How to make an architectural portfolio (for Architects, Interns and Students)
- Articles, Blog

How to make an architectural portfolio (for Architects, Interns and Students)

Okay, we’re talking about portfolios today. What to include, what not to include, where
to host yours, and tips for designing and maintaining one. We’ll cover everything you need to know
to make one that’s flexible and useful over time whether you’re a student or a professional. Be sure to stick around at the end for details
on how you can have your portfolio reviewed on the channel. Your portfolio is a professional statement
of who you are, the kind of work you do, and your process. It speaks for your brand in your absence and
everyone needs one. This is the last paper-based portfolio I created
back let’s just say, it was a long time ago the last time I was seeking employment
with another firm. Putting this together wasn’t terribly difficult,
but it also wasn’t very time efficient. And, it was expensive to maintain, keep up
to date, which is probably what kept me from regularly updating it. Because your portfolio is already out-of-date
when you publish it, a paper copy’s long-term utility is questionable. Now, I’m not going to show you how to create
one of these. You really only need one portfolio and that’s
a digital portfolio. Within the digital sandbox though there are
a subset of decisions you’ll need to make. Will you use an app on a tablet for example,
a multi-page PDF, a web-hosted portfolio, or a self-hosted website? No matter where you choose to host it, the
currency of a digital portfolio is imagery, usually in the form of J-PEGs. You’ll also need some text, a bio and a
backbone of metadata. Digital platforms allow your work to be easily
shared, collaged and manipulated and they can quickly be replaced with new work as you
complete it. They also allow you to use audio and video
to present your work. A digital portfolio’s distinct advantage
is related to online search and metadata. But we’ll get into that in a minute. Among digital portfolios, there are important
differences; not just any digital portfolio will suffice. Probably the easiest thing to do is to host
your work on someone else’s online platform. Free or low-cost online portfolio hosting
on sites like Behance, Issuu, Coroflot, and others offer modern, minimally styled portfolio
templates, which can be set up in a matter of minutes. But consider that you’re sitting beside
thousands of other designers looking for exactly the same thing you are: to stand out in a
crowd not to mention all those pop-ups and adverts. Ask yourself if that’s really the best place
to distinguish your brand. Another straightforward option is to install
an app like Morpholio or Portfolio on a tablet and curate your images there. It’s handy for face-to-face client or employer
presentations, but it suffers from some of the same limiting factors related to the physical
portfolio and you’re only an app update away from it no longer functioning as you’d
expect. This approach is effectively a digital picture
frame and ignores all the useful data embedded in your digital works. Data you could be using for discovery. Ideally, your goal should be to control every
digital asset you possibly can and all the branding surrounding it. Everywhere. If Behance ceases to exist tomorrow, or that
tablet app doesn’t work because you just updated your operating system, where does
that leave your portfolio? You can’t control what you don’t own. This is why I think the only real portfolio
option today is a self-hosted website. Now, this isn’t a difficult exercise, I
promise. If you don’t have one, I recommend using
Squarespace because the templates are minimally styled with simple navigation and full-screen
galleries. This allows your work to be the most prominent
content on the page and keeps you from spending more time designing the container for your
portfolio than the content inside. The best portfolios not only showcase your
work, they narrate who you are as a designer, how you see the world, and something about
your personal design process. Use it to narrate your story. At a minimum, I think your site should include
two pages an About page and a Portfolio page. As you have time you can build it out from
there. First, the Portfolio page. Only include your best work. You only have a short time to convince someone
you’re worth a second look, a couple of minutes at most. A few remarkable projects are preferable to
many half-baked ones. Supplement with minimal, descriptive text
in the sidebar. The infographic style which overlays paragraphs
of text on the image won’t be read by anyone online and it only serves to confuse the viewer. You should look to other professionals to
see how their portfolios are structured. Take note that they’re using properly exposed,
well-composed photographs of buildings, with deep blacks and white whites. Simple line work for floor plans, elevations
and sections when they exist and they directly present models and renderings without any
overlaid text. They’re forcing you to focus on the work,
not a sidebar or lots of text or fancy icons. You should learn from this. Precisely what you choose to show should be
influenced by the type of work you’re seeking. Now, this applies to students, interns, and
professionals alike. If you fill yours with slick computer renderings
and no sketches it tells me that your primary competency is computer rendering. If you’re seeking a computer modeling position,
that’s probably a good strategy. However, if you’re looking to be a lead
