Architecture portfolio - professional

Morning fellow architects,

I'm an architectural designer in NYC with a little over three years post-undergrad professional experience under my belt, and I'm gearing up to update my portfolio which I haven't touched since graduation. I'm hoping some of you could share some insight into what you think best represents a professional architecture portfolio as opposed to an academic portfolio. I'm planning to put in a mix of finished photographs, renderings (if projects are in-progress), presentation-style drawings, and construction drawings. Do many of you include considerable amounts of technical drawings? Or do you focus more on photographs of the finished product? I want to emphasize that I'm capable of technical drawing and detailing, but I don't want it to dominate the portfolio and limit how much focus is put on overall design quality. Any insight/opinion would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Oct 6, 14 11:17 am

At this point of your career, a strong candidate's portfolio should demonstrated that he/she can carry out a complete train of thought from concept to detail.  

The first few years out of school are usually spend on isolated tasks and stages, you may do a lot of concept design, renderings, pick up redlines on details, etc.  But as you moved into the 3-5 year stage, you should really begin to be able to connect the dots and be able to design and put a building together.  

The portfolio should cover the basics to show that you can do concept design, renderings, etc. etc.  But it will be even better if you can illustrate the "story" and evolution process of starting at a conceptual level, through presentation drawings, through figuring out assemblies and detailing of an important moment of the design.

A portfolio that says "this is how I solved this complex design problem down to the detailing", is always more effective than a portfolio that says "this is a bunch of stuff I've worked on".

Oct 6, 14 12:47 pm  · 

(Sorry posted too late - just adding to CrazyHouseCat thoughts)

I think it would be cool to start with a rendering – turn the page = SD sketches – turn the page = DD’s (maybe some occupant load calculations/code stuff) – turn the page = CD’s - turn the page = construction photos – turn the page = finished photograph --- isn’t that what we do, create a progression of work? I want to hire someone who understands the progression and process – you may have not done 100% of it but it would tell the story and be interesting and show that you are more than a CadJocky.

Caution: If you show a rendering of a building you didn’t design attach the name of the designer and render guy (if it wasn’t you). My son interviewed this way and got into trouble with the interviewer saying "Hey, you didn’t design this – so-in-so did” – he tried to explain that it was there just for context and story-telling but the idiot couldn’t get past it – just label and give credit.

Like making books like on SnapFish or others – adds to the idea of story-telling and is a classy way to present.

Oct 6, 14 12:57 pm  · 

a couple years ago I struggled with this as well.  

I ended up dividing the portfolio by design phase.  I only included only a few sheets for each project and specific projects which fit the narrative I wanted to create.  

Oct 6, 14 1:08 pm  · 

if anyone cares, here it is:

btw I'm still happily employed, not looking at this point

Oct 6, 14 1:09 pm  · 

you have a massive thermal bridge in your detail for the Rosa Parks Transit center...


shuellmi, that's it!

Oct 6, 14 1:21 pm  · 


This is a thread i started a several years ago when I first put together a "non-academic" portfolio.  The link to my actual document doesn't work anymore, but the comments are valid.

The projects and work that you show should be influenced by the job you are applying for and the job that you want, a "designer" portfolio will be very different than a "technical architect" position.  If you are looking for something in the middle then include both, but be sure to tailor the work to the firm.

btw, In my opinion your chances of getting a job offer based on randomly applying to listings is pretty low.  The path to success is to be recommended by someone, even if it is just a passing acquaintance.  That way the hiring person at least has the feeling that you aren't an asshole.  I'm mentioned this many times before because I believe it so strongly. Except for my first couple jobs out of school, all my positions have been based on a recommendation.  I was essentially unemployed for a year before reading "The hidden Job Market," it really did change my entire search methodology.

Oct 7, 14 12:31 pm  · 

Thanks for this post Nicholas,

I'm going through the same thought process at this point.


Mar 16, 17 2:33 pm  · 

Hey there,

I'm a little late to the game, but i stumbled across this post recently while starting to assemble my first out-of-school-for-a-while portfolio. My approach is this: I am preparing a series of one-up 11 x 17 sheets (horizontal for screen) with professional experience (no more than 2 pages per project) with finished photographs, renderings and select process drawings to send digitally, as well as sending a link to my online academic portfolio (here:, and CV. I am planning to bring a full drawing set to any interviews along with a larger work sample and my printed academic portfolio. 

I find it confusing when academic work and professional work are combined in one portfolio - a purely professional portfolio that is treated as such makes it obvious to the prospective employer that work presented was completed as part of a team, under the direction of a firm (obviously your role should be clearly outlined as well). I also find that showing academic work alongside professional work when you have been out of school for a few years looks very amateurish, it's like when you were a student and wanted to prove that you knew how to use CAD and included a token "work project" at the end, regardless of the quality. 

