Presenting Your Portfolio
By AIGA July 23, 2020
Presenting Your Portfolio
By AIGA July 23, 2020
Presenting Your Portfolio
By AIGA July 23, 2020

AIGA recently hosted a webinar on Presenting Your Portfolio Over Zoom presented by Leon Rodriguez, an instructor at the Art Center of College and Design and the University of Southern California. Leon is also the director of education at AIGA Los Angeles and president and creative director of LRLA which works with top-tier museums, cultural institutions and private clients on 3D storytelling experiences.

Early in his career, Leon served as an exhibit designer at the Getty Museum of Art for nine years. He learned about art and its presentation as well as how art interpretation can have a dramatic impact on changing people's perspectives. Every April, AIGA Los Angeles hosts a portfolio review. In 2020, that review was a virtual experience and the event became the genesis of this webinar.

The context of the conversation centered around the global pandemic, but Leon also addressed the unpleasant realities of America today. We cannot pretend that the current state of affairs isn't affecting us. Instead, we should ask ourselves what we’ll do in this moment. How will you spend your time isolated from people? As a designer, how will you combat systemic racism? It’s important to acknowledge the context we are in right now.

As a portfolio reviewer, Leon often sees projects that were designed six months ago that are no longer relevant. Make sure you acknowledge the context in which we are living today and take a moment to adjust your portfolio. Find a new way of expressing an idea that you couldn’t six months ago. 

There is a distinction between a portfolio website and presenting a portfolio on Zoom (or in person) even though these platforms may share the same content. 

The purpose of an online portfolio or personal website is to secure an interview. 

A good presentation is how you get hired. 

Even during COVID-19, people are interviewing for internships, entry-level jobs, and other opportunities. It’s important to consider challenges as opportunities. When placed into that context, opportunities are abundant. What designers do best is think about something in an innovative way to overcome an obstacle.

Below are Leon’s tips for presenting your portfolio on Zoom:

Tip 1: Make Sure Your Tech Is Ready for Zoom

How is your internet connection? Bandwidth is a household issue with family members sharing WiFi. Invest in an ethernet cable to plug in directly into your router. Tiny details in your presentation as well as your space make an impression. Don’t use backlighting over Zoom since it diminishes your presence. If there is ambient noise around your space, mute yourself. (Tip: you can unmute on Zoom by pressing the spacebar.)

Tip 2: Read the Room

Do your best to let people know you’re listening. Body language can be tough on Zoom, but 93% of our communication package consists of non-verbal cues. Emote more in expression and be present. Make sure you are centered in your Zoom square. Use expansive body posture (focus on opening your center–don’t cross your arms and hunch forward.) Look into the camera as if you are having a conversation with the person on the other side. One trick is to go into the gallery view and place the picture of the person you're interviewing with underneath your camera. Also, design your background so it reflects you. Keep the background simple so you remain the focus of attention. Avoid video since it's distracting and takes attention away from you.

Tip 3: Be a Pro

There is a distinction between a portfolio website and a Zoom presentation. Don’t show your website on Zoom. The intent of a website is to showcase work without a narrator. The Zoom presentation allows you to discuss your work. Consider building a unique presentation for each interview. Think of it like a TED talk–and explain the problem you are solving long before your show any work. This setup becomes the hook that makes people excited, providing a sense of anticipation about what's next. You also need to address the intended audience. Don’t read long segments of text or ask the participant to read anything either. Focus on the conversation. Everyone loves a good story. Most importantly, don’t tell your participant anything they can figure out by looking. Portfolio reviewers already know every design decision that you’ve made. Talk about why you made the decisions. 

Tip 4: Use Zoom Features

Don’t share your entire screen; instead use the presenter view. If you’re working with videos, consider using a hidden URL from your website. Copy and paste this URL into the chat for each piece you want to share. The quality will be better.

Tip 5: You Must Practice

If you don't practice building a story, your presentation won’t be as effective. Find ways to practice by asking friends and also finding a mentor. Consult apps such as Fellows and Fishbowl. Also, look into Strive Mentorships and opportunities through your local AIGA chapter. Great tools are available on the Design Ed website:

However, the best way to practice is to record yourself.


Q: Are physical portfolios still relevant?

Leon: In the short term, we will not be meeting in person. But we will in the future, so you will need a physical portfolio. You don’t want to attend an in-person meeting and just show your website. If possible, you should provide something tactile with texture that represents a concept.

Q: What are your suggestions about mixing in some creative or artistic projects into a professional design portfolio?

Leon: Position yourself for the job you want. If the objects aren’t relevant, don’t show them. On your website, you can create a tab off to the side that doesn’t take away from your main area of focus if you want to show artistic projects.

Q: How many projects should be included in a portfolio?

Leon: Five projects that you’re really proud of is a good starting point. More or less is fine too. Ten is too many projects. A recent graduate with five good projects on their website is great. For an interview, you should consider showing three to five projects.

Tags Portfolio Festival