designer, show your process: your sketches, your models, alongside your renders. Sketches. Now, hand sketching and the ability to graphically
communicate your ideas is fundamental to our practice and it will always be. It’s one of the most sought after skills
in our profession at every experience level so be sure to include them in your portfolio. Models. When I see a hand-built model in a portfolio
I stop and take notice. I recognize, on this one, that it’s a personal
bias of mine. But, the reason I mention it is to encourage
you to research the places or people you want to work with. Understand what resonates with them. If you ring that bell, you’ll distinguish
your portfolio from everyone else’s in their eyes. This goes for businesses looking to establish
a presence in a niche or with a specific clientele as well. Computer Renders. I think computer renderings are fantastic
when done well. But I also think they’re a bit of a commodity
today. The best renders illustrate your artistic
viewpoint: a building’s true nature, the messiness of the world, a narrative, a story. This is much more appealing to me than rendering
every last shiny pane of glass and every perfect, happy, balloon-wielding child walking toward
it. Showing some versatility is a plus too, even
for seasoned pros. Sculpture, photography, drawing, furniture
design, filmmaking; whatever creative pursuits you engage in when you leave the studio should
have some sort of home in your portfolio. Including academic or theoretical projects
is usually your only option early in your career. As you begin practicing and building things,
always be photographing and documenting your work with your portfolio in mind. Process imagery typically gets lost along
the way when you’re busy, but it’s often just as compelling as the final work. It’s proof too of your skill as an architect
and your ability to shepherd your ideas through the battlefield of design and construction. There comes a point in your career when you’re
transitioning from student academic work to built-work. Tailor your portfolio to the narrative you’re
advancing. I would expect an intern architect to have
fewer built works than a newly licensed architect, while a mid-career architect is likely to
have all buildings and no academic work in their portfolio. The jump to professional photography is a
big step. But, think about the time investment of designing
and building the work. Isn’t that worthy of hiring another pro
to document it properly? It has little value if the photographs don’t
complement the quality of your design. And, image quality directly correlates to
what you can charge for your services. Again, it’s all about the narrative. Professional photography projects a narrative
of confidence to your clients and justifies your professional fee. If you can’t afford professional images
invest in a good DSLR and learn to use it along with Lightroom and Photoshop. Be sure to watch my video on what I use in
my studio. If you’re including project images from
a previous employer be sure to get permission and purchase the rights to use the images
on your site beforehand. Photographers – like architects – retain
the rights to their work, architects typically purchase a license to use the photos for marketing
purposes. Now, let’s get into the second page you
need on your website slash portfolio, the About page. This is your chance to show your personality. A brief bio is helpful just don’t get too
cheeky. Draft this as you might your Twitter or Instagram
bio. Everyone is sort of accustomed to quickly
skimming these for information and they can say a lot about your character with very few
words. Link up a PDF of your CV or your resume. Also, include links to your social profiles
somewhere on this page: LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etcetera. People can click as they want or need more
information. And, don’t forget to include your preferred
contact details and make sure it’s a professional email address, not something like: meat-boy
ninety-six at hotmail dot com. If you’re seeking an internship, or you’re
a student, you can list a range of relevant skills. Be sure though that if you list it a skill
that you can honestly stand behind your competency. Can you confidently make something with whatever
it is you’re listing? If the answer is yes, keep it otherwise leave
it off. Now, skills I would look for when hiring are
any that display your creative problem solving skillset. Hand graphics: can you sketch, draw, watercolor? If so, show me. Visual communication is extremely important,
what digital graphic skills do you have: Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign? Architecture is as much about good communication
skills as it is about design skills an effective communication begins with writing. Do you blog? Have you published anything? Have you given any public presentations? Any web development skills? Do you know WordPress? Are you a social media influencer or expert? Tell me about your online marketing skills. Do you know anything about e-mail list development
using ConvertKit, AWeber, or Mailchimp? Then there’s CAD skills. Now, I don’t necessarily care what flavor
of CAD you know, because to me it’s just another tool; a means to an end. If you know one CAD program, chances are you
can learn any CAD program. How about digital modeling and rendering? Do you know SketchUp, 3DSMax, Rhino, Lumion,
etcetera? Present the skills you want to be hired for. Work that wasn’t designed by you. This sort of goes without saying, but this
