Why not come back from a months-long writing hiatus with a somewhat off-the-cuff rant that's been building for just about as long as I've been away from posting on my weblog?
I've been going through dozens of applications for design positions over the past few months as we hire at Digg. I've also been through plenty of resumés and portfolios at silverorange and I'm sure I'll be sifting through more with Pownce at some point in the not-too-distant future. An application and portfolio are generally fairly easy to do well (though they're seldom incredible) but there are a few common and easy-to-fix issues that I've seen again and again. A few things that cause me to pause on anyone's application:
- Include your portfolio
- Nothing matters more than your portfolio. Sure, your education and prior experience are useful knowledge, but I want to see your actual work immediately. I'm continually surprised how many applications are a straight up resumé with no link to a portfolio. A web-based portfolio is always preferable, but if you can't include current work online at least include well-described screenshots.
- Lightboxes in portfolios can die a speedy death
- This issue precipitated this blog post over any other. Ever since the Lightbox effect was created, there's been a surge of designers implementing it in their portfolios. Click on a thumbnail of a project in a portfolio and there's about a fifty percent chance you'll end up seeing a downsampled image of the relevant site. The Lightbox thing is easy to implement and has been used effectively in lots of places. Your web design portfolio is not one of those places (unless you're featuring your photos). Seriously. At best, I want to see your work in full functioning order. Bar that, a static html/css page would great. That won't work either? Well at least provide a full-size screenshot.
- Link to actual live sites
- If you can, link to an actual live website that you've designed. Sure, you might've handed off the work to your client six months ago and now they've gone and changed some stuff, but that's all part of the design process. Showing something that lives and breathes in the real-world even when you've let go of the reigns is a great sign of confidence. Even better, describe what's changed since you handed off the project and how that's been positive or negative. If you're unable to show live work because of NDA concerns, find some way to describe the project in general terms or share particular parts of the UI that don't give the game away.
- Describe your role in a project
- If you worked as part of a team, especially a big team, describe which parts of the project most reflect your input. Just linking to your work is good, but it's all the better if you're able to describe the politics of decisions, the process to achieving the final goal, and how you were able to produce something to proud of.
And now I shall return to my current stack of applications, with a deep sigh that I got that off my chest...