Portfolio Roast + Review

Hey everyone :]

I’m in the process for applying for design internships, and I’m having trouble landing a position. I’m applying to a bunch of studios near me for both graphic and web design.

I’m open to any and all feedback. A big thank you in advance to anyone providing crit.

Link to portfolio: miincho.github.io/
Link to Resume: miincho.github.io/assets/MinkyungCho_Resume.pdf

(sorry i cant post links in the post, so I just replaced the dots with (dot) )

I’ve fixed your links to make them active and upped your posting privileges so that you can post links. By the way, welcome to the forum. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Firstly, be prepared for some fairly brutal honesty; remember, you asked…

Initially, I looked at your portfolio for about three seconds and completely disregarded it as the visual ramblings of someone who had no design skills, no understanding of layout, hierarchy, space, etc; in short, someone with no education whatsoever. I didn’t even look at any actual work

I then went to your resume and it looked like it had been laid out by an entirely different person.

So, I went back to give the portfolio another go, to see if it was intentionally ironic, experimental, etc. I hope it is, otherwise I wouldn’t be blamed for asking if you’d slept through your entire degree. It amounts to visual a cacophony and that spinning star is intensely irritating and gratuitous.

This kind of self-indulgent expression is fine for personal projects, but it won’t land you a job. If I were looking for a designer who wants me to pay them money every month, I need to know they can serve my clients well and solve their problems, which, in turn, pays me enough money to cover your expense and makes a modest profit.

Additionally, there are no live projects in your portfolio. I want to know you can handle real world projects and not make it difficult for me to find out how. If you don’t have any yet. Find a way. Volunteer. Intern. Learn in the real world.

I’m afraid this needs a complete rethink, otherwise potential employers will give you the same initial three seconds I did and walk away. They have a business to run, and do not have the time to be digging around looking to see if you have any real-world skills. I see the odd glimpse of it, but you need to make that obvious, not cryptic.

For example, like the resume, the actual book layouts, even though they evidence your lack of experience, at least demonstrate some understanding of layout and white space. A potential employer would more likely give you the time of day with these, but they will not – cannot – spent the time digging around to find it.

Employ this methodology to your websites and you will get a lot further.

Good luck. Hope this helps with finding clarity.


hey, I appreciate you taking the time for writing some feedback!

I’ve tended to have more of a maximalist style so I’ve always struggled with toning it down and finding the right visual balance. I actually went ahead and updated the site just now to remove the overlaying boxes to tone down how busy it looks.

Initially, I looked at your portfolio for about three seconds and completely disregarded it as the visual ramblings of someone who had no design skills, no understanding of layout, hierarchy, space, etc;

By this, did you mean the image layout, type hierarchy, or both? I considered the single image thumbnail for the projects, but in my mind I found it difficult to encapsulate the visual qualities of each project in a single image. I was told that recruiters spend very short amounts of time browsing a portfolio so I opted the multi-image grid so it would be an easy scroll without having to redirect to a new page to read the details of each project. If my type hierarchy for the project descriptions are unappealing, do you have some more recommendations on fine-tuning it? I’ve been considering removing the green accent color and/or using one typeface.

When I designed the site, I definitely went for a more stylistic approach, but I didn’t realize it came off as self-indulgent. I guess at the end of the day the projects would shine more through a more simple portfolio layout.

Additionally, there are no live projects in your portfolio.
I’ve always wondered if studios looking to hire interns focus heavily on this aspect? I think for junior/senior designers this would be very important, but I was told by other peers and mentors that its okay to have majority student work. I’d love to get your insight on expectations for interns vs. fulltime designers

On the one hand, I love the experimentation. It’s very refreshing to see something out of the ordinary and not built with a WordPress theme. I looked at the underlying code, and it’s much cleaner than any I’ve seen in a long time. Did you hand-code it?

Despite that, @sprout is correct about employers hiring designers who they think will meet their clients’ needs. Unfortunately, not too many clients want an experimental website that looks like someone’s fine arts project. Instead, they want what their competitors have, only a bit better. They’re very conservative in that way.

You obviously have the skills and talent, but if an internship or subsequent employment is in the cards, you probably need to rein in your creativity and direct it toward the business needs of those employers. Yeah, it sort of sucks, but that’s the reality of the game outside of design school.

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yes, the site was hand-coded!

Unfortunately, not too many clients want an experimental website that looks like someone’s fine arts project. Instead, they want what their competitors have, only a bit better. They’re very conservative in that way.

This has been the sad reality that I’ve been getting hit with recently. I do come from a fine arts background, so I think that’s partly why I’ve struggled to transition into the design field so much. I think going forward into my senior year, I’ll try to lean more towards the conservative end as I would prefer to work under a company rather than freelance.

Thanks for your insight!

It’s not about conservative or experimentation. It’s fundamentally about; what do you want to say, who do you want to say it to and how do you want to say it (tone of voice – the first two, mostly determine the latter). If you are talking to abstract expressionists, then your approach is different to if you were talking to a mother’s group, or a lawyer. In real life, if you were talking to these groups of people, your life experience and knowledge would kick in and you would change your words and tone of voice accordingly. Your job is to do that visually. Take the self out of it.

