What are the fundamentals a decision maker looks for in a portfolio? Top three qualities?

Find out what are some of the top qualities that decision makers at US firms look for in strong portfolios!! Here at Architect-US we have been able compile a large amount of information and insights regarding the US architecture labor market, and ways in which you can improve your odds of getting to your American Dream!

As more and more of the labor market begins to re-orient itself towards a post-COVID reality, it is always important to understand what the decision makers are looking for in their new hires. Here at Architect-US, we want to find new ways to assist you through this journey.
One of the key tools we have been able to implement has been survey and interview work with principals at top firms across the USA.

1. What fundamentals do Principals look for in a strong portfolio?

Many principals underscored the importance of graphic clarity and sophistication when presenting beautiful images. You must consider how you balance rendering and technical drawings (plan, section, etc). You must sense the site/place for any project that is rich and nuanced.

You are trying to demonstrate a point of view, use different media, and show physical making – models, construction, etc. A variety of typology is also important to exhibit in a portfolio. When presenting your portfolio think about a clear design sense, thoughtful layout, and again… strong graphics skills.

Prior experience relative to current needs on their projects adds to the team’s capabilities, so always try to show how you have continually elevated your skill sets and responsibility throughout your career.

2. We asked 42 different architecture firms, what top three qualities they look for in a strong portfolio?

The top quality they ranked was Presentation (layout, edition, organization…etc.) at 69.2%, while the second quality they mentioned was Design at a close 67.3%. At around an average of 68%, most Principals view your ability to present and clearly communicate your ideas as very important!

For third place they mentioned Graphic Skillset 40.4%. Most of the top qualities had to do with presentation, design, and the quality of the graphics presented. The least important qualities were Sketching Quality at 1.9% and Past institution prestige at 1.9% as well.

Another firm mentioned the level of skills (software, design, technical, presentation, etc.) they look for in an applicant depends on experience, but some items weigh more than others, specifically presentation and software.

3. What are factors that smaller firms look for that maybe larger firms are not as focused on?

While other firms highlighted that they look for a range of experience, less school work, and more practical work when looking through portfolios.

Some of our Human Resources contacts defined the value of a clear, concise, mixed media design. They are looking for you to tell them a story about your work. Good formatting is crucial too!

Another smaller firm, Kramer Design Group, values clear storytelling and strategic thinking in addition to good design (which they view as a given).

Remember, ALWAYS clearly state your contributions to each project presented!

Find a mentor with Architect-USand improve your Portfolios with our Portfolio Plans and Career Advice Program. We provide coaching and personalized mentorship, so you can have a professional and experienced take on your next steps in your career, as well as a great team to confide in. Our Selection Committee of architects and designers with 10+ years of experience and have provided advice and expertise on the US market for countless architects and designers from around the world.



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