When applying for an architecture job, you need to make sure you have the perfect portfolio. While a clever and attractive business card might help you initially get a firm's attention, and a well-considered résumé or CV might help you prove your value, in most cases it will be your portfolio that makes or breaks your application. It's your portfolio that practices will use to measure your design sensibilities against the office's own style and to judge whether you match up to the talents claimed in your résumé.
A few months ago, we launched a call for our readers to send us their own portfolios so that we could share the best design ideas with the ArchDaily community. Our selection below shows the best of the nearly 200 submissions we received, which were judged not on the quality of the architectural design they showed (though much of it was excellent) but instead the design quality of the portfolio itself. In making the selection, we were looking for attractive graphics, a clear presentation of the work itself, the formulation of a visual identity which permeated both the architectural designs and the portfolio design, and of course that elusive and much-prized attribute: "creativity."
Before we get started, we thought we would take this opportunity to present our top tips for designing your own portfolio:
- File Size: By now, you should know better than to send a file that's too large. What exactly that means varies from situation to situation but as a guideline, Brazilian architect Gabriel Kogan recommends keeping the file size below 15MB.
- Typos & Mistakes: If the language of your portfolio isn't your native language, turn to online communities or ask someone to proofread it.
- Length & Content: Portfolios are time-consuming to put together, so it can be tempting to try to produce a "one size fits all" version. This is a mistake. Approaching a firm requires different information to presenting your work in an interview, so you should ideally have (at least) a two-page version of your portfolio for applications and a longer version for interviews. Ideally, this will also be supplemented by an online version of your portfolio. You may even consider tailoring your portfolio to each individual practice you apply to.
- Creativity: While creativity is important in a portfolio, it can't be at the expense of the work the portfolio is meant to be showcasing.
- Image Selection: Find the right balance between different types of image; it's good to demonstrate that you can produce technical detail drawings, for example, but they're not much to look at, so one or two key examples is plenty. Similarly, while photorealistic renders are impressive, they need to be complemented by more architectural representations to show your true skill as a designer.
- Layout: Avoid clutter and don't be afraid of white space. If you use little white space, ensure your layout is clearly structured so that the portfolio's contents are easy to absorb.
- Details: Often, the strength of a graphic design lies in small details. Use certain layout rules consistently and it will give your portfolio a sense of cohesion.
About the design: “I aim to make it as simple and immersive as possible with many axon drawings and full bleed model perspective photos that allow me to tell a story in just one glance.” - Gregory
Why we like it: Gregory’s selection and combination of images, drawings, and text does exactly what he intended: tell a story at a glance. The way that drawings are overlaid onto images unites them into one mental bite, and they enhance and clarify each other.
Why we like it: Each design in this portfolio is presented with a full set of design images: plans at a number of scales, sections, elevations, and diagrams. Neatly and consistently laid out, this one really lets the architecture speak for itself.
Wilmer Coronado Castillo
About the design: “You know that much of the time, curiosity dominates our lives. As long as you decide to open the box, you will find scribbles that ended up being part of my best ideas... Starting from an intriguing-looking box that includes a few projects, they immediately make recognizable a working style.” - Wilmer
Why we like it: In an online world, it’s brave to create a portfolio that only works when sent physically—and in a parcel rather than an envelope, no less. In this case, we think that bravery pays off, and no architect will forget receiving this portfolio.
About the design: “The intent of this portfolio was to keep all information direct and cohesive. Each portfolio spread seeks to create separate comprehensive spreads which are geared towards 1 proposal per spread.” - Derek
Why we like it: Architects are often advised to keep text to a minimum in their graphic presentation. But what do you do when you’ve simply got too much to say? This is a great example of a portfolio that uses a lot of text, but does so without taking focus away from the visuals.
Rina Ben Shimol
About the design: “White on white.” - Rina
Why we like it: This online portfolio takes a simple concept—a perfect minimalist color palette—and sees it through to its conclusion to instill a strong identity.
