This week I am sharing a series of posts to reach design candidates in far-flung corners of the Internet to fill this UX/UI designer role at Mozilla Foundation, and to improve the quality of design candidates everywhere! Check this post for a listing of all the topics as I post them.


I set out to write this for designers building their own portfolios, but a lot of this advice could be handy for other types of websites too. Much of it is familiar material for seasoned designers but I imagine myself as a young graduate and this kind of thing might have been helpful as a checklist. So here goes.

The basics

  • Show the work, don’t hide it on an interior page. Make it your homepage, even. It’s what I came to look at so make it easy to get to. Also, you don’t need to fancy-up your work by photographing it on screens and at an angle. That makes me think you’re not confident that the work can stand on its own. Just show it, full-resoluation and with live links if you can.
  • It’s not terrible to use a template. I can usually tell when you’ve used one, and all that means is that I focus in a little more on the work (which is a good thing). Just don’t let the template design get in the way of your own designs. It should be neutral and quiet and if you’ve paid good money for it, it had better work on mobile!
  • Make sure all the links work. And don’t have ‘coming soon’ sections.
  • Don’t be too wordy. I won’t read most of it, so it’s a waste of your time to put it together. There is a true value in knowing the appropriate length of content for your audience and designing for them instead of for yourself.
  • Lay out what your role in the project was. Tell me if you did the illustration and copywriting, or just the UX. I’ll ask eventually and it’s better to be upfront about this.
  • Can you just make a pdf? Sure! As long as it’s easy to share with colleagues and meets some of the above criteria, I’d love to see your work in whatever form you can provide.

When choosing what work to include

  • Show your versatility. If you can design with many different styles, show me. If you have a hidden talent for designing logos in addition to your UI chops, show me.
  • Only show work you’re proud of.
  • Show your process; write a wee bit. Show sketches. So few people do this, it shocks me, and always stands out when I see it.
  • I think it kind of okay to show old work if you place it in context, i.e. clearly label it from 2010 and call out what still makes it special. The reasons I say ‘kind of’ is because it makes me wonder what you’d been doing between 2010 and 2015, and often the aesthetic is so out-dated that it is hard to assess generously. It’s your portfolio though, and your call.
  • How many projects? Somewhere between 6 and 12 I’d say, depending on the depth to which you show them. Show more if you’d like but make sure you’re proud of every piece.
  • What about work done under NDAs? I wouldn’t include them. They’re awkward. If you really want to show me you can screenshare during an interview but most of the time I’d rather skip the password and look at work that’s open.

About sections

Should you include one? Sure, I like to know a little more about who we may hire, but you don’t have to go into a lot of detail. I definitely think you should not include a picture of yourself. It makes me deeply uncomfortable to know that seeing a photo of an applicant might bring out some kind of subconscious bias I might have. A colleague of mine and I have talked about going a step further and eliminating names from applications to make them truly blind; I’m not sure how that would work with design applicants given folks’ personalized portfolios, but I’d sure love to see it happen eventually.

Blogs

Should you have one? Probably. How else do you think and share and communicate and work openly?!? Definitely not a requirement, but I like seeing the extra effort put into this when possible, even and especially if they are really short posts about things that inspire you or make you think. That said, blog because you want to blog, not because you want to back-fill an empty shell of a blog you pretended to maintain over 2014. I will find out eventually! You could probably substitute the word ‘blog’ with any other social media platform. Mostly for me this is about understanding your values and how you think.

Contact page

You don’t need one. Just gimme your email address, please.

Some inspiration

Lastly, here are a handful of portfolios I like pulled from recent grads at the University of Florida (my alma mater) and other rando professionals I like. Many of them break the rules I listed above but they do it so beautifully, with great content and some with impressive interactions.

Enjoy! Tomorrow – Frequently asked interview questions.