I guess it depends on the quality of the work of your firm, but I want my professional work to be able to stand alone on its own merits. I am designing the professional portfolio in a similar language to my academic portfolio and carefully curating the projects I include so that if someone should see the two side by side, my hand is recognizable in the professional work as well (I work for a small firm, so my role in most of the work is quite substantial - i.e. project teams of 2-3 people typically). 

I'm not actively looking for a new job right now, I quite like the one I have, but unfortunately, I am one of those constant portfolio tinkerers. you know the type. 

Thoughts? Is this just sending way too many pdf's and links that no one will click on?

Nov 7, 18 9:10 pm  · 

Nice looking portfolio, very strong and consistent projects and presentation. I didn't mind flipping through all of it to be honest, but it's also Friday evening and I don't have anything better to do yet. On a Monday morning I would have probably stopped after red bag lady ( Funny how you refer to yourself in the third person in the "about" of your personal design portfolio. I found it also a little odd how the biggest drawings in there are a drawing of flight paths (very beautifully drawn though) and a harvesting diagram (which pops out for the wrong reasons imo with all those screaming colours) but maybe that's just me. Nice work and I like how you just like to constantly improve your portfolio, it clearly shows.


thanks! That harvest diagram is pretty old tbh, and I wouldn’t do something like that now. Maybe a project worth removing at this point. The whole thing really could use an edit. Hahaha, that little red bag lady website is hilarious. My fave is when people change the red bag to be another colour, as if we don’t all know.... 

Nov 9, 18 5:57 pm  · 

Hey all, I hope this thread is still alive! I'm 3 years out of school and hope to get some feedback. I've heard that short work samples are best to e-mail for initial applications, and then bring a full portfolio to an interview. Here is my work sample . I've tried to keep it under 10 pages, and show a range of stuff.

I am not getting anything back after sending this out to a few firms. How can I improve this, what is missing?


May 13, 19 7:17 pm  · 
1  · 

Hi Austin,

the portfolio looks good, and i personally enjoy the stylistic choices you've made. That being said, a few notes:

1. i would delete the table of contents, it's not necessary when your portfolio is only 10 pages. 

2. while i like the design, people doing the hiring might not get it -- the style you've chosen walks a very fine line between tastefully tongue in cheek and, well, ugly. some of the older generation might not see that and misread it as unintentional or in bad taste. It might be safer to pair it down a little and stick to one font, get rid of the cyan, etc.

3. the fact that your images sometimes overlay your text kind of tell me that you don't mean for it to be read, seems like an odd choice. I know no one actually reads the descriptions, but still...

4. I would spread your portfolio over more pages and give each image more white space/room to breathe, 15 pages is a perfectly acceptable length for a portfolio. just my personal taste though. 

Good luck!

May 13, 19 8:20 pm  · 

Thanks Clair for such good feedback! Here is my updated work sample. Sad face for changing my cover page, but you are right. I spread out the portfolio, (but I don't know if I've succeeded in making it less dense), and fixed the image/text conflicts. 

I'm applying to positions that send me on a design route, instead of a CA route. Any ideas for the right mix between technical and 'design' work? I feel I'm really light on conceptual design....

Non Sequitur

I absolutely dislike that cover and back page with a bloody passion. If you want to be seen as a designer, spent some bloody time designing the portfolio. Look at the different fonts and bad paragraph layouts. Tiny text and technical drawings of different scales on the same page also grind my gears. Did you design that spiral staircase? If so, why are there not concept drawings like the bottom left page one? Show more progress work too. It's a sample folio, so ditch the generic things and scale up what makes your way of thinking/designing.


Hi all,

Great topic; it comes handy to something that has been bugging me. I'm preparing a small sample portfolio to show academic projects and some professional experience projects - as some firms ask for professional experience samples and also just to show what I have been up to after graduating two years ago. My concern is, is it ok to show on the sample portfolio projects I have helped on in my previous/current job? (of course giving credit to the firm and team). But I'm not sure if this is legal? is this a normal procedure? should you ask the firm for permission? but what if you don't want to alert your office that you are applying to new jobs but want to share the current projects you are helping with on my portfolio? what about projects that are currently being developed? how much can I show?

-I'm on the loop here.

Hopefully someone can clarify this for me. I would appreciate it so much!

Oct 30, 19 10:16 pm  · 

Thank you for all the thoughts and advice! I'm learning so much here. 

Do you rework/edit your professional work to make it fit into your personal design aesthetic/philosophy (for project renderings, or drawing details)? Any advice on how to edit your professional works into your portfolio? Do you rework on renderings or drawings?

And, if you only are the project manager/coordinator and not the designer, how do you showcase your management skills other than the brief description at the front of the project?

Mar 6, 20 1:52 pm  · 


Really interesting discussion.

I'm actually redoing my portfolio but I'm struggling a bit.

I've have 3 years of experience and I'm trying to focus on learning construction so most of my work is technical. Most of the renders are not mine and I'm tring to leave some academic work to show different types of work.

I would really like some input if possible.

I leave you with link (the text it's in french sorry)

Thank you.

Aug 6, 20 2:05 pm  · 

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