When combining art, business, and engineering to create, industrial designers are one of the few multidimensional creators in the world. But when they’re limited to the flat four-corner screens, things might get tricky for creating their design portfolios. By consequence, an industrial design portfolio should be able to showcase a designer’s specific skill set and sample work to land clients from all over the world with good graphic and web design. Read more about the reasons why building a personal website is important here.
More than a simple resume website, your industrial design portfolio should be able to communicate your skill set, your process, and other information a potential client should know about you as a creator for them to consider hiring you. If you’re just starting out, check out this step-by-step guide. But for those already have a working website, here’s a few tips on what you should include or improve in your design portfolios:
An introduction of who you are as a designer. Talk about yourself professionally through an About Page, or as a first look into your space. You’ll need a long-form version for a dedicated page, and a two-to-three-sentence pitch version for your homepage before a potential client scrolls down to see your work. With a good introduction, you can set the tone and expectation for everything else that you intend to show in your design portfolios through an inspiring landing page.
Set the expectation. When discussing a project, tell them what to expect from you. This can be conveyed through the short introductory copy mentioned earlier, but this can also be done visually with the right website design. If you work in a specific niche in your field, declare that and narrow your industrial design portfolio assets to those relevant to your expertise.
Convey multiple skills. To sell YOU as a designer, you’ll need to demonstrate your set of variable skills to a project. Great website portfolio examples often include media sets that illustrate all the sub-skills in the design process - be it planning, sketching, animating, rendering and more. Don’t be afraid to mention your limits as well - this is incredibly important for managing a client’s expectations, but you’ll need to do it well. If there’s a hierarchy of your abilities, find a way to describe these limits, especially if these are a result of client requirements.
Invest in product photography. Especially if your type of work involves the design and creation of prototypes and other tactile experiences. Your outputs are the jewels of your process that you need to display and curate, with an industrial design portfolio to house them like a professional museum dedicated to your personal body of work.
Present your projects. The focus of your industrial design portfolio, presenting your outputs is what clients evaluate and first take into account before even considering working with you. Design a memorable user-experience oriented website and don’t compile an album and label it simply as “Sketches”. But as with storytelling, curate your projects through progress photos, descriptors of the intertwined skills, and the feedback following the output. Highlight the strength of each project, which phase took the most time complete, and what were the valuable insights gained from each end product.
Show your process. Apart from the output, showing how you get to the endpoint is as important as the end result in design portfolios. Take your future clients on a journey from drafts, the revisions, the options, before the final product. At the very least, if a potential employer doesn’t like the final design, they can take into account the various factors that got you to that point.
Additionally, if a design was a team effort, you’ll need to specify which parts of the processes were yours - make it easy for recruiters to separate you from a collaboration and make an assessment that’s well-informed and focused on your work ethic. Read more about other people who have showcased their skills and processes on their website portfolios to inspire your own.
Cut down your copy. Long-form essays of your processes and projects are not required for effective design portfolios. While it’s always recommended to accompany the stunning visuals of your work with descriptors, be careful not to bore your client with every excruciating detail. Give enough just to inform, and give your audience space to evaluate your work. If you’re unsure, here’s a guide to writing good copy that you can use anywhere.
And finally, keep it simple. Combine all of the tips mentioned above and balance them according to what works best for the work that you do. A practical test for this is to get a fresh pair of eyes for some constructive criticism. See if they can understand the information you want to convey and listen to their feedback. If they have no trouble understanding the work you do, seeing the work you’ve done, and how to contact you, you’re all set.
Famous industrial designers all have their own unique spin into conveying their skill and body of work - and so should you. But if you already have a working industrial design portfolio and are looking to improve on it, consider the following pointers for improvement:
Tailor your work to a business. If you’ve worked long enough in your field, you probably have a specialization you want to focus on, and may want to filter your clientele to focus on your honed niche. Depending on how big of a career shift this is, it would require some key redesigns in some areas of your website portfolio to house only the projects you’ve worked on to give an idea on what you’d like to do next.
This advice also works in the reverse - when you want to diversify your clientele and have worked in previous projects that have informed your new specialization, rework your industrial design portfolio to reflect it. You’ll need additional assets to help corroborate your capability and credibility, but it’s well worth the effort to invite new opportunities.
Streamline your design portfolios - and have a separate space for personal projects. If there are other skills you have that you’d also like to advertise (or want to have a monetized blog), consider branching into a new website. There’s a lot of design portfolio examples from creatives who work in a variety of fields that balance a professional and personal spin on showcasing their work. If you want to share more long-form thought processes of your work, consider creating a blog. If you do photography in your downtime, you can create a photography portfolio that can promote your hobby - and with the right strategy, can help circle back into your main career as an industrial designer.
You may also have two portfolios - one that focuses on your top ten projects and another one that’s comprehensive. This advice is more for the jacks-of-all-trades that are struggling to get hired for one specific industry. If you want to do niche work, create a more tailored website portfolio for that type of work, while allowing the more exhaustive website to stand as a main personal website.
Whatever industry, there’s always a place for you online to share both your career and your passions. Here we can take a look at two famous industrial designers and look at their design portfolios to see what you can do to showcase your work. You can even check out these starter portfolio templates for some visual variety.
Dan Makoski’s industrial design portfolio is a simple single scroll website that immediately calls into attention who he is and what he does. In reverse-chronology, he outlines his career in short words, while peppering in other value-adding content to his website which includes a blog, introductory videos, contact pages, and ways to access his CV and headshots. Through the scroll, he demonstrates his credibility and capability with tangible and recognizable products that were results of his design thinking while making himself open to engagement and contact for collaboration.
CL & PP on the other hand, has an industrial design portfolio is a comprehensive space for the two architectural partners, Clara Georgelin-Conan and Pier Paolo Bonandrini. Their design portfolio greets them with an expansive photo of one of their designs, and works your way down into a visual feast of publications they were featured in, the houses they’ve designed, the apartments they’ve renovated, the tertiary and industrial renders, and so much more. They end with a quick prose of their philosophy and collaborators while also opening a channel for contact.
Creating a great portfolio takes a lot of work that’ll need the same amount of care as you would in any design project. But the rewards of a well-crafted portfolio is about the same as designing a good product - except it’s leagues ahead in helping you to market your skills for the jobs you want. Take these tips with you and put yourself out there - create your own industrial design portfolio now!