Mark W. Smith, Managing Principal for RVi’s Austin office, has written a new book, Design Portfolios: A Recruiter’s View, focused on the preparation of design portfolios.

What makes a design portfolio good? This is the perennial question I hear as I meet with students during portfolio reviews, recruiting events and academic lectures. In my position as Managing Principal, I routinely interview job candidates, review design portfolios and lecture in university design programs. A subject I am frequently asked to address is “making the transition from student to working professional.” As one might imagine, portfolio design is central to this topic. It seems that most design programs struggle with fully preparing students for the challenge of creating a design portfolio and finding their first professional job. As an adjunct to my academic engagements, I work with faculty to lead portfolio reviews with a goal of filling this educational “gap.” What I have come to realize is that virtually every student who attends these reviews is hungry for answers to questions about designing an effective portfolio. They ask questions like, “What should I put on my cover?” “How many pages should my portfolio have?” or “Should I put my student intern work in the front or the back?”

As I drove home from a recent student portfolio review at Texas Tech University, I made the decision to answer these questions more definitively; I would write a book on the subject. Written from the perspective of a seasoned designer and veteran A/E industry recruiter, the book offers an “inside look” at what recruiters look for as they evaluate portfolios and make hiring decisions. It is intended to help students (and young professionals) understand that an impactful design portfolio is much more than just a curated “collection” of one’s work. What has evolved from many years of reviewing student portfolios, hosting portfolio reviews, and engaging in one-on-one interviews is a “plan of action” for portfolio design I call The Four S’s. Rather than dwelling on project experience and hard skills, The Four S’s advocates an organizational mindset focused on telling your Story, revealing your Style, asserting your Substance, and Sharing it effectively. This book describes and illustrates (with actual student portfolios) how to create a professional-quality portfolio that will help designers get to that all-important next step in the recruiting process—the interview.

Design Portfolios: A Recruiter’s View is scheduled for publication this fall (2022) by John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY.