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Designing a UX Portfolio by Ian Fenn

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1 What is a UX portfolio?

Portfolios are a bozo filter, not proof.Kim Goodwin

Portfolios are a critical part of the recruitment process for those who work in user experience. Whether you’re a UX designer, a UX researcher, a content strategist or native app developer, you’re likely to get better work with one rather than without.

How they became so vital is lost in time. As David Travis says in a 2013 article on UX research portfolios:1

Portfolios are common in visual arts, like design and photography. Picasso, I’m fairly sure, had a portfolio. But they are uncommon to the point of being unheard of in scientific fields, like research and technology. Einstein, I’m fairly sure, didn’t have a portfolio.

But at some point over the last decade, a clueless recruiter or employer asked a user experience researcher for their portfolio. In a panic, the job candidate pulled something together and now it’s just seen as a given that a UX practitioner will have a portfolio that illustrates their work — even if they don’t create visual designs.

I noticed prospective employer and client requests for portfolios increase around 2010. Talking to hiring managers and recruiters at the time, they had grown frustrated by a growing number of applicants who looked good on paper but failed to live up to expectations in an interview. “Clients are complaining,” one recruiter told me. “They say we’re giving them people who talk the talk and can’t walk the walk. Reviewing portfolios may work where the reviewing ...

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