The Two Page Architecture Portfolio

Sara Mandeed
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You did what?

I did what I just told you to do. Who are you? The police? No one will ever admit they did something unethical. Instead, they have a response ready.

My response wasn't “off the wall.” You can see dozens of people asking for the inbox hack. But that doesn't mean it makes sense.

If you had just gotten value out of my guide, you would have thanked me and then checked out my email. The fact that you thanked me and then asked me to do the thing that would get you the inbox means you didn't find any value.

Keep it short

You are only allowed two pages. Everything else is a waste of the client’s time, yours and the printers.

Use those two pages wisely.

You are not required to use both pages and there are times when you should use only one. However, it is easier to include more work than it is to remove work. Always remember that while trying to decide how much work to include.

Your reader is looking for a simple message. Keep it clear and direct.

Finally, remember the two main reasons for an architecture book. They are a) to show your work to others or for others to see it and b) as a portfolio to collect letters of commendations or testimonials of your work in the field.

I keep on stating these reasons because they invariably lead back to the point that you need to have a great portfolio in order to be successful.

The viewer of your book is usually a VIP client who wants to spend money on you. The book should show them why they should.

So show them.

Make it easy for the hiring manager

Your portfolio is a direct reflection of your work and who you are as a designer. This is why we take great care before making the hiring manager select you for an interview.

Your portfolio is the first contact with a potential client’s project team. We want your portfolio to be professional in design and layout.

When you communicate with potential clients, you must be well versed in proper terminology and able to talk about things at a high level.

A portfolio that provides a quick insight into your work is a must. You should be able to describe what each project is in a few sentences. This is very important especially when you are pitching a potential client.

So we have a simple formula to follow in putting together your portfolio.

Send an email that introduces yourself to the company and explain why you are emailing them. Explain the details for the project. Tell them that you have been speaking with the hiring manager. Say that you will be following up with them shortly.

Make it obvious that you have the skills to do the job. Don’t send a .zip file. Make it easy for the hiring manager to see and read your work.

Be courteous to your potential client and be helpful in building an alliance. If you’re pitching a potential client, help them understand what the project is about.

Keep it simple

A good portfolio is simple. Interfaces should be simple. There should be less. The less stuff you add, the more room there is to actually concentrate and focus on your work.

Without adding a single item of information, you can create a portfolio that contains a good set of work.

Only show projects which show your unique value and relevance. If you have a tonne of work, select the high points.

Don’t include every school assignment or TF at every creative shop.

Align the titles with the image. This is the first thing you see. Use the same font and bold it.

Name the start- and enddate. This is important. It is the moment of truth. Don’t hide it with a big image. Have a section for past, present and future. Where can you work? Where did you work?

Be honest about what you can do. You can’t do everything good. It’s a fact. Boundaries are part of creating great work. Write what you do every day. SHOW REDUCTION.

Say if it was an intern role and you held another role in the same time (or even an important role in another company).

Show your personality. Show your love for what you do. Show that this is what you can do better than anybody else.

Use a grownup email address

Resumes and portfolios are typically made public, so it’s important for you to use a professional email address and portfolio site when you’re searching for internships and jobs.

While it’s nicer to use something professional like [email protected] or [email protected], you can also use your own website if you own one.

Get past the SPAM filter

Let’s face it – your two page architecture portfolio may only get a few seconds of attention from your potential employer. The goal in the layout of these two pages is to make a few seconds feel like minutes.

For example, architects and potential clients would be more inclined to read a short description of your design projects, including any innovative work you may have done, followed by an example of one of your projects.

A good idea would be to print your images larger than what the printer will allow you to do. Usually, this is about 10 cm by 10 cm. This may cost you a little more but it will pay off in the time spent.

Here is an overview of the content you should include:

  1. A short summary of your design projects. Even though this is here are still important, use this space to feature your work and emphasize your design skills.
  2. A step up from your design skills, talk about innovative design projects. This may be your own project where you experimented with a unique form, material, or technique etc.
  3. Finally, your design portfolio should always close with a single example of your work. Make sure that you choose your best work!

Be sure to include your contact information, personal details and keep it clean. When you are done, use a paper shredding service to destroy the extra copies.

Looking for an architecture job?

There’s one thing you’ll need — your portfolio. And while an online portfolio is a great option, it isn’t the only one. Even if you do want to go the online route, having a printed and bound two-page document on hand is a good idea. Why? Because it gives you the opportunity to visually separate your work into two categories: recent work and past work. Why should you do this? Two reasons: 1) When designing a portfolio, many designers make the mistake of allowing the client to see everything at once. Yes, they might be impressed, but the client will be thinking “does this person know what he’s doing?” 2) Within the past work section, be sure to include some older work that you may no longer be proud of. Add this work to your portfolio so that you can explain where you were at that time (miles from where you are now) and show the improvements you’re capable of making over time. Your clients will be impressed with your ability to learn from your mistakes and implement change.

Applying to architecture graduate school?

You’ll need to submit a portfolio as part of your application. At most architecture graduate schools, like other graduate programs, the only criteria used for admission is your GPA. But, most architecture schools receive a large volume of applications for admission, making it difficult for them to screen your portfolio in the process. To deal with the large number of applications to review, most architecture schools use the two-page portfolio review.

When you’re applying to architecture school, the most important documents are your transcript and your portfolio. The two page resume will assure they have enough information to evaluate your application.

”Your resume should include the following: All courses taken, your grade point average, and the number of years it took you to complete your degree and your undergraduate institution. If you are in a B.F.A. program and have not completed a thesis requirement, you need to state that you have not completed the thesis and any special conditions that are attached to your portfolio requirements,” advises Wegner.

It also helps to prepare a portfolio review sheet. This will streamline the addition of the portfolio to the stack of applications by focusing on the most important details about your portfolio.