Why we like it: The layout of this portfolio is incredibly strict: in almost all cases, there is exactly one image per page. Any auxiliary information, such as page numbers and project titles, is shown at an absolutely minimal size to bring out the strength of the work. The portfolio is simple, clean, and striking.
Miguel Roig Burgal
About the design: “I wanted to show my way of seeing and doing architecture, that's why I consider my portfolio very minimalistic, without too much information and drawings, only the ones I consider enough to explain the projects. From the typography to the position of the images and schemes, the whole portfolio is very light and elegant which its an accurate reflection of me.” - Miguel
Why we like it: One of the most striking things about this design is the way each image is cropped to the edge of its content rather than to a simple rectangle. There are no skies in the renderings, which along with the orientation of plans and diagrams creates an interesting and flexible white space that changes with every page.
Why we like it: This portfolio shows the full extent of Li Dai’s range, including diagrams, graphs and even comics in addition to the usual renders and drawings. Importantly, each new project is announced with a strict and consistent title page layout, giving structure to what would otherwise be a cacophony of different presentation styles.
About the design: “Through this approach the character of the projects is intensified and releases the essence of the desired atmosphere. It reveals a sensory and radical architecture by the play of a strong contrast.” - Maël
Why we like it: The monochrome and highly contrasting design of this portfolio unifies a number of different presentation techniques, including sketches and model photos.
About the design: “This portfolio layout blends the flat design of large geometric typefaces and full bleeds with the skeuomorphism of tactile imagery, championing handcraft and the narrative of process.” - Benjamin
Why we like it: As intended, this unique design showcases the process of design and not just its outcome, coming across a little as a kind of design scrapbook that shows how Benjamin thinks through his work.
About the design: “After a few portfolio trials, I found out that having a lot of white space enhances and strengthens pictures and drawings. This is the main guideline I used while creating this portfolio. The circle image at the beginning of each project reminds the reader he is looking at something new.” - Eytan
Why we like it: Almost paradoxically, the use of white space in this portfolio is somewhat brave. Each image thus appears precious and important. The excellent layout of the title pages brings a crucial level of organization.
Why we like it: The key to this portfolio is image selection: Aayush’s flair for dramatic renders is put in the spotlight thanks to large images that take up at least half of an entire spread.
About the design: “My portfolio contains only one project, explaining the design methodology behind it. The project starts with the textual description of concept and context, accompanied with the general info, keywords and the visualization. There is hierarchical organization of the presentation: introduction to site, general massing, structure, space organization, interiors and details. In this way, one project covers different scales and topics.” - Lazar
Why we like it: When you have one design which you feel showcases the best of everything you have to offer, there’s no better way to present it than this. In fact, the portfolio even feels a little like a media release, giving a complete look at the project in as little time as possible.
About the design: “I worked with a A4 page size layout and had a templet layout drawn in InDesign, which I used for most spreads, for example focusing the main subject into a square. As for graphics, I like to use colour to emphasise the main features of the exposed renders/plans/diagrams/technical details.” - Thea
Why we like it: This is a great example of using color to bring an aesthetic identity to a collection of work.
About the design: “In an age when portfolios are to be seen mainly on a screen, the more logical way for me was to design mine in the shape of a simple and playful website. The use of one unique letter for each category of my portfolio allowed me to keep the navigation menu very simple while adding a sense of mystery to the website... This idea of a new place that you have to discover almost by wandering around was important to me, and I designed the different menus and animations in order to create a journey full of surprises, thus entertaining the visitor while letting him discover my work.” - Bastian
Why we like it: This playful and intriguing online portfolio is beautifully presented. While the design certainly provides the desired mystique, it also makes for a clean and attractive layout.
Why we like it: While each image fills the space that it is given, the simple four-way split used on each spread ensures that the space doesn’t feel over-full. The design of the portfolio complements the architecture itself to give the whole document a strong, brooding feel.
Pilar Ribot Reus
About the design: “Based on simplicity, where only strong and representative images are shown. The blank of the page becomes part of these images.” - Pilar
Why we like it: Another example with a brave use of white space, this design considers the composition of whole pages and executes these compositions beautifully.