How to Build Your Architecture Portfolio



Well, portfolio making. It’s a big task, but if you do it right, the first project will take a while and the rest will fall into place a bit easier. I used InDesign for my portfolio, and I hugely recommend it, or another program that allows you to do multiple pages in one document. If you don’t have a program like that, I would recommend Illustrator over Photoshop because it’s vector based for line drawings, but can still handle photos pretty well.

Start by selecting the project that is in the best condition graphic-wise, or most intriguing to you. It helps to encourage you to work on it and you won’t have to work out as much kinks in the content while you’re working on the overall layout.

I’m going to try to layout some of the things to think about and places to start, but it’s a little challenging because every designer is different.
Remember, your portfolio is as much a design project as any of the projects in it.

It should reflect you and your process and personal objectives. Before you pay too much attention to my guidance, think of how you usually tackle your design projects and see if it lends anything to this process. If you can pick something like that up, it will really go a long way to help the people looking at your portfolio understand who you are as a designer.
Now, the first few things to think about: size, orientation, and color scheme.

Size: I’ll say it flat out- The easiest, cheapest size to do is 8 ½” by 11″. BUT that doesn’t mean it’s the best. In fact, if you’re ever going to do something hard and expensive, your professional portfolio is the best place to do it. Square portfolios are nice, or do something crazy and interesting. Keep in mind, your portfolio will likely be double-sided, so think of the spread as a whole, not just one page. You can also go for A3 or A4 as printing them easily is also a task. If you need any help regarding paper sizes you can simply go to Paper Sizes

Orientation: Most of the time, portfolios get a landscape orientation, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option, and sometimes it’s nice to switch it up. Again, remember double sided, so a landscape portfolio bound on the side is twice as long. It also doesn’t have to be bound on the side… Though I would probably limit this to the top or the right, for clarity unless you have an idea that dictates otherwise.

Color scheme: This one is so important, which hopefully, we all know. I noticed that in a lot of my projects, I used a light blue as an accent color, so I used that as my main color in my portfolio and picked out a secondary. That way, I didn’t have to edit my drawings as much. Another way to do color, is to give each project their own color, which can help separate them for your reader. Some people’s instinct is to go with primary colors… It can work, but sometimes it ends up looking a little childish. In Adobe products there’s an extension for Kuler, which has great color schemes if you need some guidance. If you don’t have the Adobe package, here is their website version of it. You drag one of the arms to a color you like and it gives you other colors that would go well with it. You can chose to make the scheme monochromatic, triad, complementary, etc.

Now, set up your first project. You’ll want to set up a grid that will remain consistent through all of the pages, so that it will read well as one document. On different pages, each section of the grid can have different content type (renderings, drawings, text), but it will keep the different sections uniform sizes.

Text: write up a description of each project. What was the design challenge, where was it located, what issues where you trying to tackle. My style is to describe the project as if it existed (so “this project is about” rather than “I did this” and “I tried this”. In fact, I tried to refer to my self as little as possible). If your portfolio is for a school, they generally like to see the progress you’ve made as a designer, within each project and as a whole, so early projects can help show that. In the professional setting, you would usually want to rework all of your projects so that they look super awesome.

What you do most and what you do best should be front and center.
And of course you’ll have titles, typefaces, color, textures, backgrounds, pictures of models, sketches, line drawings, fold outs, pop ups, take aways, business card slots. Maybe you’ll make a cloth bound cover. Maybe you’ll make a space to put a brownie for the viewer to enjoy.
At the end of the day, don’t listen to what I say over the little voice in your head, because the most important thing is that you make something that you think is incredibly beautiful because then people with the same tastes will be drawn to you.

I know. It’s a lot to take in. The biggest thing is to start doing it. And to help you start thinking: Here’s one website that posts their student’s portfolios.  A huge variety in styles: some good, some bad. And, here’s a book I bought to look through. Maybe you can get it from the library 🙂
Sigh, sorry for the long rambling post. Can’t edit. Brain fried. Submit some tips for me!

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