How to build a design portfolio
When you’re starting from scratch, it can be difficult to know how to build a design portfolio. There are seemingly lots of different pathways that you can go down, but also not so many. If you are still studying UX or UI design, you may feel restricted by the different projects in your coursework, each showing off a different skill or technique you’ve learned.
While these pieces are useful in that they demonstrate to prospective employers that you have mastered these design skills, they can sometimes fail to impress. The main reason for this is that, quite often, it was not you who came up with the topic or subject matter, and that shows.
Ideally when you’re building a design portfolio, the crowning element is to have an excellent design project, one that makes you not so much stand out from the crowd as much as jump out. Something that you’re passionate about. It’s here that career changers have an advantage.
When you’re starting out applying for UX and UI jobs, there can be that classic vicious cycle of “I need a job to start my portfolio / I need a portfolio to get a job.” However, it’s totally possible to create a design project that you’re confident demonstrating to hiring managers, and that will impress them. The secret to this is by combining your passion with your UX/UI design journey.
People automatically think that just because it’s something that they’re personally interested in, then it’s not of professional value. Now more than ever the opposite is the case—employers don’t want to just know what you can do, but also what makes you tick. That’s why the best UX portfolios and UI design projects are based around the designer’s passions.
The benefits are endless, from increased ability to show off with flourishes and the depth of knowledge you have about the project, to your natural enthusiasm when presenting it, to the simple fact that working on them goes quickly because of the sheer fun you’re having.
While this advice on how to build your design portfolio is particularly useful for those starting out in their careers, senior or more experienced designers can also benefit from introducing their passion projects to their portfolios.
About the panelists:
Weena Lee is a cross-functional game UX designer who currently works for Ubisoft Blue Byte. A CareerFoundry graduate, she is currently based in Düsseldorf, Germany.
A trained ballerina, NYC-based Rina Takikawa is also a UX designer at Qathena. A CareerFoundry graduate, she is also a Gen-Z speaker and co-founded Pawsitive, a social app for pet owners.
With a background in behavioural science, it’s no surprise that Clemens Overkott is now a skilled UX designer and researcher. He graduated from CareerFoundry in 2020 and is based in Cologne, Germany.