Your Guide to Building the Best Online Architecture Portfolio to Kickstart Your Career
Architecture portfolios have been a staple of the industry for years, a requirement for getting hired, and a great way to showcase your architectural achievements. After all, what's more convincing to a potential client or employer than a stunning collection of photos and technical drawings of your work?
Architectural portfolios have traditionally been printed on paper and created as 3D books that clients could peruse to get a sense of your designs. But in an online world, digital architecture portfolios are becoming more and more common. Many architects are now hosting their portfolios on online platforms which gives their portfolios greater reach and impact.
If you're wondering how to get started building an online architecture portfolio, what you need to include in a digital architecture portfolio, and how to make the most of one once you've got it, this article can help you decide what to do and how to do it.
What is an architecture portfolio?
An architecture portfolio is a presentation tool that showcases a collection of your best architectural work. Through photos, technical drawings and text, a portfolio gives viewers an immediate sense of your architectural style and your technical skills. Ideally, it highlights your ability to plan a project and successfully take it through each of the steps needed for completion.
Because your portfolio is the primary way you will exhibit your past and ongoing projects, it needs to be well-designed and thoughtfully created to best represent your architecture. Your target audience should be able to view your portfolio and immediately envision the type of work you do.
If you're a student or just beginning your career, you may not have full projects you can present, but a portfolio offers you the chance to demonstrate your skillfulness on the technical and planning side of a project. It's also a creative moment that shows how your style is developing and can convince your audience that your vision is the right fit.
Portfolios can be in print or digital. In the past, almost all portfolios were printed as portfolio books. Nowadays, an online or digital format for portfolios is more common (more on that later).
Who needs an architecture portfolio?
Architectural portfolios are an obvious must for architects who are looking to land a job at a firm or an in-house appointment on a project. Portfolios allow you to share your skills from design to completion, and help convince employers that you have what it takes to get the job done.
For freelance architects or architects that run their own firm, an online architecture portfolio can serve as a key marketing tool to land new clients. Whether embedded as part of your business's website or hosted separately and shared with interested clients, a portfolio can give an in-depth look at your style and help clients decide if you are a good fit.
In addition, many architectural programs require a portfolio to apply. Whether you are looking to enter an undergraduate or graduate architecture program, applying for a grant, or seeking recognition for a particular project, you will need a well-designed architecture portfolio in order to be considered.
Finally, a portfolio can be a great way to document a special project from start to finish. This kind of specialty portfolio can be used for marketing, press, awards, or to highlight a student project. In an online portfolio, a specialty project can often be included as a separate part of your general portfolio, but you may also choose to design an entirely new portfolio for each project as well.
Online versus in print
An in-print portfolio can be a thing of beauty. Much like coffee table art books, they can be pieces of art themselves and lend a sense of credibility to your work. And an in-print portfolio can give you a real sense of accomplishment when you hold a printed copy of your best work in your hands.
However, online portfolios are becoming the way of the future in the world of architecture, and there are huge benefits to hosting your portfolio online.
1. Digital architecture portfolios are much easier to customize.
If you're applying for a job at an architectural firm that specializes in residential building, you'll want a portfolio that reflects your expertise in that area. However, if the job you're going for is in the commercial building sector, you'll need to show convincing work in that sector.
A digital portfolio is far simpler to customize than its in-print counterpart. Rather than having to redo and reprint an entirely new portfolio every time you go for a job or a project, you can simply rework the digital portfolio you have. That way, you give yourself the best chance at landing a project by showcasing the work that is most relevant.
Some online portfolio templates give you the option of separating different styles of architecture onto different pages. And some portfolio hosting sites such as Journo Portfolio even allow you to password-protect individual pages so that you can share only the projects you like with the people you want to see them.
With the range of options you have in displaying your work, an online portfolio gives you the most flexibility in showcasing your most relevant work for different clients and jobs.
2. Online portfolios are simpler to update.
An important part of maintaining a convincing portfolio is keeping it updated with your latest projects.
When a client sees what you have been up to most recently, it lets them know that you are active and relevant in the industry. It also makes it easier for you to align your brand and your marketing with what you are currently engaged with.
