Architecture Portfolio Tips

Architecture students and graduates know that it’s not enough to simply do good work – half the challenge is communicating the work you do. The job search portfolio is probably one of our more stressful representational challenges. There’s a balance to strike between personality and professionalism, and you don’t want to wonder whether you didn’t send the message you intended.

In preparation for an upcoming work term I put together my first professional portfolio this summer and learned a few things along the way. I’m by no means an expert, but here are some of the things I’ve been told or complimented on thus far:

1. The cover is your first impression. You can go minimal, use elaborate patterns, or use a photo you’re particularly proud of, just know that it will say something about your style and interests. I chose a photo relevant to my interests in coastal architecture and repurposed materials, with colours I thought worked well together.

2. Resumes can come at the front or the back of your portfolio. In my case I paired it with a table of contents over a graphic which ties to the theme of my cover. The (lack of) colour here introduces the stark black and white scheme which I use throughout my portfolio.

3. When you get to your projects it helps to have a system. I first split my page spread into top and bottom, and then into three columns per page. This gave me some zones to work with. The three labelled above stayed the same on most of my pages while the others vary. Once you have a system you also learn how to break out of it – on some pages large images cross my guides, placing emphasis on them.

4. Think about print. If you ever plan to make physical copies of your portfolio there are a few things you should consider. First, standard sizes make for cheaper copies – mine is formatted for a letter sized page in landscape orientation. Second, printing to the edges of your page (full bleed) requires printing larger and cutting down. This can be costly and time-consuming, but can also be worth it. In my case I wanted to be able to make many copies, so I kept my graphics from the edges of the page (in most cases) and left room at the “spine” for binding.

In a few years I’m sure my portfolio will be very different than what you see here, both in content and style, but for now I’m very happy with it. Good luck!


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