Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Portfolios: showin' off your mad skillz

Thanks for the suggestions for future posts, folks, and please feel free to keep contributing post ideas.  Anytime you have a question, I'm glad to answer it.

Commenter 2H had a good question regarding portfolios.  First of all, a portfolio is a graphic or visual record of the projects you've worked on.  A portfolio is supplemental to a resume for architects; it works with it to illustrate what you've done and what those projects were like (fancy? small? large? an addition to a really icky looking existing building?).  Second of all, the portfolio is done best when you work on it regularly.  At least once a year (preferably everytime after you finish working on a project), get the following information on all the projects you worked on:
  • Name and address of client (for example, "Weathersby County Hospital, 1234 East Main Street, Lowland, Kansas 75309")
  • Name of project ("Clinic Addition and Imaging Remodel")
  • Square footages of work ("9,000 sf addition; 5,400 sf phased remodel")
  • Your role on the project ("team member", usually if you're an intern, but you can elaborate: "created design and construction documents, generated renderings and publicity materials for client's fundraising efforts")
  • The phases you worked on ("SD, DD, CD")
  • PDFs of plans and elevations
  • PDFs or JPGs/TIFs/image files of any renderings
  • JPGs/TIFs/image files of any photos of the finished project
  • A half-size set of the record drawings if you did a substantial amount of work on the CDs and construction administration on the project
You can keep all this info in a folder until you have a chance to work on your portfolio.  When you do work on it, simplicity is key.  Keep your graphics simple, and make sure people can read the graphics and text.  The plans, renderings, and photos (along with any text on the images) need to be clear and legible when printed as a PDF. Bear in mind that you may have to fax or email your resume and portfolio to potential employers, so be sure that the file size isn't too big and the portfolio sheets are of a size that's printable (11"x17" or 8.5"x11").  The challenge is to be clean but a bit creative as well.

Depending on what kind of work you do, you may have more or fewer sheets in your portfolio.  For example, healthcare and educational-sector interns might use only one or two sheets while museum and residential-sector interns might use two to four.  Having talked to some architects who have done hiring in my office, the fewer pages there are in an intern's resume and portfolio, the better.  If you've been working for less than four years, there's only so much you've done in your career.  Those hiring managers, who are also architects, have also told me that it's better for interns if they don't overplay or puff up their roles on projects.  One architect told me, "Anytime an intern's resume says that they were a 'project manager,' I'm really tempted to put it in the trash.  I know different offices call project management roles different things, but if you're not licensed, don't bill yourself as anything higher than 'job captain'."

Making a good portfolio takes an eye for graphics and editing, which oddly enough most architects don't have.  Editing and graphics are more related to marketing, which is ultimately what a portfolio and its resume do for you--they market you to potential employers.  Check out books from the library about marketing and graphics to get some ideas.  Look for portfolio and marketing workshops--if you're still in college, your school may have some portfolio and resume reviewing services available at their student services center, and you should take the opportunity to ask a professor or two to review your stuff.  Some professors practice outside of school, and they've likely done some hiring before.  Having someone at a portfolio review session (like the ones AIA sometimes sponsors) can be extremely helpful, because many if not all of the reviewers there are experienced architects who have seen their fair share of portfolios.

A word here for those getting out of school: using images from your school projects are just fine for your portfolio, especially if you did a thesis project.  Freehand sketches, renderings, and paintings are also acceptable, but the longer you've been out of school, the less you want to include these.  The exception would be if you work in a particular sector that lends itself to lots of hand rendering, like perhaps residential work or working at a smaller firm that might not have much in the way of computer rendering resources.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know--this is a good topic for discussion and there's always more to say on it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this portfolio overview, there are some really helpful guidelines. Any advice for a student putting together a porfolio for architecture graduate schools?