should extend to projects you didn’t have a creative force in realizing. Almost all architecture is the result of a
team of people; architects understand this and if you’re working in a large firm, you
may not have generated the building concept. Honestly state your role. If you were part of a team say so, don’t
claim credit for something you didn’t do. Next up, old work. Your portfolio isn’t an archive of every
work you’ve ever completed. Populate it with your best and most current
work. Projects from five years ago might look dated. Next: a lot of text. People aren’t going to read a life history
or paragraphs of text, especially online. Structure your text for legibility. Think in the Heading One, Heading Two, Heading
Three style format. What’s the hierarchy of information you
want people to understand? Spelling errors. Enough said. Bad photos. If you don’t have good photography for a
project, leave it out. Poor photography calls into question your
other work as well and your judgment for including it. Next up, construction documents. I’m going to assume if you’re building
things in the world, you’ve sort of got this figured out and if you’re an intern
or graduate that you don’t yet. So, including these isn’t terribly useful. Next: irrelevant work experience. Unless you creatively mowed lawns into amazingly
detailed tartan grids as an art experiment, don’t include this kind of thing as work
experience. And, hobbies. If a hobby is a creative outlet for you, thread
examples into your portfolio gallery rather than sharing it as a separate interest out
of context. If you build your portfolio like this as a
stand-alone website perhaps the most useful by-products to you are the meta-skills you’ll
learn by doing it. These confer a real competitive advantage
to you as an applicant. If you know something about web development
chances are good you’ll have the basic skills to update nearly any website out there. If you’re familiar with blogging, it also
means you probably know something about writing, and you probably have a sense for what it
takes to visually and verbally communicate your ideas. It means you understand something about SEO
and search rankings and marketing. These are meta-skills that transfer to every
possible vocation you might consider in the future. So even if this exercise doesn’t land you
a job in architecture or a new client, you’ll have the experience that can be brought to
bear on a range of life paths and leveraged to shape your future. Without a website, you might as well not exist. But, just having one doesn’t guarantee you’ll
be discovered. The metadata you include in your site is as
important for discovery in search as the images you upload to your portfolio. Search engines can’t see images so they
rely on the metadata appended to the image when it’s uploaded. Make sure to include metadata for every image
you add to your site. Use minimal, keyword-rich text to describe
both your project pages and the images. Title each image descriptively, using the
alt-text field and make sure it’s sized to load quickly. Don’t expect five-meg J-PEGs to perform
very well in search. You want to optimize your images before you
upload them. Presenting your portfolio as a website is
a known, comfortable experience for most everyone in your target market. And, it doesn’t involve emailing around
fourteen-meg PDFs to a potential employer or client. You’ll simply send a link in your cover
email. When I receive a job inquiry with a fourteen-meg
attachment in my inbox, I delete it. I think it’s bad form to thrust a large
uninvited document into someone’s inbox especially without any kind of introduction. Contrast this with a friendly email that makes
a personal introduction and includes a link to a website that says something like, “Hey,
love your work especially the insert whatever project you like, uh, if you’re ever looking
for someone to complement your design team I’d so appreciate your consideration.” Now, the truth is I hear this kind of genuine
plea for a human connection so infrequently, that I’d absolutely click on the link and
look, even if I wasn’t hiring. Do you want to know what I do get all the
time? Those fourteen-meg PDFs attached to emails
that read, “Dear Sir or Madam, please look at my work and contact me at your earliest
convenience to discuss my potential employment with your firm. My resume and portfolio are attached for review.” These are immediately deleted and I can almost
guarantee that every architect I know would do the same. A website is a resource you can direct as
you wish, something you control. As you finish projects and make new connections
you can direct everything else you don’t control online – things like social media
profiles and email lists toward that asset and you can use it to your benefit. It’s easy to update and the metadata associated
with each update ripples through the Internet as Google’s spiders continually crawl your
site, opening it up to search traffic, referrals, and new opportunities. Now as I mentioned in the beginning of the
video, if you want to have a chance to have your portfolio reviewed on an upcoming YouTube
live-stream here, email me a link to your portfolio, no fourteen-meg attachments, right? And I’ll chose a few to critique in an upcoming
live-stream. Now, the only way I can get in touch with
you and let you know when I’ll be live-streaming, is if you’re a subscriber. So, if you’re not already subscribed be
sure to do so and click the bell so I can notify you when it’s time to tune in. Cheers.

