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Book Review: A Student’s Guide To Web Design Portfolios

books / reviews

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

A Student’s Guide to Web Design PortfoliosSummary: An effective, process-based guide to creating a portfolio and finding work for web design students

Price: $8 (Buy online)

A portfolio is the showcase for a student’s work, and its quality is often the major determining factor in the trajectory of a future career. Producing a portfolio is an investment of months of labor. So why do so many appear rushed, uninspired, and riddled with errors?

As a teacher, I’ve seen hundreds of portfolios: some of them outstanding and memorable, all too many a cheap frame for shoddy work. A graduate of Durham College, Janna Hagan has experienced the portfolio creation process from the other side. Fresh from receiving .net magazine’s Young Designer of the Year award and a host of other accolades, she has produced the Student’s Guide to Web Design Portfolios to ease the experience of portfolio production for others.

Frequently students wait for the moment of artistic inspiration before creating a portfolio. In opposition, the book presents the student portfolio as a process, a series of clear decisions and careful steps – the creation of a logo and tagline, writing body copy, creating an About Me and Contact page, and building the portfolio pieces themselves – that culminate in a complete piece of work. Janna frequently inserts pieces of advice from well-known designers and art directors to justify each point. I really appreciated the highlight points and worksheets at the end of each chapter: a competent student who followed each step would finish the book with a very strong portfolio.

At the very end, Janna rounds out the book with a set of tips for succeeding in the dreaded interview process, and provides a checklist of procedures both before an after an interview.

The ebook is not a showcase of web design portfolios themselves – there are plenty of those in existence online. Rather, it is a strategy for crafting a solid showcase of individual student work. As such, I would have expected to see a suggested timeline for the portfolio creation process: in my experience, one of the biggest challenges students face in making a great portfolio is poor time management. Because so many designers are visual, a diagram of portfolio structure and design decisions might also have been useful.

I’ve communicated these suggestions to Janna: one of the major benefits of independent “small press” electronic publishing is the ability to have a personal communication with the author and the rapid iteration of body copy. I very much look forward to seeing the second edition.

For right now, I can strongly recommend A Student Guide to Web Design Portfolios to students in their last year of classes: constant reference to the major points of the book will result in a far better portfolio for the student, and a significantly improved chance of landing the job and career they desire. Both students and graduates should also check out Janna’s site A Student’s Guide to Web Design, an excellent free resource, which includes a sample chapter from the book.

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