The purpose of Architectural Portfolios

The primary purpose of your architectural portfolio is to demonstrate how you have grown as a designer within a certain period of time. An architectural portfolio is supposed to be a narrative collection of your best design works, including sketches, diagrams, architectural models, art-work, drawings, and photos. 

Portfolio for Applications to Schools of Architecture

An architecture school portfolio shows what the applicant is capable of bringing to the table. Architecture schools are highly competitive so standing out from other applicants is important. Architecture schools look at various factors to determine the best candidates. The schools prefer students with great creative as well as scientific ability . Students with high grades and a high GPA are more likely to be admitted, but the most successful one are applicants who combine their academic skills with a great portfolio.

The following are some fundamental tips on how to create a successful portfolio for your applications to architecture schools. 

1. Follow the Guidelines

Keep your overall portfolio the same. You don’t need to make entirely new designs to show to each school. However, make slight changes to be more in line with what the specific school you are applying to is asking or looking for. Each school has their own portfolio submission guidelines. You should not assume that one portfolio is perfect to submit to every school.  The format may need to be different depending on what school you are applying to. For example, the guidelines may ask you to submit an online, pdf, or physical portfolio. The guidelines may also dictate that they will only accept submissions of portfolios that have certain page or sheet size dimensions. Keep these portfolio development guidelines in mind throughout the process. 

2. Focus on Presentation

The purpose of submitting a portfolio is so that you can display what skills you have and what process you undergo when making designs. However, the layout is just as important in making an impression. Remember that the school you are applying to likely receives many applications. Try and make your portfolio stand out as much as possible. Use a well-thought out arrangement of text, photos, diagrams, and sketches in order to present your designs. Make sure to explain what the designs are or point out any relevant pieces of information that may help the viewer understand your process better.


3. Use Sketches and Diagrams

Instead of using text, you may also use sketching and diagrams in order to explain the process that you used to create your designs. Don’t be afraid to show off your drawing skills. Being able to draw your designs means being able to convey your design process and thoughts behind your process to an audience. It allows your audience to understand your designs better. Many architectural portfolios display step-by-step diagrams that display how the final design came to be. This is a great way to visually capture interest.


4. Avoid Flashy and Overbearing Portfolios

You want to stand out, but it is easy to go overboard with a portfolio. Less is more when it comes to portfolios which means that it is okay to have blank space. Having too much text and images on one page can cause a reader to lose interest easier. It is great to have a specific pattern that you use consistently when placing text and images throughout your portfolio.

In addition, some people may also think of adding a colorful background to their portfolio in order to make themselves stand out from other applicants. This is a good idea in theory. However, this practice takes away from the portfolio. Using a colorful background draws eyes away from your designs. The background may also contrast with your designs which makes your layout visually unappealing. The best portfolios have a white or light grey background in order to keep the focus on the actual designs.

5. Focus on Range

Once you have a layout in mind, focus on your content. Showcase your best works, but also make sure to include works that show the viewers that you have a wide range of talents. Submissions that are too similar should be avoided. Many of us have a focus area that we excel in when it comes to art and design. While it is good to show off what you are good at, the schools are also looking to see if you can excel at many things. Portfolio makers should make sure that they include works that show how flexible they can be. That said, you should leave out designs that you are unsure about.

6. Make Sure your Text is Perfect

Make a good first impression with your portfolio! When your portfolio is done, be sure to grammar check. I cannot emphasize how important grammar checking is when submitting anything for academic purposes. Applicants sometimes forget that they also need to display that they are good students. Admission offices are looking at you from an academic viewpoint. Typos may be viewed as lazy and unprofessional. The viewer will get the feeling that you didn’t proofread or work very hard on your presentation. Having proper grammar along with a great layout shows attention to detail, which schools love to see. 


Professional Architectural Portfolio Development

Portfolios are also used to land jobs or internships at architectural firms. An adequately designed architectural portfolio plays a crucial role in helping you land a great job that will propel your career. 

The perfect portfolio enables you to get a job that suits your skills and qualifications. Graduates fresh out of college don’t value the importance of a good portfolio and spend little to no effort creating one, which is why most of them have trouble finding the right job.

1. Convey a Message

While creating a portfolio, what kind of information your mention in it is essential. As a rule of thumb, it should always be relevant to the job description. However, most architecture school graduates are unaware of their target audience, and tend to focus on incorrect and irrelevant information, which is usually unrelated to getting a job.

2. Tell a Story

Images need to be evocative. They must convey a message to the viewer and connect with them internally. You must be able to draw in people with illustrations. When telling a story, don’t go overboard. Only include items that are relevant to the narrative. If an element seems distracting and has even a remote chance to distract the viewer, eliminate it.

Fluency, perfection, and perspective. Having some architectural plans on your architecture portfolio can be very useful. Make sure you remove all the unnecessary information such as names and measurements. Avoid jargon and show them your set of skills.

3. Organize your Content Properly

Your architecture portfolio provides insight into your skills as an architect. When someone is considering hiring you, they want to know the skill-set you can bring to their organization. In such cases, you need to tell a story with your portfolio. Carefully pick the pictures you want to display. The interviewer might spend an average of 5 seconds on each, so make it count. They usually look for how the images are laid out, the balance of white with respect to the image, the utilization of negative space, and the overall presentation. The interviewer grants you mental notes based on these points. Your chance of landing the job increases if your work is good enough to impress them.

4. Use the Right Graphic Software

During the late 90s, digital technology to create the perfect architecture portfolio was not available. People had to glue together pages containing the desired information physically. However, that’s not the case anymore. Besides Photoshop, other digital options can help you create an eye-grabbing portfolio. Utilizing this software is a basic necessity for the average architectural professional. You should incorporate digital technology to create a distinguished portfolio that stands apart from the rest.

5. Clarity & Consistency

The easier your designs are to understand, the better. Don’t just present a site plan. Make use of your skill to create wayfinding devices and icons that help the viewer to understand what it is you are trying to convey to them, making it easier for them to understand. Make good use of line weights as it displays your proficiency with a pencil (both digital and physical). Proper implementation of weight eliminates visual competition and provides details in a minimalist way. 

6. Quality of Graphics & Layout

Consistency is the key when you are presenting a skillset. Designing architecture is a delicate process, one that requires a solid aesthetic approach. Nobody wants sporadic designs. You must choose a plan and follow through with it. In case you are an extremely creative individual, you can provide multiple projects, but refrain from using more than one layout for the entire portfolio.

7. Include Models

A model tells the interviewer a lot about your ability to think in three dimensions. On top of that, it also shows your ability to concentrate on seemingly mundane tasks for an extended period, your attention to detail, and your ability as a craftsman. The kind of base you use, the way you present the model, and the shape of the footprint are all testaments to your design aesthetic. It is not about architecture but rather an insight into your thought process, how you communicate ideas, and how you demonstrate pride in your work.

8. Include something that isn’t a Building

Remember that in telling a stranger about yourself, you can include a small projects that you completed in architecture school or in your spare time. You may even add something you created by hand such as a pieces of sculpture, drawings, or portraits. Your goal is to convince the interviewer that you are a creative person with an eye for detail, and a diverse portfolio such as this can be a great way to present your skills.

9. Update Often

Once you are done creating your portfolio, you should still remember to update it on a regular basis. It is best to use designs that are newer in order to display your current skills. A portfolio is a tool to advertise yourself. You should not get rid of your portfolio. Instead, update it with newer designs from time to time.