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How to craft a great UX design portfolio
Lizette Spangenberg
Practice Lead for UX & UI Design

How to craft a great UX design portfolio

Friday, 06 March 2020 07:35

In part one of this series we looked at a case study of my portfolio; in part two I’d like to answer some questions that I’ve frequently been asked before.

Illustration by Icons 8

But Liz, you have lots of things to show in your portfolio! I’m just starting out!

If you're just starting out, don't worry! Your UX design portfolio can include concept work or self-initiated projects, and it doesn't have to showcase paid-for client work. Especially if you’re junior and just starting out. That being said, I have met people that want you to clearly distinguish whether a project is self-initiated or for a client. The difference being that concept projects are often much easier, since you are the client (hopefully you’re not a difficult client to yourself), and you don’t have to deal with technical, implementation or business restrictions. You can just mention which it is in the rationale though.

What kind of concept work or self-initiated projects can I create?

You can literally design a website for your dog/cat, and showcase the different UX/UI skills you’ve learnt through that. Or you can design an app that would allow you to translate what your dog/cat is saying, demonstrating your UX interface design abilities. Or maybe design an app that would help your favorite movie character, highlighting your creative design process. It doesn’t have to be realistic or humanly possible necessarily; the UX just needs to be sound. Another good exercise is to look at existing websites/apps and to redesign it to have a better user experience. Have fun with it, and make sure your portfolio shines with your diverse design skills!

Can’t I just send my graphic design/branding/advertising portfolio?

Not if you’d like to be considered for a UX/UI position. How am I meant to judge if you have any UX/UI skills or have any knowledge of the field? Graphic design and UX/UI design are vastly different disciplines. While most companies are very happy to help you grow as a designer, they are still businesses and not design schools: you can’t go to them with no experience and expect them to teach you everything from scratch. Ensure your UX designer portfolio showcases your expertise in user experience design, and remember that a great UX designer needs to add a variety of UX design projects to their portfolio to demonstrate their UX design skills effectively.

How do I learn UX? Where do I start?

Luckily for you, I’ve already written an entire blog post dedicated to UX resources to get you started.

Do I need certifications or a specific degree to be a UX designer?

In my opinion: no, you don’t need a formal education. Just a great UX designer’s portfolio and a thorough understanding of what you’re doing in user experience design. Bear in mind that some companies may require something more concrete — I can’t speak for everyone, but showcasing your UX interface design skills and experience in your portfolio website will help.

What makes a portfolio stand out for you?

A very important aspect of any good UX design portfolio: rationales. You need to explain your thinking at every step of the way. Every element on the page needs a purpose and reason for being there; being “pretty” is not a good enough reason. So explain why you care about user experience in design, explain different methodologies you’ve used (usability testing, surveys, affinity mapping, etc) and how you solved problems. Make sure your portfolio includes examples of your interaction design work, as it's a key aspect of a UX designer’s portfolio.

Should I say which programs I used to design my work?

I couldn't care less whether you used Sketch, Adobe XD, or even a potato to create your UX designs. As a user experience designer, you should be adaptable to different tools, depending on the project and team requirements. Your problem-solving skills matter more than the software you use. I'm not interested in whether you work on a PC or a Mac. What matters is how effectively you solve user experience design challenges and excel in building your UX design portfolio.

Editors Note: This post was originally published on 6 March 2020, and was updated February 2024.

Published in UX Design
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