Do UX Designers need a portfolio in 2020?

Do you really need a design portfolio as a UX designer in 2020, is it a good strategy to lend the jobs you are looking for? Well let’s talk about it.

Every designer needs a way to present their body of work, usually in some sort of a portfolio that comes in a website, Behance, or dribble form. There are many other platforms designers use but those are the most flooded.

Yeas… umm maybe.

There have been many opinions on the interwebs around this subject, there are a lot of resources that can also help you build a great portfolio if that is what you feel is best for your situation. But the question today is do you really need a UX portfolio in 2020?

Spoiler alert, the short answer is yes, I think most UX designers need a portfolio to get recognition from potential employers or gigs. However this is an aging technique and hard it is becoming harder to stand out in all the noise.

Over the years in my career as a designer I worked on multiple versions of my portfolio, I had a good Behance presence at a point and enjoyed using the best PSD mockup templates to glorify my work. However, things over the past 5 years have changed drastically for me. My career has made a shift from being delivery oriented to being more thinking oriented. It has become more and more irrelevant to show what I do in a polished end product. They say good design is invisible and can only see it when it’s broken. Most of the work that goes on in the planning, problem-solving sessions and Design Sprints is all invisible work to the user.

If you are starting out as a UX designer in 2020 maybe you have more than one choice other than the traditional portfolio with case studies to present your work and your thinking. There is another way that I have been using over the past year and I have seen a drastic shift in my career.

The Alternative, let me explain.

About 2 years ago my portfolio was becoming old fast and keeping it updated and fresh was becoming a job on its own. My portfolio represented the work that I wanted people to hire me for and for the most part used as a reference to previous work.

However this was not the work I was doing anymore as my UX design career advanced into a more product strategy role. I became more and more distant with the term of being called a UX designer to a point I deleted all my work online. I cleaned up everything, I had a blank slate and did not want to paint the same picture as before. I needed an alternative to the UX design portfolio.

I now had the opportunity to change how I position myself as a designer to the design community and to potential gigs or employees. I needed a way I could present my thinking with my own unique flair of style and skillset. I needed a way to document my thinking as they mature not only for an audience but for myself too. Playing back the past year has been a great retrospective of what works and what doesn’t.

So what changed?

About a year ago I committed to documenting my work through writing and doing my podcast “Not a UX Designer”. I have tried different formats and techniques for creating content and community building.

This has reduced the number of people I engage with for gigs but has also improved the quality of the connections I make, the conversations I have, and the projects I work on. My whole client base has changed and I have managed to double my income on any project I work on.

I put up a personal site as a canvas for this new style of “portfolio” website. The website has evolved over the year but the basic things are still the same. There is a fluid safe space where I can share thoughts and insights accompanied by the core things that I am focusing on at the time. for this year it is facilitating design sprints and dobetterux, a community of UXers.

There are a few reasons I have chosen to go this route and focus on creating content instead of having a UX portfolio. Creating content has helped position me and share my thinking without showing any real project work.

My Reasons.

There are a few reasons that made me choose this route, and most of them have to do with project confidentiality, dealing with a new client base, and staying relevant.

Creating content has helped me position myself in a way that makes me stand out from the traditional designer who has a good design portfolio. It has helped me connect with clients directly and grow visibility in the design community as well.

Keeping my website up to date is no longer about projects or presenting some case study, I share my thinking on a much regular frequency through the podcast, writing and online classes that I have recently started experimenting with to help designers navigate their careers better so that we can archive the best level of value for our selves and the people we work with.

My work feels more meaningful, compared to doing a Netflix re-skin UX/UI design piece for my Behance portfolio. If you are a designer and you have a full-time job as I have had for the past 10 years, you probably do not have the capacity to have a real good side project where you can showcase all your best UX and strategy skills. So you do what everyone does, just reimagine something and present non-validated designs without a real product behind.

On the other end, you probably have NDA’s and other contractual agreements that stop you from presenting the work you did on a good product that is in the market. So we usually default to presenting fake work.

Ok I’ve said enough.

Creating content is not for everyone, just like having portfolios doesn’t work for all types of designers. Is there a place for UX design portfolios in 2020?, Definitely. In fact, I don’t think they are going anywhere soon. There are also some really good resources and information on the internet to help you build a solid one.

However, creating content and building a community around you is an alternative, a good one. I will help you position yourself better, help you grow and sharpen your skills, and share all the time. you will always have evergreen online visibility to potential clients or employers.

Are you thinking about redoing your portfolio or trying to figure out if you need one as a new UX designer?. Share your thoughts and join our small but growing community of UXers doing better UX on LinkedIn

Author avatar
Varima Henry

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