About Ralph Robinson

Read All Posts By Ralph Robinson

100 thoughts on “How to make an architectural portfolio (for Architects, Interns and Students)

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Very good presentation advice in general too. Besides a website, I find it useful to keep a current pdf copy (to screenshare in skype interviews/send by email) and a mostly updated physical copy (so I'm not scrambling around in case the interviewer requests it).

  2. Hello, ¡¡¡ I have a question, I will appreciate if you can help me.

    Which is the ideal paper format to make a portfolio to get a job?

  3. Hello, may I ask your feedback about my portfolio. I am looking for summer internship

  4. I saw this when you released it last year before I wanted to pursue architecture. Coming from a CM background, I've never had to make a portfolio. One year later, I just had my MArch program interview, and this video helped tremendously. Thank you, Eric. Professional as always.

  5. Many Thanks for this Gem. I can clearly say that i am learning more from you than from teacher at university. Stay Awesome

  6. I use sketch models since my drawings 2 hand skills are not great I usually express myself with models technical drawings visit the square and the set square should I add them in the portfolio note that I am a student II year

  7. your videos are great and informative. Have u consider giving lectures part time at an architecture school?

  8. He says that Behance might seize to exist tomorrow and then suggests you to create a portfolio on Squarespace? So that makes sense since Squarespace is seize-to-exist-proof?

  9. Hi Eric,
    What about building under costruction at the moment? Can we include it or nah?
    Thanks for the video, it's has been very helpful to me! Here we don't have so much youtubers talking about architecture.

  10. You're videos are so good, super engaging and informative. I don't have to put any effort in to watch them right the way through!

  11. my english is very bad, but lets try, i am Architect from Africa / Angola, 28 year old, work alone, i love you work, its my best inspiration, if a day God help me, may be will living out Africa… the visa card Are no work for all people, its just for big companies, that is why my portfolio its free, please tell me if you like… Sorry my bad english … and God work

  12. May I Please ask whether the " Dear sir or madam.." emails are viewed this way by all firms? Isn't giving a personal message like "hey I like this your work…" a bit informal especially for bigger firms? cause usually a message would go to the HR or smth. Or what you said is more relevant to firms own by indivduals ?

  13. Hi! I recently graduated with my bachelors degree in architecture and I'm beginning to finalize my portfolio to apply for internships. Since I have no experience in the field yet, I know that my portfolio is a very important tool to start my career but I'm having a difficult time sorting through my final 2 years of projects as well as a semesters worth of sketches from studying abroad to choose the "right" ones. Being that I'm freshly graduated, would you say that I should include more or less of my studio work?

  14. me encantó ! muchisimas gracias, pondre todo mi empeño en seguir tus consejos, saludos desde el Norte de Mexico

  15. Good video. I will leave a remark though: if I were the client I would still want to see the paper portfolio. As you emphasized the digital portfolio/self-managed website/ link is wonderful and means the client on the other side of the world could check out your work. However, once we met I would go over the paper portfolio.
    Stunning paper portfolio, by the way, Eric:-)

  16. "Niche" should be pronounced "nish" or "neesh" (more accurate) not "nich" or "nitch". It's a French word so the best pronunciation should sound closest to the original French one. Similarly, some people mispronounce "voila" (hard V) as "woala" (with a wua sound like in Wyoming). It makes them sound like ignorants who use words they don't understand. I hope you are not one of those people. Cheers!

  17. I've just graduated architecture school and your videos where a huge help and inspiration for me. Thank you so much 🙂

  18. Hi sir, I had a doubt.
    Is the display book the portfolio or do we have a different book as a portfolio?
    It's a silly question, but please answer it. 🙏🙏
    Thank you.

  19. Currently learning architectural design in Monash and on an intermission to serve my country as navy in Korea. Are there any recommendations for me to study or to develop myself as a future architect in the military? its two years of service… I do not know what to do on my own yet..

  20. Lots of good tips but I disagree that being able to sketch well with your hand is an absolute must. You can be a very custom- detail and design- oriented architect and do awesome projects while working entirely digitally for your diagrams and process. In the end it's all about thinking and conveying ideas legibly. It's annoying to see architects being snobbish and hypocritical about this. Sketching for thinking through your process is a nice skill to have but is definitely not the only way. In the end it's about YOU having fun with your process.and honing it to produce high quality work. There are many ways to get there even without being great at making models or sketching.

  21. I agree with 99 percent, what you have said!! But why not including construction documents? If somebody already has some skills (e.g. Carpenter) with construction and the project mainly focuses about it, i guess its good to put it in … (Just my opinion 🙂 )

  22. Dear, Eric: Recntently I discovered your books, a have been looking for a long time, information like yours, congrats for your wonderful work. I am a mexican architect and I am in the pursuit of my own practice. Sadly, your books are not in spanish version. I hope you consider tranlate them to my natural language, will be a hit, I promise you, because in Latin America, is very poor information about architecture as business. Greetings from Mexico

  23. i need do my portfolio to universte but i didnt save my before works.. i can do just my new (one project) to portfolio?

  24. Thanks for the tips, I’ve been working for 5 years since I graduated. And I really didn’t thought about including my photography or my art.
    Your tips of what firms are looking for, so eye opening. Also the tip about old work, I’ve been guilty about that.

  25. I already graduate, but i wish i had this kinda professor back in the campus days, damn i learn a lot more in this channel more than the time i spend when i was student

  26. I really hoped that I come upon this video in my earlier years of Architecture, would've made a lot of differences.

  27. Hi sir… I'm an Architecture Student… Thanks a lot for your useful video about the portfolio making… Now I get very clear about portfolio making… Again very thanks for you sir… I like to get your useful videos again and again… Thank you sir…🙏

  28. Another informative video that apparently I'm late to.. i will be updating my portfolio.. Again, thank you for your videos.

  29. I have a question I did accounting but in grade 10 I did science and I want to be an architecture is it still possible for me to go and study architecture,I need help guys

  30. I'm working on my portfolio for graduate school and I really hate myself these days that I haven't worked on my ideas and stories that much.. I have been doing what's better for getting good grades from professors…

  31. I am trying to begin my architectural portfolio, which programs do you recommend? For Beginners, Which program do you believe will be best to begin designing and developing a portfolio?

  32. Sir…I'm an intern architect …I have only of manual sheets …can an intern portfolio be full of scanned sheets ??for internship

  33. Thank you for everything! This is one of my favorite architecture channels. You present such high content all the time!

  34. I was searching for your port folio in description
    So you make a video about how to do port folio and you don’t introduce your port folio ?!

  35. I wonder how many people come back to this video at this time of year?? and I also wonder if Eric would do another portfolio review this year?

  36. Just want to say thank you. I find your channel a treasuretrove of good advice and inspiration. Hope you are doing well. Peace.

  37. I am an architecture student from indonesia, I do like your content. It's really helpfull for me to create my portfolio. Because my English is not really good, i find it difficult to understand but I still intend to see this video until the end. I try to keep watch this video. It is so beneficial to add my knowledge. Thanks

  38. Question, if I as much as attempted to "sketch" a drawing, I'd get laughed at right out of the permit office. I can't draw, but I surely have my drafting CAD-like program(not sketch up). Will the wireframe drawing next to the rendering suffice?

  39. New Subscriber. I naturally print like an architect….so Ive been told when I go to the the bank with bank deposit slips….LOL

  40. Which Portfolio-book did u use/used, it looks really expensive and gives a great first impression.
    Do u have a link to buy it on amazon?

  41. hey! I love your work and the way you are so helpful to all the students like us. we generally don't see as much helpful videos as yours are. thanks!

  42. Your posts Eric are a constant inspiration. I've watched some several times and they bring me back on track to achieve my goal as an independent designer when feeling discouraged. Thanks.

  43. What an excellent video! This was the best explanation I've ever had of what to look for in my portfolio! I really hope you're still available to review my portfolio once I have it made!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *