The architectural portfolio is the greatest tool in the hands of a student or a professional architect to present themselves and their work to potential employers, clients or tutors. Whether you are applying for a job, or want to build up your academic and professional career, there are some golden rules for organizing your work, present your skills and stand out from the crowd in the demanding field of architecture. Always keep in mind that the portfolio is the reflection of your character, your attitude and your view of the world, so just be yourself and follow some simple tips to get the best out of it.
1. Listen to the audience
The first question you should ask yourself before starting organizing your portfolio is “who is the audience?”. If you are applying for a position in an architectural firm, do some research online. Try to find out what is the field of their projects (landscape architecture, residence design, internal design) and adjust accordingly. Highlight the projects that are more relevant to theirs and focus on the ones that you think can add a new perspective to the firm. Show them that you have understood completely the role you are supposed to follow but you also have to offer a fresh and innovative point of view on design and architecture.
2. PDF or Online portfolio, Which one is better for you?
Although creating your portfolio on an online template can be much easier and fast, PDF is the option to go. Sometimes servers crash, navigation in the site can be complicated and the recipient can easily become frustrated and move on to another applicant. PDF functions on every device, it can be easily downloaded and you don’t need internet access to read it. Moreover, you have complete control of the appearance and the formatting of your work and also an advantage of promoting your graphic design skills instead of using ready-made templates. Just make sure that your file size is no more than 5MB so that it can be sent with every mail service.
3. Create an appealing CV page
It is usually the first page of your portfolio so it has to make a good first impression. Choose a proper professional photo of yourself and stick only to the relevant and necessary information about your education and work experience. In this era of globalization with companies expanding their projects abroad, knowledge of foreign languages is highly appreciated, so don’t forget to mention them, as well as your computer skills concerning design and architectural programs that you can easily use. Being an architect is a combination of our personality, our gained knowledge through education and experiential processes in our everyday lives. If you are interested in photography, traveling or other hobbies in your free time, try to include them to give an overall view of your character and interests.
Read more: 30 Best Resume Templates Free For Architects
4. Select your best projects
Sometimes we fall into the trap of presenting every single project we have ever done, from the first year of architecture school to the last sketch, we made for a friend’s friend. This not only leads to endless portfolios that require valuable time to read but also shows a lack of self-evaluation. Take a moment and select up to 8-10 of your projects that reflect best your work and skills. If you have doubts about a project, its results, or you think it doesn’t suit the firm’s profile, leave it out. In case you want to focus on your evolution through the years, try not go back further than 5 years and make a wise selection as well.
5. Less is more
Keep your portfolio as simple and short as possible. Long presentations and texts tend to exhaust and confuse the reader and distract them from the main purpose: to create a brief image of your personality and skills in a short time. Usually, firms don’t spend more than 1 minute on each portfolio, so make sure that in this time they can get the best out of your work and experience. Give them a general idea of each project, some clues about the design problem, process and final solution, using minimal readable text accompanied with relevant pictures in high quality. The less they need to read to understand your ideas, the better. Instead of analyzing thoroughly every step of the design process, label the images with short comments that show your intentions followed by the visual content.
6. Include team projects, it’s important!
Although a portfolio is a very personal presentation, it is important to show that you can work as well in teams. We all have participated in projects that require team work and interdisciplinary relationships. Being communicative, flexible and contributing to the team with a specific role given, is a highly appreciated skill in big firms and companies. All you have to do is name the project, give credits to the other partners and focus on the parts of the project that you completed on your own. Whether it is just a technical drawing or a solution to a functional problem, your personal contribution has to be highlighted as a valuable factor.
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7. Pay attention to fonts and grammar
The text might be minimal and short but mistakes in spelling and grammar are easily spotted. Always use a spelling and grammar corrector before submitting your portfolio. Your designs and ideas might be great and innovative but a misspelled text looks unprofessional. Try not to overdo it with font styles, or you will lack consistency and order. Choose among 2-3 fonts (Comis Sans is forbidden!) and adjust sizes to emphasize where you need it. Variety is fine as long it does not compromise on clarity and legibility.
8. Use your drawing skills
Using technology in the design process is essential and always required in job positions. Renderings and 3D representations give us an overall view of the final result and a variety of options on materials and surfaces. However, being able to communicate through quick sketches and drawings is still a necessity. So, if you are good at sketching or model making by hand, don’t hesitate to include it in your portfolio. It shows your ability to understand basic concepts and ideas, communicate it to your colleagues in short notice and it also consists a medium of quick problem-solving competence.
9. Don’t be afraid of blank space
The presentation of your work is as much important as the content. Overloaded portfolios with images, texts and renderings are usually doomed to be ignored. It is preferable to have more pages with less content per page than use every inch of your page to fit everything in there. Keep your background clean and don’t use a distractive color that will take the attention from your projects. White or light gray is a good option to go. Try to maintain a consistent format with logical section breaks that will give your images the necessary space to “breathe”. Following a system and geometry throughout your portfolio will give a good impression for you as an architect. Imagine the design of your portfolio as an architectural synthesis: proportions, geometry, aesthetics and function are important factors of the design process. Always think quality, not quantity.
10. Update frequently
The portfolio is a living document and it should be evolving as the architects evolve with every new project and with the challenges they have to face in their professional field. A good option is to update it every six months or at least yearly. Waiting longer tends to allow for work or documentation to go missing. Keep your projects organized and be prepared for every job opportunity that you may come across.