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Do UX Designers need a portfolio in 2021?

Every designer needs some sort of way to present their body of work, for discovery and at some point of the “getting hired process”. Traditionally this will be in some sort of digital portfolio that usually comes in the form of a website, or on platforms like Dribble and Behance. While this format and methods can bring you results in getting discovered. This is not the most effective way to stand out to potential hires.

Do you need a UX design portfolio?

The short answer is yes, but it depends on how you define what your portfolio is or not. There are many opinions on the internet about having portfolio or not. What should be in your portfolio and even how to lay everything out. It makes when you are starting out as a designer to have a portfolio of your work so that its easy to showcase your skills. But for seasoned designers and beginners who want to stand out, there are a couple of issues with traditional portfolios and might not be the best approach to stand out.

Over the years in my design career I have had my fair share of design portfolio’s.  From Animated adobe flash websites with some of my best graphic design and web-design items, to having a good Behance presence that I gave up at some point of my career. Over the past 8 I have focused mostly on product design and delivery, this has changed the work I do. My job description and what I need to put in my résumé has become complex to put in the UX portfolio template. UX or Product design is mostly about the process of problem solving,  immersing yourself customer problems, needs and finding the solutions.

I see many UX designers following a similar career path. From a UX designer to being a product designer, focusing on solving real customer problems and dealing with stakeholders. The product designer role can be complex and different from company to company. How you present your work becomes different and the traditional portfolio medium will not do justice. You will need something that can help you you stand out and be able showcase skillset.

So what’s the alternative to help you stand out?

In 2018, with major changes in my career, my portfolio was becoming old fast and keeping it updated and fresh was becoming a job on its own. I worked on multiple projects from different companies at once. My deliverables as a product designer were slightly different from my UX days and did not always end up in good looking screens to show off. In most of my engagements the biggest contribution I brought to the team was research and making small teaks that made huge impacts.  My portfolio was becoming a limiting place to showcase my value so I went out looking for other means and was to better showcase my work. I had to find a better approach than the traditional UX design portfolio format.

I now had the opportunity to change how I position myself as a designer to the design community and to potential gigs or employees. I needed a way I could present my thinking with my own unique flair of style and skillset. I needed a way to document my thinking as they mature not only for an audience but for myself too. Playing back the past year has been a great retrospective of what works and what doesn’t.

So what changed?

About a year ago I committed to documenting my work through writing and doing my podcast “Not a UX Designer”. I have tried different formats and techniques for creating content and community building.

This has reduced the number of people I engage with for gigs but has also improved the quality of the connections I make, the conversations I have, and the projects I work on. My whole client base has changed and I have managed to double my income on any project I work on.

I put up a personal site as a canvas for this new style of “portfolio” website. The website has evolved over the year but the basic things are still the same. There is a fluid safe space where I can share thoughts and insights accompanied by the core things that I am focusing on at the time. for this year it is facilitating design sprints and dobetterux, a community of UXers.

There are a few reasons I have chosen to go this route and focus on creating content instead of having a UX portfolio. Creating content has helped position me and share my thinking without showing any real project work.

My Reasons.

There are a few reasons that made me choose this route, and most of them have to do with project confidentiality, dealing with a new client base, and staying relevant.

Creating content has helped me position myself in a way that makes me stand out from the traditional designer who has a good design portfolio. It has helped me connect with clients directly and grow visibility in the design community as well.

Keeping my website up to date is no longer about projects or presenting some case study, I share my thinking on a much regular frequency through the podcast, writing and online classes that I have recently started experimenting with to help designers navigate their careers better so that we can archive the best level of value for our selves and the people we work with.

My work feels more meaningful, compared to doing a Netflix re-skin UX/UI design piece for my Behance portfolio. If you are a designer and you have a full-time job as I have had for the past 10 years, you probably do not have the capacity to have a real good side project where you can showcase all your best UX and strategy skills. So you do what everyone does, just reimagine something and present non-validated designs without a real product behind.

On the other end, you probably have NDA’s and other contractual agreements that stop you from presenting the work you did on a good product that is in the market. So we usually default to presenting fake work.

Ok I’ve said enough.

Creating content is not for everyone, just like having portfolios doesn’t work for all types of designers. Is there a place for UX design portfolios in 2020?, Definitely. In fact, I don’t think they are going anywhere soon. There are also some really good resources and information on the internet to help you build a solid one.

However, creating content and building a community around you is an alternative, a good one. I will help you position yourself better, help you grow and sharpen your skills, and share all the time. you will always have evergreen online visibility to potential clients or employers.

Are you thinking about redoing your portfolio or trying to figure out if you need one as a new UX designer?. Share your thoughts and join our small but growing community of UXers doing better UX on LinkedIn


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