M.Arch I portfolio critics

Oct 25 '13 13 Last Comment
Oct 25, 13 9:45 am

Hello my friends,

I'm planning to apply for M.Arch first professional degree (3-3.5yrs) and just completed the first draft of portfolio. I'm still developing some individual projects as well in case the current content is not enough.

My Background: have a MS in Statistics and BE in Mechanical engineering. Participate the GSAPP intro to Arch program and a studio course early this year and that's all my experience.

Any C&C is very much appreciated!

Thank you in advance and hope y'all have a great day!



Oct 25, 13 7:39 pm

well i am directly competing with you... and you already got a masters degree ... so i dont know if i should be giving you advice .. i think i wanna even apply to gsapp .... but since you havent gotten feedback yet this is what i got for you:


proof read 

i am making my portfolio in a class, my teacher stresses to me consistency through out.  i cant tell if you are using a grid for your spreads but if you arent, apply a grid to it so everything lines up, for example the top and bottom of your spreads through out . 

i dunno how many different font sizes you are using but i think you should limit it to 3 one for titles, sub titles, and general text. 

Oct 25, 13 8:25 pm

use a better font.

consider graphic fonts like helvetica, din, etc, etc. theres lot of fonts out there. 

flip through other portfolios posted or go to an architectural book store and find some books that look appealing to you.  art magazines are good inspirations as well. 

Oct 25, 13 8:49 pm

I agree with what everyone else has said about your writing. The GSAPP architecture work is pretty good, but could be presented more clearly.  Get rid of the backgrounds to the model photos in Photoshop. Unfortunately the rest of your work isn't at the same level. For the human figure study I would take out the anatomically distorted sketch of the person and replace it with a more realistic one. The biomorphic sculpture is kind of borderline as to whether or not it's portfolio quality ... I would suggest emphasizing the novelty of the fact that it is made out of cast iron. For your sketches of buildings, the one on page 17 is pretty nice, but I would get rid of the others since they don't really say anything ... the one on page 18 isn't real architecture, and the one on 21 just looks kind of cutesy. The sketch on page 17 seems to suggest a more critical focus on structure and texture ... do you have any more "sketchy" drawings that you could scan and add? Looser travel sketches can be good for a portfolio.

You should also get rid of everything on 19-20 ... the "soaring on waves sculpture" looks like something that a 6-year old would make from a pre-made kit bought at Wal-Mart. It might be more okay if it was just a horse and you really focused on the structure/anatomy of the horse, but as it is now there is no serious agenda beyond the level of a cartoon. Get rid of the "girl with a pearl earring" copy too ... admissions committees have no respect for direct copies of art.

You have some legitimately respectable work from your time at GSAPP, and that plus your clock tower sketch shows that you clearly can draw. Now you need to back those accomplishments up with some more work that is just as good. If you don't have enough, create some ... just start sketching buildings or still life scenes. Make a bunch of sketches, and put the best ones in. Think about how you can use drawing to critically analyze the elements of a scene ... concepts like structure/gravity, form, proportion, light/shadow, and texture, rather than just trying to make a pretty picture.

Oct 26, 13 2:14 am

Hi awesomekeith,

Thanks very much for you feedback. I just did some modifications and update the old one.

Now I unified the entire layout and constrain the fonts into 3 sizes.

I'm glad that you're applying for M.Arch too, and it looks like we have a similar mathematical background. How's your application going?


Oct 26, 13 2:17 am

Hi Batman,

Thanks for your advice. I switched to Myriad and it looks better. I'll definitely do more research about the font.

Thanks again and hope you have a good one!


Oct 26, 13 5:18 am

Hi Snail,

Thanks very much for your patience and sincere comments. I've read it couple of times and it really helped me a lot to evaluate the portfolio, especially the critic about horse sculpture and paintings. I've also done some modifications of the layout and I'll start to do more "critical focusing" sketches to build up the portfolio. 

Thanks again for your informative critic!


Oct 26, 13 2:45 pm

my application, i haven't even started filling any of them out .. im trying to get a handle on my portfolio and its going really slow i feel i am only 10% towards completion but i am hoping things will begin to pick up soon 

Oct 26, 13 4:28 pm

There is already plenty said about content so I’ll just speak to layout. It’s great you’re using a better font, but the real problem wasn’t the font as much as the way you were using it. It is a very heavy handed and feels like it was made in PowerPoint. What did you make your portfolio in btw?

So a few suggestions (these are specifically meant for you not necessarily hard rules)
- use a mixture of weight, size, and italics to create hierarchy, not just size.
- Much of the text is oversized, consider scaling it down.
- don't underline things.
- Move text further away from the edges of images.
- I suggest looking at architecture books for examples of good design, magazines are a little different, and probably harder to gleam ideas from for this.

will gallowaywill galloway
Oct 26, 13 9:50 pm

the work is quite nice. i wouldn't necessarily say not to include any of it.

the presentation is clear and easy to understand. As an example of graphic design there is room to improve if you want to, I suppose much as the posts above have outlined. Underline don't underline and so on is not so important in my mind. What IS important is the narrative, and if it fits then do whatever supports it.

To me the work looks like a series of projects that you are not taking credit for. They are presented as assignments, where you were asked to do one thing or another.  The output is cool, but I can't see that you have learned anything if I read the text.

My only suggestion is to present the projects as a single story, each part building on the next. Show what you learned rather than what you were told.

A lot of the text comes across as what the teacher told you you were learning and is a bit out of synch with the work itself, if not contrived. IE, saying the exercise forced you to see a site with a "keen sense" and uncover information not available to the eyes may be what your prof told you. Is it what you think as well? What the hell is a keen sense anyway? What kind of information did you uncover? Just saying you uncovered something doesn't mean very much unless you are talking in the religious sense and intend to keep it mysterious. The images are cool, but the text feels like you are not quite aware of what you have done. It also is hard to get any idea about what you think of the projects and the process in yourself, which is a pity.

The projects are treated as separate but each builds on the previous, in which case why not present them as a single project with parts? Show what was done and why, and what you got from it as a result.  Since these are formal procedural projects clearly there is a faith in process involved, but why is it any better than intuition? Do you believe in the approach yourself? Your other works indicate a more orthodox approach to design. Very careful and craft oriented. But not procedural. That you did well with the procedural stuff indicates you are flexible and creative but I am left wondering if you can do that sort of thing without the professor holding your hand and setting things up in order to get an output.

My own belief is that schools look for people with a point of view not a set of skills. If you can show what you think and not simply that you know how to follow orders creatively I imagine your chances will be better to get into any school you like. In that regard, what font you use is not particularly important...


good luck!

Oct 27, 13 1:17 am

^he makes a good point, especially for someone coming from something other than architecture. If you had a degree in architecture or graphic design or something visual then it would shed a poor light on you.

Nov 1, 13 9:58 am


Thanks for your suggestions, I made some adjustments about the layouts as well as the contents and updated the link. I think it looks better now but still has room to improve. 

@will galloway

Brilliant critic! Thanks very much and I really learned a lot from that! I updated the link and made some adjustments: I rewrote most of the descriptions and also adjusted the structure a little bit. I also added some sketches trying to tell the story rather than just describe the project. In terms of the procedural process, I was quite confused at first and really struggled with the process, but now I sort of get the idea that I think it's just a way to force you to think in a backward order of the design process hence to better experience the design.

Nov 1, 13 1:36 pm

Nice folio man!  You have a very good architectural future ahead of you!  :D

Nov 2, 13 3:05 am


Thanks man! Do you think the content is enough? I'm thinking of adding more stuff such as an individual projects, sketching, painting,etc.

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