A project-based approach to portfolios

Creating a design portfolio can be an overwhelming task particularly in the UX field. When the bulk of your work involves thinking, testing and messy iterations, it is hard to know what should be included and how you can readily showcase your design process. That is why it helps to ask an expert.

Karen Callaghan and Mike Feghali regularly deliver guest talks at General Assembly, focusing on UX design portfolios. General Assembly is a multinational education company, running courses focused on careers in the tech industry. Mike and Karen’s talk is addressed towards students partaking in General Assembly’s 10-week UX Design Immersive course wanting to transition into a carrer in UX.

Some key points from the UX portfolios workshop delivered at General Assembly’s Sydney campus:

Treat your portfolio like a product

The key is to treat your portfolio like any other product or service. By applying UX design principles to its creation, you can ensure it is relevant and engaging.

Know your audience

As with any product, the are several key personas who will be viewing and using your portfolio. We could refer them as your Portfolio Users. They might include recruiters, creative agencies, startups, CTOs or UX Directors. A recruiter may know very little about the field of UX and need a simplified version of your work whereas a UX Director will want more details and insight into the way you think and create deliverables. Just like the field of UX, understanding who your users are is paramount when designing a UX portfolio.

Designing for different mediums

In a similar way to designing an omni-channel experience, you portfolio might be viewed online, in print, on an iPad or in person. You might need to design more than one version of your portfolio to best suit the medium and method of delivery.

Know the purpose of your portfolio

Your UX portfolio should not only be a showcase of completed deliverables but a way to show who you are and display your skills and passions.

Engagement through storytelling

Use your portfolio to tell a story about the design process and include successes as well as stumbling blocks. As many of the skills involved in UX are non-tangible, don’t be afraid to explain your thinking around your work. Make your story scannable; page numbers, a contents page, dates, version numbers, headings and subheadings all give the viewer guidance and context.

A good place to start

Take a look at the portfolios of other people working in the industry and see what works for you.

Before the interview

Get to know the details of your portfolio and be prepared to speak about the various projects it includes. By rehearsing your responses to questions about your portfolio you’ll feel more confident and appear more knowledgeable to the people you’re presenting it to.


Karen Callaghan is a UX industry professional and currently working as a CX Manager for a leading startup. Mike Feghali is the Director at Expiriti and has been working in the UX industry for 12 years.