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Over the last three months, I experimented with doing live UX portfolio reviews on Youtube. Through teaching and speaking, I connect with plenty of aspiring UX researchers and designers. A common topic is breaking into the industry, and a natural focus is pitching one’s skills through a well-crafted portfolio.

Here are some quick stats from the sessions.

  • 3 portfolio reviews
  • 2 aspiring researchers
  • 1 aspiring UX designer
  • 10+ projects
Live UX portolio review Katherine

UX researcher review with Katherine Titsworth

1. Answer these three questions well

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why should I continue looking at your portfolio?

Who are you?
Think about your portfolio and application as selling door-to-door. In a figurative sense, you are knocking on someone’s door, and you have to convince them to let you in.

What do you want?
Line up your work and your aspirations with the company and the work the team is doing. If the team is looking for a UX designer, all of your work should reflect that. I often see applicants compelled to show all of the things they have learned in school. So, they put in illustrations, motion graphics experiments, video editing, etc.. Unless these experiments are immaculate, keep them out to avoid distractions.

Why should they look at your portfolio?
Your portfolio should pitch something that fills a need for the hiring manager or committee.

live ux portfolio review alejandra

UX Researcher portfolio review with Alejandra

2. Everything you put in the portfolio is a data point

This is a big challenge for designers and researchers that are not strong on the visual side. Their strengths rest on examining complex issues and mapping out how a software experience can address them. Unfortunately, UX designers that lean more on the research and interaction tend to overlook how to craft the appropriate visuals that step the reviewer through the issues.

This often results in distracting visual artifacts that clash with color, text, and lines.

Live UX portfolio review

Reviewing Austin Community College Student’s UX portfolio

3. Well structured case studies will make the difference

Structure your work into a story that the reviewers will care about. Yes, they will judge your skills. However, they will also judge you on how well you explain the project’s intent. Show your process for understanding the who, the what, and most importantly the why.

Your reviewers want to know why you are doing this project because they have to ask ‘why’ all day long.

Final thoughts on the live UX portfolio reviews

If you got a sense from watching the videos that the reviewers were in a hurry, then you learned a great lesson about the conditions as to which people will look at your work. At best, reviewers may have 10 to 20 minutes during any given week to look at a handful of candidates.

Make it easy for them to understand you.

Watch all of the live UX portfolio reviews.
Check out more videos and interviews.

Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.