An Open Letter to New Designers

“New Year, New ______”. Fill in the blank as you so choose. How many of us have started off a year by challenging ourselves with this little phrase? What does this look like for many new designers? “New Year, New Website”? The ever-challenging piece that for some (myself included), is always on the list of things to do.

While this is a letter to “new” designers, I would say it applies to all of us out there trying to tackle this task. Below are a few pieces of advice for that new or updated portfolio site:

1. Make Time for Passion Projects

Passion projects and self-directed work are just as valid as any other project. Having a passion or niche allows you to represent yourself and the type of work you want to do. These self-driven projects stand out to me more than any brief that came from work or school. Let your skills shine.

2. Highlight your Talent

Leading from the point above, make sure you showcase your talents and interests. It’s cool to see you worked for a hip design studio or Fortune 500 company, but truthfully, I would rather see you have worked on something that made you excited and made an impact, something that interested you and you can gush about. You can tell when there is passion behind a project or not, so try and include some diversity.

3. Landing Pages

Make sure your landing page packs a punch. After all, this is the first point of contact and will be the page that keeps me interested to continue through your portfolio. Those first initial seconds are there to hook your audience - make it count.

4. Number of Projects

I get asked this a lot, and I still don’t think there is a “right” answer.

I’ve heard a handful of responses: “It’s 6”, “No more than 9”, “Only show 4, one from category x and x”, “If you’re a good designer, you only need 5”.

So my answer? There is no right answer. Show what you want. There isn’t a perfect number. Show what you are absolutely the proudest of and what you want to be hired for. If you don’t feel confident about it, don’t let it make the cut. 

5. Personality

We’re real people on the other side of the screen, and you are too.

Let that part of you stand-out. Adding a bit more depth to your personality and showcasing who you are, what quirks you have, or things you enjoy never hurt - it helps us connect with you as a designer, and helps us to understand who is behind the work that is being presented. Credentials are great, but what else is there about you? 

6. About Page

This one, next to your landing page, is so important. And I can guarantee I am visiting this page no matter what. Make it count, and don’t leave it unforgotten, go beyond the resume format. Your work is important, but so are you. 

7. To Process Work, Or Not?

Who doesn’t love a bit of behind the scenes? Truth be told, I am guilty of forgetting to document my process and showcase this aspect, but it’s so valuable. By no means do you have to include it for all projects, but it’s a great way for us to see how you work. If you don’t want to include it online, bring some along, or share some in an interview, it’s fascinating to see how you got from Point A to B. Let us into that brain! Process is some of the most fascinating work we do, and there are typically a lot of untapped ideas in there that are fascinating to see.

8. Take this with a Grain of Salt.

Like everyone, we are all opinionated. Everyone is going to tell you a different way of how things should and shouldn’t be and this is just one designer’s opinion.

Try it out, and if that doesn’t work, try something new. 

We love to chat here at Drew London, so if you ever want to reach out for a portfolio review, or even a catch-up, don’t hesitate to let us know. 

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