Need help with Porfolio review, M.Arch non arch background



It's a bit late to ask for a portfolio review, but I wish anyone can still provide me some feedback based on the works. I will send out this portfolio next week, any critics are welcome.

still tweaking the design and layout. One problem I had is on page 16 and 17, there are two drawings, I am unsure which one should I use. 

Thank you all

Jan 15, 14 5:17 pm

Apple? Really? That page can just as easily show a map for location purposes. Showing a map on a computer taken from the Apple website may stop the admission committee reading right then and there. Sorry, this has to go.

Your hand drawings are beautiful and are the strength of your portfolio, at least the architecture/human body ones. These should come early. The fantasy drawing on page 17 can go away, its nice in its own way but it doesn't adhere to an architect's toolset.

Your general layout design (crumbling rocks?) is kind of random and doesn't seem to relate to any of your shown material. Try to either simplify your layout or correlate it with a style from a drawing or design that is shown.

The marketing page is a little meh, to be honest. The most it shows is some graphic-design ability, and I don't think this will appeal to the people reviewing your application.

Lastly, spell-check. I'm not sure is "Sulpture" is the actual title, a play on words of sorts, or did you just misspell "Sculpture?"

Good start, but needs refinement.

Jan 15, 14 5:34 pm

I like the artsy work. It looks like art. You realize that most architects that run their own firms and are over 45 definitely don't work on the real production of a building. You hope they know what they are doing, but most of their day revolves around meeting with clients, potential clients, and red lining on the fly only to return to the office and find you, and say 'here are the red lines, get them done asap".

If I were you, and I realize that I am far from that; and don't take this the wrong way, I would either continue with the art process and develop a style that is appealing to you and start trying to get into local art walks, and First Fridays/ Saturdays that are in the gallery districts locally, or I would look at what the community colleges in your area have to offer in Revit and BIM related studies, and try to compose a portfolio while and after taking the basics thru the advanced classes in BIM.

I say this because I see nothing that would interest potential employers nowadays. They are just looking for production staff mostly in BIM, hardly AutoCAD anymore, and you present none of this. I have a very hard time swallowing a pill that any college in America can provide the basic education in 2 years that will give you the necessary skills to compete in the market place. Not that it couldn't be done in 2 years, but that they are staffed with tenure 'professors' that know nothing of computers, god forbid they have to set up their Outlook box, and will therefore make you work for nothing and take your parents money or yours. You just need a ton of technical education, not more theory.

I know that I am just one person, and that you should take everything with a grain of sand that you hear, especially on the internet, but I think that most ppl are not as straight forward as I am, and they would rather not discourage you, or just the opposite... discourage you too much.

Jan 15, 14 5:48 pm

Apple? Really? That page can just as easily show a map for location purposes. Showing a map on a computer taken from the Apple website may stop the admission committee reading right then and there. 

There are vectors of iPhones and Macbooks floating around online, usually for mockup purposes and prototyping. Should have picked one of those and avoided the cropping and fuzzy resolution. Don't know what the purpose is though because the project looks really uninspiring for a signage project. Website straight out of the dial-up era and screenshot tacked onto some post. I'm not saying this out of spite or malicious intent but if your skills aren't in web and interface design, don't pull together something in a hurry and pass it off as such. 

I feel it'd be better to not include any of the architecture-type projects because most of them only took like one or two months to complete with what feels like no concept or self-vetting. The initial concept sketch isn't too tempting since nothing follows from it. Don't understand the environment project. Amphitheater is a real stretch. It gets better towards the end but that's the thing--the better stuff is at the way end. Everything before Fall or December of 2013 looks great, the quality of output demonstrated with clear images.

The black explanation boxes distract. The font is small and content is proportionally smaller than words written about it. What am I supposed to learn from the explanation? You can be conservative with images but then some of the shots are too insipid to spark anything in the reader. Look at page 16 and 17--there's no order or structure yet but it feels alive. The project before is lifeless, which follows the snow sculpture (check your spelling). Bad flow and transition from project to project. There's that one rule: start strong and end strong. 

Why did you make this one? The other files in the account look much better, especially the one submitted on Jan 15 in the description. Those provide a comprehensive view of you as an artist/designer, not someone trying to patch holes to meet a deadline.

Jan 15, 14 7:24 pm


Kudos for consistent and easy to follow pagination

2 - Generally, I'm not crazy about a blank inside cover, but in this case it works because you've made it part of a motif, on page 3, and applied color on both pages.  However, I am not seeing the purpose of the zig-zag motif behind carried forward from page 1, the cover, and being made thematic.