Design is never about self expression. Keep that side of you for personal projects and use your knowledge, skills and aesthetics to communicate a client’s message to their audience. In this case, you are the client, so it is, theoretically, a little easier (though often more difficult). Usually, your job is to understand what the client wants to say, then do the same. The more you do it, the more adept you become at gleaning the relevant information from them.

So the question of minimalist, maximalist, bold, subtle, monochrome, bright is all academic. It is determined by the client and their audience.

Finally, the question of freelance vs working for someone. You are absolutely right. At this stage, you need at least four or five years experience before you can think about going it alone. You will learn so much in the next five years, once you get a job. Soak every bit of it up.

I lack the industry credentials of sprout and Just-B, as I’m a beginner/student in this field. So take my feedback with a grain of salt.

That said however, my instantaneous reaction to your portfolio was ‘visual vomit’. It’s busy, lots of things moving around, flashing, rotating, flipping, etc. It’s distracting and you have not led anyone to focus their eyes or attention on what you want them to. For example, information about a product.

In this case, YOU are the product, and you want to demonstrate that you can produce material which can sell a company’s products or services. I agree there were a few things which look ok in there, but none of it was able to keep my attention. If I wasn’t looking at this with the intent of responding to you with feedback, I would have almost instantly closed the tab and moved on with my day. I’m willing to bet that would-be employers will generally have a similar reaction.

While I am aiming more for creative design agencies rather than the corporate product design/UIUX pathway, I do agree that the same hierarchy principles still apply.

I took some time to replace some of the gifs and simplify the image grids, since the thought that there’s too many moving elements also crossed my mind. I’ve been on the fence about displaying the websites/interactive work I’ve made either through screenshots or gifs/videos. I think the gif format quickly makes it obvious that its a website and gives people a better idea of what the basic interactions are.

I’m not too sure how I would be able to create a less busy focal point without entirely restructuring the site. An idea was just having one large thumbnail image and making it a carousel. If you have an recommendations, then I’d love to hear it!

I really like your portfolio, even though it doesn’t fit a general communications job.
It all looks very artistic to me and I think it would go well with certain art projects. Maybe an internship in a regular studio isn’t the way to go. Maybe you want to look into a career as a professional independent or an internship at art places like the Ars Electronica Center or their international festivals.

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thanks for the cool resources! i’ll definitely check them out

I might as well point out that there’s a niche audience for a fine arts approach to graphic design similar to yours. April Greiman, for example, made a successful career doing that. However, it’s not the norm and is certainly a niche approach that won’t land you lots of job offers in corporate America.

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Am a bit of a nerd myself (JS + python) :nerd_face:, so was admiring how cool it is to see a portfolio hosted on Github :computer: .

I love the idea of intergrating design and coding, I’ve always thought it’s quite a powerful combo should you ever want to do your own thing or have your own ideas :thinking:.

As someone who also has a foot in both camps (coding + design), I can see you’ve got a lot of talent, however my suspicion is that your portfolio is a little confusing for prospective employers that are exclusively from either a coding or design background.

My suggestion is creating two portfolios, one which showcases your coding ability and another which showcases your design skills.

Appreciate this is a lot of work, but that’s what I would do. Or if you were lazy just create one portfolio for whatever space pays the best and has more employment opportunities :moneybag:.

FWIW, it works better now you’ve rejigged it.

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haha I’m definitely hosting on github so I dont have to pay for a web hosting service :’)

My suggestion is creating two portfolios, one which showcases your coding ability and another which showcases your design skills.

you make a good point. I’ve heard of this concept when making two different resumes but I’m realizing this could work for portfolios too

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That goes back to talking in the right tone of voice to a specific audience thing. What speaks to one audience, may not speak to the other, hence the need for different portfolios.

Yea and Githubs servers are quite fast too :wink:

Was thinking about your situation a bit more last night and am not sure whether front end developers do portfolios per say, before investing time into it, it would probably pay find out what’s standard practice.

Was also thinking that if you were open to try an approach that’s a bit left of field, you could call up someone that’s a head of department and works for a company you’d like to work for (even if they’re not necessarily hiring right now), be fully transparent about your situation and acknowledge that you’re not expecting them to hire you and offer to buy them a coffee :coffee: in exchange for a chat and some honest feedback on your work.

It’s a roll of the dice :game_die:: They could tell you to f*ck off… and that’s ok, nothing lost, but if you meet them, they could give you some invaluable insights and might know someone else that is hiring.

As a student, this may not be super valuable to you but just a raw thought from a beginner:

My first reaction was wow, this is a lot! It took me a second get myself to focus on something specific and actually pay attention to what it was. Maximalist for sure! Some really cool and impressive things. You come across as a free spirit, who would be perfect for the right project, but maybe not as universal as companies are looking for. I’m remembering reading about the difference between an artist and a designer. For a traditional design job maybe you’ll have to lean more towards designer, but if you could work on special projects as a freelancer, your artistic side combined with design skills may be just what someone is looking for. Really enjoyed looking at your unique, inspiring portfolio!