Arch Student Portfolios: My Top 3 Tips

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Commentary on Architectural Student Portfolios

Being that it is the time of year for architectural students to end their plight of crits, all nighters, model building, presentation making and the like, I felt I should give espouse my point of view on portfolios. I know that times have changed drastically since I created my first portfolio by hand with real photographs cut and pasted into booklet form when I applied to graduate schools. As a matter of fact, I was barely able to process my graduate school portfolio with a computer. The images would definitely look terrible now. Alas, times have changed. So with that, I will offer some advice as I am someone who actually gets to view quite a few portfolios for a small firm. I have this luxury due to my office being located in a town with some 1200 architectural students. Here are my TOP THREE items of advice.

Architectural Student Portfolios: Back in my day it was by hand.

Architectural Student Portfolios: Back in my day it was by hand.

1)    Quality over Quantity: Please do not put every last project from your undergraduate studios. I know and understand that each and every one of them took you a great amount of time and effort. But to be critically honest, they are not all worth display. It takes a critical eye to review your own work and scrutinize every aspect. Your ability to selectively edit your own work is important. You should be able to realize, as a graduating student, that your first year studio is not the best way to represent your current skills or talents developed since. Another items that often detracts from your portfolio is the “extra” stuff. If your non architectural work is not strong, if you even question it, do not include it. Self evaluation is a valuable skill. Prove that you have it.

The old hard copies of my past! Prehistoric  computing skills.

The old hard copies of my past! Prehistoric computing skills.

2)    Overdesign Does Exist: While it is very important to show that you can “design” your portfolio, there are issues that arise when it is over designed. Too much effort on the design of your presentation versus the actual content can also send the wrong signals. Be mindful of the way you put pages together. For example, make sure that images and text are legible when overlaid onto one another. Nothing says more than not being able to discern your imagery in an image focused item. It may not (read is not) necessary for your theme to invade every page of your portfolio. I was guilty of that in my day, but it is not the path to take. If you have a designed portfolio, it does not need to scream so, subtly is an art much appreciated by many an architect.

VISUAL CLARITY: Can you read the text ??

VISUAL CLARITY: Can you read the text ??

3)    Technology is Crucial: This is mainly one of my peeves. This one could be debated among all of my peers, but since this is my blog, I get my say! So please use technology to its fullest. One of the first queries I will make when someone inquires about a position is “Do you have a digital/online portfolio?” If that answer is no, well you already lost points in my book. For me, technology is important, and you can easily find that out about me if you spend 1.5 minutes on my website. So if you are unable to notice that, then I am already questioning your skills and perceptiveness. I want to hire someone who is on the leading edge of technology or at least well versed in current technologies. Come into my office with your portfolio on your iPad or tablet, not a bound hard copy. Play to my areas of interest. And yes, this does take some effort on your part as a seeker, but it will put you above your peers. But in the current digital marketplace, an absence there is a serious concern (at least for me). So be able to show me your work without me having to wait for you to hand me a hard copy.

The Old and the New: Use Technology

The Old and the New: Use Technology

So that is the short summary of a portfolio perspective from an architect who has only done his own portfolio a few times, but has seen literally hundreds. I am still at a loss as to how/why these simple elements are not taught as part of your college education. In my next post I will discuss the interview. And really that is the most important part….but hopefully some of this advice on portfolios will get you to that next stage.

 

– Andrew Hawkins, AIA

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