This point was raised in a recent Slack conversation where we discussed whether UX designers should have portfolios:
When talking about recruiting for UX and asked about portfolios, the speaker said “all that tells me is that you are a UI designer who thinks they know about UX”
My unedited response:
Interesting point that one, I understand where they are coming from and why, however I don’t agree entirely.
I am generally in favour of having a portfolio on hand when discussing a role, however not in the Dribbble or a ‘polished final deliverable’ sense.
It’s more for these purposes:
- What were you trying to solve, and why? How did you arrive at that problem, or was it given to you?
- Discussing the work in concrete rather than in abstract; having something to point at
- Is design research threaded in all the way through; what core insights did you create around?
- Understanding the journey, the thought process, the rationale and compromises required to arrive at the final outcome
- Separating the work (outcome) from the team and the individuals having created the work
- Having a focal point around which to explain what you contributed vs. what the rest of the team did.
For me, the less shiny portfolio the better – I want to understand the intent, the thinking, the collaboration, and the way the users were represented all the way through.
Plus, behind the orderly scenes, everything is always really messy – because we are ultimately all human.
Update: I’ve come across a couple of related articles after the above conversation:
- UXfolio: I Reviewed 573 UX Designer Portfolios as a Design Chief, and This is What I Want to See In Yours (via UX Australia)
- Jake Knapp: Build your design portfolio around one awesome story (via Ben Rowe)
Whilst I appreciate the sentiment in each, both articles make the assumption that having your portfolio online is the only way to go. Yes it does make things easier in the earlier stages, however meeting in a cafe around a laptop can be just as powerful, if not more – it’s about the story and the telling.
Update 2: This tweet from Nick Finck is very apt regarding the original conversation:
Pro tip: If you’re hiring for a UX Design Manager (unless it’s a player/coach role) don’t ask for a IC portfolio. The good ones have been managing for many years & are not doing IC work, so don’t ask for it. Rationalize it however you like, but good talent will pass on the role.
— Nick Finck (@nickf) June 14, 2018