfolio or a 100-page one. So, it is best to break it up into smaller tasks and optimize the time you spend on each.

These habits will not just help save your portfolio making time, but help you tremendously even as a working professional, especially if you want to avoid 11th hour hustle.