Reposted from Design is a Joke.
Ah, the portfolio website.
Like a handshake, it’s the first impression you make on any potential employer.
It’s rare if not downright unheard-of for a job not to request a portfolio on an application (Yikes, that was a weird sentence with a double negative. I’m not that good at writing; this is why I’m a designer!)
With new innovations in front-end web technology, animations, and increased expectations for user experience across the industry, the portfolio has started to matter more than ever.
The stakes are high. If you are a young and attractive Swedish dude fresh out of school, and a hiring manager in the tech industry happens to notice your portfolio site and likes what they see, you could find yourself in a cushy product designer gig making $130k or more straight out of school. Please let me emphasize that this really only happens if you are a young and attractive Swedish boy. Think Alexander Skarsgård in his youth:
There’s a lot of competition to stand out, so that’s why I have made it a goal to redesign my portfolio every year. It shows companies that I’m staying up-to-date on current trends and lets me flex my skills. Plus, in Silicon Valley, if you don’t Have Goals and talk about them at every opportunity, then you’re actually not allowed to live here.
However, let me be clear that the main reason that I redo my portfolio every year is that I hate myself.
Before I get into that, let’s go deeper on “the why.”
1. To reflect on my learnings
Is “learnings” a word? Probably not, but I’ll use it here. What I’m talking about are lessons. Learning lessons that you learn by doing, which is what I do as a designer: learn by doing. I learn by doing what I love, and I love to learn. Actually, the only thing I love more than learning and doing is reflecting on my learnings and doings. It gets me so STOKED thinking about sharing all of my reflections!!! Some people think reflecting can be done alone on a personal level, but what I’ve actually found in this industry is that reflecting only counts if you talk about it at great length in person and/or on your personal or company blog.
2. To add new case studies for projects I’ve been working on
Old-school portfolios used to contain client lists, project names, and maybe some mockups or short summaries. New-age design portfolios have something we call “Case Studies.” You may think you have heard of “Case Studies” in other fields like psychology or law, but actually the design world invented them here in the Bay Area, much like “Product Design,” which is a field that came into being in the last decade, spearheaded by digital design leaders at Google and Facebook. The term “Product Design” has no history of being associated with the legitimate profession of designing actual products; that is a common misconception. In our line of work, people found that “mindless Adobe robot” was too reductive, so they came up with this completely new term “Product Designer,” and that’s what we’ve been calling ourselves ever since!
3. To get creative
As a True Maker, what I love most is flexing my creative muscles, which are the only muscles I can flex because I don’t really have time to go the gym before or after a full work day and 1.5 hour commute. Sure, I could use the nice gym in my office, but then I’d have to go back to my desk sweaty or with wet hair after showering, and that would ruin my Signature Look, which is to be very chill and put-together at all times. Plus, what kind of impression would that give if I acted like I had time and actually took advantage of company benefits like this?
4. To try out new trends
The field of web design product design is always changing. It’s hard to keep up! One minute, it’s all about SERIFS and the next, we’re back on SANS-SERIFS. You all remember the skeuomorphic days, right, when Apple had icons of a clock or a bookshelf that looked like actual fucking clocks and bookshelves? HA! HA! HAHAHAHA! Wow, what idiots! It’s so clear to all of us now that there should be no texture anywhere on any logo or element of any app or website. It’s all about minimalism, baby! Which is why my latest portfolio is just a white background with my name on it. I think it was probably Steve Jobs or Charles and Ray Eames (it doesn’t matter which) who said “It is always better to simplify than to add. Ask not what you can add but what thou dost taketh away.” That quote really resonates with me.
5. To drive myself fucking crazy
Lastly, and I want to be honest here, I redesign my portfolio every year because deep down in my soul, I want to drive myself insane. Like actually nuts. Whenever I start to feel myself getting comfortable or my anxiety starts to simmer down, then I know something is TERRIBLY WRONG. People keep telling me “life starts where your comfort zone ends,” so that’s why whenever I start to feel the least bit settled or happy in my career or life, I decide it’s time for a radical change. I head straight to Github and delete all of my portfolio code.
This is reminding me, I haven’t had a panic attack in several weeks, have been sleeping pretty well and am finally starting to feel at ease in my job. It’s probably time to start the miserable self-flagellation of redesigning my portfolio!