PDC #1: Managing your portfolio should be easy and fun

The start to Portfolio Design Club, adding clients to your website, design systems, and some tools I love

Hi friend!

Welcome to the very first issue of Portfolio Design Club! Each week, I’ll share portfolio picks of the week to inspire you, cool design tools, and tips to improve your design portfolio, including a quick 5-minute tip for those really strapped on time!

Since working with many designers over the course of my career, I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with their portfolios.

For new designers excited to break into the industry, they become inundated with the mountain of platforms, tools, plugins, templates, programming languages, and resources at their disposal. For experienced designers, consolidating years of work becomes an extremely daunting task that is put off until the very last minute of job applications.

Personally, maintaining my portfolio has always been a struggle as well. I pour my heart and soul into my work and completely glean over the time it takes to create a case study out of my efforts. The night before an interview, I am frantically writing and designing my case studies, promising that I would never put myself in the same position again… to only repeat the same thing during my next application cycle.

With the rise of online education, I see a lot of portfolio courses presenting itself as a once-and-done solution. But really, for as long as a designer is designing, their portfolio is with them for the rest of their lives. It is a living, breathing artifact that follows us throughout our lives and provides more detail about our work - beyond what a resume is capable of.

In a way, a designer’s portfolio is both good and bad. While it takes a bit of effort to put together, when done properly, it can change a designer’s life.

And similar to other fields such as nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness, the cumulative effort defines greatness. Working on a portfolio little by little, week by week (or finding a duration that works best), is the most optimal way of capturing the essence of a project for everyone to see how brilliant the designer really is.

Portfolio Design Club was created to make the arduous task simple ✔️, fun 🎉, and inspirational ✨.


💡Tip of the week: add your clients!

An extremely easy way to add additional credibility to your portfolio. Typically see this in either the homepage or “about me” page. New designers may have just a few to begin with, but this list will quickly grow over time.

🏃 If you’re short on time (5-10 min): Write them out in a text list!

If the list is getting long, organize them by either featured clients/projects, industry, or project type (website, app, e-commerce, etc.).

Tip: Don’t forget to add your featured clients to your LinkedIn and resume too.

🕰 If you have a bit more time: Swap out the text for client logos.

Match the height of the logos and place them on a grid. Try grayscaling or using knockout versions of the logo to avoid having a lot of color on your portfolio. (Not that anything is wrong with a 🌈)

Tip: Link your clients to your portfolio pieces if you have those ready. Creating great user interaction includes interconnecting relevant links together. (Ex: every time Apple is mentioned, an opportunity to link to your Apple case study)

Examples to check out: Tobias Van Schneider (including writing, speaking, and judging panels), Fantasy (divided up clients by project type), my website (grayscaled and color on hover).


🍊 Picks of the week

Tobias Van Schnieder - Tobias is the founder of Semplice, Carbonmade, and MyMind.

MercuryOS - An ambitious project by Jason Yuan showcasing a beautiful OS. An interesting take on a case study posted on Medium.

Khan Academy Design System - Khan Academy’s design system by May-Li Khoe. Quite extensive, but notice how the writing is broken up into chunks.


🛠 Toolshed

Google UX Design Professional Certificate - Free-ish UX courses to deepen your learning. Skimmed through some of the course and the content is great, but does not beat real-world application.

Tip: I always encourage people to take on design projects within your community if you want to gain more experience + have work in your portfolio. Small ma & pa shop you frequent could use a website or upgrade? What about your local nonprofit? There are so many opportunities to do great work all around us.

Figma - This design tool has become the go-to solution for all things digital design. It’s what Google Docs did to Word (but Microsoft has caught up by making their tools accessible online). This product outshines both Sketch and Adobe XD.

Starting 4/21/21, Figma is making updates to their platform and limiting free account capabilities by a tad bit, but won’t make a huge impact on those creating files to use on their own.

Semplice - this is my go-to Wordpress theme for my portfolio... and frankly most of my Wordpress build. I absolutely love the editor and haven’t seen any other experience that matches the simplicity and effortlessness of this product. Best of all - it is a one-time payment.

Until next week!

-Steven