Check out some great work from Alberto Villarreal.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in a product designer for an interview?
AV: I have seen tons of portfolios, and actually have been teaching some short courses on portfolio creation to students, and probably less than 5% of the portfolios that I review attract my attention. There is an incredible amount of portfolios that are not really attractive.
[ … ]
I want to find out how they work, how they think while they’re working, what are their methodologies, how they make decisions. I also like to see a wide range of skills. Some portfolios are very oriented towards one specific skill, like 3D modeling or sketching, but I think the portfolios that are more interesting are those ones that cover a wide range of methods. A person who can do research, but can also sketch and can make quick foam or cardboard mockups, and then jump into 3D and jump into CMF [Color, Material, Finish] specs—that, to me, is a really strong junior designer. The one who can really tackle a whole project from start to end. Then again, there are some portfolios that are very strong in one particular skill, and those ones also attract my attention because I immediately stop flipping through the pages when I see something amazingly executed.
[ … ]
I think there’s a balance between content and presentation skills that is important. There might be some people who have really interesting ways of designing or they may be great out-of-the-box thinkers, but if their portfolio is not strong enough visually, they’re not going to get attention from anyone. I think the first characteristic I’m looking for is strong visual impact, and then I look into content.
[ … ]
AH: What do you expect to learn from a product designer during an interview?
AV: I’m looking to see something new. I don’t want someone to come in and show me the projects I’ve already seen in his portfolio. I want to find out about his or her particular personality, learn about the person behind the work. I want to find empathy and I want to find knowledge. I want to find out if he really did the projects that he’s showing. I’ll probably ask some questions about the projects to find out if he actually was the one making decisions. Plenty of times we do group projects and people want to show those group projects in a portfolio, when their participation was actually very minimal. So I want to find out those things.
[ … ]
AH: Have you seen a portfolio recently that resonated with you? What about it stood out?
AV: I recently received a portfolio from a Korean designer that definitely attracted my attention…when I kept flipping through the pages, all of them had a very consistent graphic style that was attractive and contemporary. I’ve seen portfolios that are kind of outdated in style, font-wise and color-wise, and that tells me that maybe the person isn’t up-to-date.
This guy was a junior designer. His portfolio was very strong because he had a diverse range of products. He had everything from a wristwatch to home appliances to furniture and housewares—that was interesting. The quality of the projects was consistent. That’s important. Sometimes you see portfolios that have a few really good projects, and then there are a few that are so-so, and maybe one that’s not good enough. It’s very important that all projects show the same level of quality and that consistency is kept along the entire portfolio (using format, grids, etc.).
[ … ]