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Translating Your Design Portfolio Into Application Success

Translating Your Design Portfolio Into Application Success

almost 3 years ago by Julie McEwan

How to create a great Design Portfolio to ensure you get the job

As an Industrial Designer, your portfolio is vital to displaying your abilities in order to secure an interview, think of it as your shop window. As the old saying goes a picture paints a thousand words – therefore you need to be sure that it is the right picture.

Whilst researching for this blog I came across reoccurring views from within the industry to ensure your design portfolio creates the right impression and sufficient depth to increase your chances of a hiring manager wanting to meet with you to discuss you experience and projects in more depth.


It is important that the reader understands what the project actually is, without this appreciation they cannot judge your thought processes and reasons for making the decisions that you did. A description of the brief really starts the story and the graphics and photos that follow will make more sense if the concept is fully disclosed.


A bit like your mathematical sums at school it is important to show your workings. If you only display the finished article then this is all that you can be judged on. The hiring manager may not like the final product – for aesthetic reasons, materials selected etc, however if they understand the how’s and why’s of the process and why you made these decisions it is harder to be critical of end results. If the decision made was the only, or one of few options available, you will receive more credit and this then gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills in a variety of areas. From problem solving to mechanical understanding to material selection and the ability to provide a practical, working solution in budget and on time. If the project was unsuccessful or was only conceptual as part of your academic studies what went wrong? What would you do differently next time?


The portfolio needs to be well presented and photos/projects should only be included if they are relevant. It would be very easy to have many photos from different projects that display your skills in one regard, for example technical drawings, however how much weight does that present to your application? It is better to include one photo displaying this skill as part of the project story and decreases the length of the portfolio by removing unnecessary ‘padding’. The pictures and graphic used need to be of good quality in order for the products to be viewed and assessed properly but also to demonstrate your skills within this area of design.

Lastly it is important to demonstrate the product in environmental situ and being utilised by the end user. Demonstrating that you understand the human factors element of the design and that environmental concerns have been considered will only showcase your true understanding of the project and the impact it will have in the real world.


At the end of the day your portfolio is about selling you as a designer and not the products that you have worked on, therefore try to inject this into your portfolio. Hobbies and side projects can give the reviewer and idea about you and your design style so it is good to include them in a small section if applicable. Also, student projects can fit nicely here. If you are a new graduate and are looking for your first role use your personality to make your design portfolio stand out, after all your class mates will all be displaying the same group projects to potential employers so think about what you can do to make yours different. Innovation and thinking outside of the box are key draws, particularly in new start-ups, so make sure you capitalise on the opportunity to stand out.


As with any job application, it may be beneficial to tailor your CV and design portfolio accordingly. Research the company you are applying to and the products you could be ultimately working on – the job description will also give you many clues in this regard. Include details of projects that are relevant to this and display the skills and experience required. If mechanical design is a large part of the role then focus on projects that display this and focus on movement, interaction and motion – or if the company have a particular focus in one market sector be sure to include projects that coincide. Most importantly you want to instil an interest and desire to know more – therefore the only way for the hiring manager to find this out is to invite you to an interview!