Online portfolios allow you to upload new work and redesign your portfolio to reflect your latest projects and designs without having to redo your entire portfolio from scratch. That way, anyone who visits your site is going to see the best and most relevant work every time, no matter how often you reinvent yourself.
3. Digital portfolios are made for sharing.
Can you imagine the postage involved in sending an in-print portfolio to every potential client?
Nowadays, a prospective client or employer may be anywhere in the world, and having an easy-to-share portfolio link can be the reason you get hired. And you don't have to feel nervous about the cost. You can design and upkeep an excellent online architecture portfolio for very little. Many portfolio platforms offer free plans or free trials when you're first starting out, so you can feel free to share your work far and wide.
4. Online portfolios are made for marketing.
In today's world of social media sharing, creating online buzz around your architectural work is a must. That's much easier when you host your architectural portfolio online.
Not only can you share your digital portfolio on your social media accounts, you can include social media links in your architectural portfolio. In some cases, you can even embed your social media feeds on your architectural portfolio site.
It also makes it easier for online media and blogs to reference your work by giving people a link to send their audience to. And many portfolio hosting sites allow you to include a newsletter sign-up option which can be a great marketing tool.
You may not choose to use your portfolio for marketing purposes, but an online architectural portfolio opens up a world of options for you if you want.
What to include in an architectural portfolio
Architecture portfolios are as unique as the architects who design them, and that's the way it should be. How you decide to display your work, organize your site, and showcase your talent is part of what makes a portfolio a great reflection of your architecture.
That being said, most portfolios share some common elements that help make it the most effective.
The most important element of your portfolio is the collection of projects you choose to include. While that may seem obvious, there are nuances to how to best incorporate your projects into a portfolio.
The first rule of thumb is to make sure you only include your best work. It's better to design a portfolio around a single, high-quality project rather than to include several that are less than stellar. If there is part of a project that is exceptional but not the project as a whole, highlight that aspect and leave out the rest.
In addition, the projects you include depend on your target audience. Getting a grant is very different from landing a client, and you'll need to design your portfolio with your audience and your goal in mind. As we stated before, one of the benefits of a digital portfolio is how easily you can swap out elements to create a portfolio that's customized for use.
High resolution photographs of your completed projects are a must for a portfolio. If you don't have the photographic skills to ensure this, hire a professional to get it right.
It can also help to have progress photos as your design takes shape. In addition, if you are a student or haven't yet taken on a big project, include 3D AI mock-ups to get a sense of how your designs would look.
Including your technical drawings in your architecture portfolio shows clients and employers that you have the technical skills you need for design.
You can include a separate section or page in your portfolio to display your technical drawings, or you can include them alongside photos of your projects.
Giving your target audience an idea of how you work can go a long way to convincing them of your abilities.
Mood boards and sketches can be paired with text explaining why you made the choices you did with a given design, and gives clients an inside peek at how you work.
About Me page
An About Me page or section is where you get to delve into your professional experience, educational background, and design philosophy. If you've received awards, grants or any special press, this is a great place to list them.
You can keep your biographical information purely professional, or you can share a little personality. Just remember that your portfolio is akin to your first interview with a potential employer or client, so don't say anything in text that you wouldn't say in person in a professional setting.
We recommend including a professional bio pic alongside your info, because it's nice to pair a face with a name. However, it's not a requirement if you're more comfortable letting your experience speak for itself.
Having a separate contact page on your architecture portfolio website is a great bonus online portfolios can offer. In addition, you'll want to make sure your email (and business phone number should you choose to include it) are easy to find throughout your architecture portfolio.
Most online portfolios also include social media buttons so that people can follow your work. And you might want to include a calendar link if you want visitors to your site to be able to easily schedule a consultation with you.
Here's a few more bells and whistles you can include:
Testimonials. If you have happy clients, spread the news.
Embedded video. Drone footage, video, and 3D tours can be impressive additions to your portfolio.
Press page. Interviews, articles, and blog posts about your work are great to include.
Services. If you use your architecture portfolio for business, you may want to describe what you offer in more detail.
CV/Resume. For job searching, a pdf upload of your resume can provide more information than your About Me for potential employers.
Ready for your architecture portfolio?
Now that you've put some thought into what you want to include and how you want to organize your portfolio, it's time to get started building out your design. Learn more about templates and options that can help you to build an impressive online architecture portfolio today.