4,5 and 6,7 - use different colors for each of these project explanation zones

Small House Challenge - I do not have a problem with including this project since early warm-up projects are often of this nature.  However:

8,9 - the zig-zag and falling rock motif is used again and I don't think it works with something as geometrically taut as the house; how about a subtle diagonal or something like that?

10,11 - I don't like the step-up in the bottom border, though I think using the same color within this project is wise; how about a color you have not used before?  Also, mimic the pattern used on pages 8,9 in a subtle way.

12,13 - nice

14.15 - nice; however, keep the explanation on one side of the page and the use of a different font with a serif is distracting

16,17 - I like 16.  I dislike 17.  It looks too new age or something.  Also, there is no explanation of what these are.

18,19 - Marketing exhibit is a sudden departure from previous page.  The posters are fine but the presentation needs to be '"evened out," possibly by making the posters the same size and filling in with the other items around it.  I would explain the project title and where it was done on 18 and not on 19.

20, 21 - very nice

22, 23 - very nice - do you feel you can introduce a different color here, other than the reds, grays, and blacks?

24, 25 - very nice

26, 27 - I think that, unlike the inside cover, 26 is too stark compared to 27, and the zig-zag motif is used again.

Except for page 17, in which I don't care for the sharp departure of that illustration, the content is respectable, especially from 20 to 25, and mostly just patterning and font changes are needed.

What is the topic of your undergraduate studies?

Jan 15, 14 9:23 pm

You both should work for magazine companies... Oh wait, those don't exist anymore.

Get my point OP.

Jan 15, 14 9:37 pm

I have a very hard time swallowing a pill that any college in America can provide the basic education in 2 years that will give you the necessary skills to compete in the market place. Not that it couldn't be done in 2 years, but that they are staffed with tenure 'professors' that know nothing of computers, god forbid they have to set up their Outlook box, and will therefore make you work for nothing and take your parents money or yours. You just need a ton of technical education, not more theory.

Are there really two year professional MArch degrees for individuals with non-arch backgrounds?

Jan 15, 14 10:44 pm

^  Oh, man, this means a penchant for the artsy-fartsy.  I would take that as a compliment, since it means not being obtuse.

I'd like to know what the OP majored in.  A portfolio is presented, but we don't know the undergraduate field of study.  It would be interesting.

Jan 15, 14 10:46 pm

Thank you guys for your kind suggestions. took me a while to digest all of them, but they really helped me to be more objective since I honestly put my favorites in the front and least like works at the back.. I guess it's because I was afraid that my portfolio will look too artsy and not arch-oriented enough.Seems like I should stick to my strength, it's not a good time to challenge unfamiliar topics. 

To Observant, I have a Geography and Environment management undergrad degree, the environment project (which everyone hates) was the only piece that correlates with my Env background. it is a research project for my senior field geography class. part of its major component is to create an interactive map (online website) for the research result we have conduct. 

I really appreciate your comment. If time allowed I will make some big revision.

To DeTwan, Thanks for the honest words. grr library s closing have to go,,,, brb

Jan 15, 14 11:09 pm

Your content is excellent- your portfolio...not so much. 

A few comments- 

1) I generally think that minimalist presentation is best. Anything that does not enhance or add value to your work should be eliminated; i.e. "decorative" items like your cover page, inside cover, and last page should go. Your work, if it's good, should speak for itself. Text should not describe your work; rather, it should complement it. 

2) If you are going to do a full bleed "banner" on the bottom, don't cut off your images such that there are white edges on their sides such as on pages 14 and 15 (among others)... Also pay attention to text alignment (ex. page 12). Maintain vertical and horizontal alignment. Doing otherwise demonstrates inconsistency and lack of attention to alignment. Good architects need be detail oriented and portfolios intend to demonstrate that attention to detail. 

3) For someone who doesn't come from architectural background, follow this simple rule: when in doubt, be minimalist! Don't add too much information. One image per page is enough!

4) Once you pick a color, keep to it... don't jump from black, to red. Themes are gimmicky. Decoration is distraction. 

5) Maintain consistency in font and text hierarchy. 

6) Spell check your work. 

7) Reviewers don't have time to read text. They have several hundred/thousand applications and portfolios to get through. Spending time on writing text is futile, just like in an architectural competition entry. 

8) Organize your content a little better; don't jump from what appears to be a mobile app, to a piece of art work, then architecture, then sculpture... I realize you want to show diversity, but there's a better, more organized way to do that... Architecture school can teach you about many things related to architectural design and practice, but it can't teach you to be clean and organized. By the time you are applying for an M.Arch, you either have it or you don't. 

9) The last two pages are my favorites overall, in terms of content and organization. 

Your's truly,

- BulgarBlogger, B.Arch

Jan 15, 14 11:35 pm

Your content is excellent- your portfolio...not so much.

BB is very direct, OP, but he is honest about how he feels.  He makes some good points.  I disagree with sticking to one color, though.  I think that similar saturation levels of different colors could work.  You have to experiment.

I don't know if I'm glad or sad that portfolio preparation now has all these options.  For mine, all of the different exhibits were done by hand, with a shadow box page for explanations on a separate page, and the stuff was just slotted into transparent leafs into a portfolio binder you bought at the store.  And some of the better portfolios I saw were done the same way, except that the exhibits were better than mine, like this one portfolio from a previous studio arts major I saw at UVa.

Jan 15, 14 11:49 pm

lol... Thx BulgarBlogger... my guess is you didn't do so well in comprehensive reading on the SATs.

I'm not sure who will be sleeping less tonight, the OP or me. It is becoming starkly apparent how shit headed the vast majority of the public is to me.

Wow, no

Here are words of wisdom I live by, but who cares when no one listens anymore.

"Do what you are good at, and never spread yourself too thin"

That applies to everyone in the world.

Jan 15, 14 11:53 pm

I'm not sure who will be sleeping less tonight the OP, or me. It is becoming starkly apparent how shit headed the vast majority of the public is to me.

Well, I think we all know this.  And that most people whose opinions and viewpoints aren't aligned with ours are sort of shit headed.  And this is what fans the flames of archinect and makes things heated at times.

Jan 15, 14 11:57 pm

I think your comment suggest to the potency of my post... think about it.

Jan 16, 14 12:00 am

I think you comment suggest to the potency of my post... think about it.

I'm not so sure.  The potency is about equivalent to the potency I get from reading what's inside a fortune cookie ... some messages are more direct while others are more ethereal.

Jan 16, 14 12:04 am

Exactly... If someone was to dispose all the knowledge to you, you would not need to exist.

Also, no one is giving out good advise either, like everything it goes both ways.

Jan 16, 14 12:06 am

All I know is that I barely remember when they actually put worthy wisdom into fortune cookies, and all you get nowadays is..."Have a great day" or "Someone likes you".

I hope that you are younger than me, and not vice versa.

Jan 16, 14 12:25 am

I actually got a 740 on the writing section ;)

Jan 16, 14 12:32 am

They still go from easy to difficult.

I've gotten one that said "You will be comfortable in your old age."  Really?  With my bloodline and with the work I trained for?  Nor do I play the lottery.

Then you get ones like "Before you seek revenge, dig two graves."  However, that's a Chinese proverb I learned from the 007 movie "For Your Eyes Only," but there still are some loftier messages in them.

But I usually will eat 5 fortune cookies and therefore get 5 fortunes.

Jan 16, 14 12:32 am

Yeah, and I said reading. Point taken.

Jan 16, 14 12:32 am

I stopped eating fortune cookies at age 7.

Jan 16, 14 12:34 am

Here is more 'good' advise.

Stop eating fortune cookies.

PM if you would like more 'good' advise.

Jan 16, 14 12:36 am

This thread is about someone's portfolio review.  Let's not steal its thunder with revelations from fortune cookies.

Jan 16, 14 11:38 am

OH- btw: what does my reading SAT score have anything to do with the OP?

Jan 16, 14 11:52 am

Thank you all. 

looks like judging from my portfolio, I dont have a ( even optimistic speaking) chance to make it into the cut. but there is still time left. I finally start to understand what the grad school is looking for in the portfolio now.  If possible I will upload another draft which will incoporate all your suggestions. yahoo no more sleep starting now

Jan 16, 14 2:56 pm

Did't realize that you guys are still here. BulgarBlogger -  when you referred to the last two pages, do you mean the single project that occupied 2 page spread?

Jan 16, 14 3:03 pm

No- I am talking about the cheesy two pages that include the words "Thank you". 

Jan 16, 14 3:21 pm

that's very constructive, I will remove the excessive word

Jan 16, 14 3:26 pm

another thing to remember about architecture is that it is an iterative process... don't design or make something as if its going to be your final work... nothing is ever truly "finished."

Jan 16, 14 3:33 pm

Noted, that is one thing I just found out from other portfolios and your criticisms above. Sketches of thought development really adds clarity to the project. By the way do you have any suggestion on the selection of works, do you think the works I included are diverse enough in terms of the materials used, medium etc?

I have some part-time work experience as a graphic design, which contributes to a lot of 2 d design but is no use for M.arch application. is my personal design web. I had tried to incorporate design aspect (like the cover and layout) into portfolio making, but it only makes the whole piece distracting and gimmicky?

Jan 16, 14 4:31 pm

What are you talking about- graphic design stuff is great! Apparently there is a running joke at the GSD: when students are asked what they do in studio they answer: "We don't do architecture, we do graphic design." 

Jan 16, 14 4:32 pm

Here is my portfolio from undergrad. I don't know if it will help but it helped me to see other portfolios when designing my own. There is no right answer.

Good luck
Jan 16, 14 6:43 pm

Your portfolio isn't bad, but again... too much distracting content. Parts of your porfolio are seductive but incoherent. For someone coming from a non-arch background, you want to be as clear as possible. (by you, I don't mean you- I mean the OP)

Jan 16, 14 7:02 pm


First, I don't know why your SAT verbal score was being scrutinized?  That seemed odd.

Second, I don't think the OP's portfolio has distracting content.  I think it's the thematic stuff, like the precipice with rocks disengaging from it and the way it moves between projects, that is its issue.  The only project within the portfolio that is somewhat distracting is the marketing stuff, and even then, I think it's the way it's organized on the pages.  I think the 3 final 2 page spreads are the best work, and should remain there for what is called "recency effect" in psychology, provided the last 2 pages with the thank you and the craggy cliff are amended.  Also, design IS finite.  If it weren't, buildings wouldn't get built.  For those who are constantly in iterative mode, they need to stay in their ivory tower and teach.  Out of all your studios, I'm sure you had 1 or 2 profs who proffered fluff and didn't care about how things went together or whether they were constructable or not.

Jan 16, 14 7:37 pm

By distracting content I mean content that is just decorative... 

Jan 16, 14 8:08 pm

Thank you Veuxx for the great portfolio. but as you know I have received none arch education. the only way to appreciate your portfolio is from an aesthetic perspective. nevertheless, it still gave me a good sense of the color, composition and layout.

I`m a bit confused. when BulgarBlogger referred to distracting as purely decorative, I thought decorative value is important in this case, or may be in any kind of design oriented field. I would understand if the portfolio design had distracted the viewers from inspecting the content due to its complexity or saturated color.

Jan 17, 14 2:37 pm

Look, tian, at this point, it is what it is.  Just work on the formatting.  Not everyone gets into every single school they apply to.  That's reality.  Some of us had to pick up and move.  I did.  So did other students.  I am sure you will get into an acceptable school.  The problem with Canada is that there are so few 3 year M.Archs. for being so large, with everybody wanting Toronto and UBC, and hemming and hawing about Calgary.  If the province of Quebec offered that educational model, it would further expand the options to include McGill and Laval.

Jan 17, 14 3:07 pm

Thank you observant. I happened to run across many of your comments when reading about other applicants`concerns and portfolio posts. You are very knowledgeable and familiar with the arch programs in Canadian universities considering that you are US based. You have seen my conditions, plus my other qualities are mediocre, and there are only 3 choices for me to apply to. I tend to prepare for the worst. Looking at the 3 schools I have applied,  It is Inevitable you are going to see my portfolio post next year. I certainly respect your opinion, do you have any suggestions for me to improve the overall quality of my portfolio or just the chance of acceptance? ;)

Jan 17, 14 3:31 pm

^  I am not that knowledgeable. Haha.  I just know what I like.  I like clean presentations and clean buildings/art work and a certain consistency, even within the change from projects and across the pages.  As for Canada, I have been so many times and enjoy it, so I made it a point to learn of their architectural schools and the process there to license.  If you are coming in from undergrad, and don't get a school you like, or don't get an offer, I would consider going as non-matriculated to one of your universities or c.c.s at night (summer, next fall) to take design and drawing courses to push up the portfolio content, though your baseline in artistic endeavors as seen is competent.  I worked 5 years in another field prior to M.Arch., but I was hemming and hawing as to whether to do it.  For one who has identified the M.Arch. as what they want to do, I can understand the anxiety and why they wouldn't want to wait.  We all need coaches in this process.  I certainly would find a local coach to help critique and fine tune a subsequent portfolio if it comes to that.

Jan 17, 14 8:42 pm



1. TAKE OUT 16 & 17.  DOnt choose one or the other. Just take out both of them.They're just fucking random. your sketches in page 22 and 23 are MORE COMPELLING than 16 & 17.


2. reorganize some projects and just KEEP IT SIMPLE. just pick one or two layouts and THATS IT.




can an admin sticky that one thread on how to make a portfolio? 

Jan 18, 14 3:02 am

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