Portfolio advice for UX Interaction Designers

by Jay Kaufmann - 15 Mar 2016

Do you do UX design? Is it obvious with one quick glance at your portfolio?

I recently reviewed and rejected an application to our “UX Designer for B2B solutions” job opportunity because the conceptual experience wasn’t evident to me. I wrote in the rejection letter:

“Your portfolio shows screens rather than how you got there. We have a role distinction at Zalando between UX Interaction Design and Visual UI Design. You look like a strong UI VD, but on the B2B team this role is already filled.”

The designer wrote back thanking me for feedback, clarifying that she does in fact have 5 years of UX design experience and asking for advice about how to improve her portfolio.

Here is some top-line advice specifically to UX IxDs about how to present your work:

  • Make a PDF or descriptive website. Seeing a portfolio on Behance or Dribble implies that the designer is focused on Visual UI Design. These platforms have a clear focus, so even if you hack them, it's just the wrong place to strut your IxD stuff. Besides being surrounded the wrong crowd, on Dribble you don't get enough room to explain the back story and creating a narrative is difficult.
  • Show raw artefacts from the process -- enough to give hiring managers insight into your conceptual, IA, and interaction design work. UX-focused recruiter Sean Pook once told me that he advises designers to “put some pictures of Post-Its” into their portfolios. Wireframes, flow diagrams and colourful clusters of sticky notes do in fact make it clear to me at a glance that you do a range of UX work.
  • Customize your portfolio to the company and role you are applying to and really hone in on the work most relevant to the job. Personally I don’t absolutely need to see specific domain knowledge (i.e. fashion, eCommerce, or a WYSIWYG CMS) but I do want to see something relevant (i.e. complex interaction patterns as opposed to "simple" or "marketing" web design work).

Note that this advice is to make UX Designers, Interaction Designers, Information Architects, or Full-Stack Product Designers stand out from their Visual UI Designer colleagues.

Are you a Visual Designer or UI Designer? Ignore most of the above. We do appreciate if you share your work with the community. And we prefer pixels over Post-Its. And we especially want to talk to you. Here’s who we’re looking for.

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