What I Learned from Portfolio Reviews

What I Learned from Portfolio Reviews

What I Learned from Portfolio Reviews

Contributed by Stephanie Redding, Designer at Washington Business Journal and SNDDC Speaker

If you’re a student attending the SNDDC workshop, you’ve probably signed up for the Student Day portfolio reviews – and by probably I mean you absolutely should. It’s a time for industry professionals from different backgrounds to take a look at your hard work and give their own unique advice. But going into a review unprepared can be nerve-wracking. In my undergrad I attended three workshops where I participated in the student portfolio reviews, each as valuable as the last. Here are a few take-aways from my experiences that I still use when I put together my portfolio.

Curate your best work: While it’s great to show that you have experience, you don’t have to include the entirety of your work. Edit down your portfolio to your best pieces and put the most impressive at the top. Keep in mind that your favorite piece might not be your best. You also don’t have to put examples of every skill you have in your portfolio, especially if it’s not a direction you want to go in with your career. Save that for the skills section of your resume.

The process matters: Highlight big projects with variations and mockups so the reviewer can see the steps you took to get to the final product. If you are in a pinch and don’t have examples, add an explanation of how long the project took you to complete and specifics about what you worked on. If you’re in an editor position, include examples that you helped direct and explain that process. 

Be honest: Don’t take full credit for the entirety of a project or piece of work if you didn’t do it all yourself. This is important for group projects and art direction examples. Be clear about what you worked on in the description, or crop in on your section and show it next to the full piece.

Pay attention to interactions: If you have a portfolio site, watch how your reviewers engage with your content. Do you have an image that won’t zoom in at a high quality? Is it unclear how to get from one example to another? Take note of these interactions and make changes for future reviews.

Be confident in what you present: You’re going to show off what you’ve done so far in your career, so let your reviewer know what you’re excited about. But also take time to listen and ask questions. If this is your first review and you’re nervous and don’t know how to respond to something, be honest and say that you haven’t done many reviews before. Showing your work can be incredibly vulnerable, but professionals are as excited to look at your work as you are to hear what they have to say. Remember that this is a great opportunity to network, and everyone reviewing your portfolio has been in your shoes.


How to have a voice inside a design system
Sunday, April 5
Design systems create consistency, structure and standards across sections or a family of publications. But they also can stymie creativity and freedom. The team at American City Business Journals will discuss how an organization with no visual identity a decade ago transformed its 40 weekly publications into a place where each designer’s voice can be unique and heard, while still coloring inside the lines of a design framework.


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