In a recent Bridge workshop, Tiffany Ng, a product designer at Square, talked to us about what it takes to stand out from the rest in your portfolio presentation. Below is a recap of her tips by Ximena Vengoechea.
There are multiple steps in the typical design interview process. We’ve written about tips for preparing your portfolio and interviewing in general before. If your portfolio looks good, you have a great call, pass any mini design challenges and interviews with individuals go well, then you usually get invited to give a portfolio presentation. This can be your final chance to leave a positive impression on the larger team you may be joining. It’s equal parts art, science, and a little bit of serendipity. So how do you make sure your work shines and your presentations stay on point?
The portfolio presentation is an opportunity to show your best work and walk your panel through your design process. At most companies you’ll be presenting your work to 4-6 designers of all stripes (visual, interaction, junior to senior), plus or minus a few product or engineering counterparts. Be prepared to articulate your design thinking and defend your design decisions.
- Pay attention to detail. How you organize your slides, your folders and even your PSDs says a lot about how you organize your workflow. Every detail counts, even how clean your desktop is!
- Be selective. Pick 2-3 of your best projects and GO DEEP. Less is more.
- Be wary of time. Your presentation time should be spent like this:
- Talk too much about the overall product vision of a project. Focus on the nitty gritty design decisions instead.
- Take all the credit. The bigger the project, the more likely it is that you didn’t do it all. Your interviewers know that! Give credit to those you collaborated with: Be transparent about which decisions you owned, and which you did not.
- Show too few visuals or too much polish. Don’t stick to the finished design. Show a spectrum of work that illustrates your design process and tells the story of how & why you landed where you did. Explaining tradeoffs and compromises should be part of the conversation.
Portfolios are attached to people. What would it be like to work with you, not just your designs? Expressing your personality, your level of interest in the company, and your work processes are essential to acing your interview. Here’s a quick look at how to present yourself in the best light possible:
- Google image searching your work in the middle of the presentation. Have your images ready to pop at a distance.
- Sounding like it’s the first time you’ve talked about this project. Rehearse with another designer you respect beforehand.
- Not knowing the product, not asking questions. Be ready to have a dialogue and engage the audience.
- No personality. Show that you’ll add something unique to the team.
- Prep collateral in advance. Bonus point for videos and prototypes.
- Acknowledge limitations, flaws, and tradeoffs. Before your panel can.
- Show interest and curiosity in the company’s work. Relate your work to problem spaces the company operates in.
- Share humor, humanity and a realness. Show what it might be like to work with you.
If you follow these steps, it should be easier for your interview panel to say yes. What else do you think is critical for acing your portfolio presentation? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.