January 22, 2021

Guide to Curating the Best Architectural Portfolio

With no placements in most Architectural colleges, your portfolio is the only key to land your dream job or internship. An architectural portfolio is a document that presents your professional work experience through graphical illustrations, images, and texts in a way that reflects what your skills are as an Architectural designer and what you aspire to be.

Importance of designing your Architectural portfolio

Most offices don't spend more than a few seconds glancing through your portfolio. Your portfolio is not a mere collection of your past works, rather consider it your very own recommendation for yourself. It gives  you an immense opportunity to express yourself through drawings and writings while not being physically present there. Hence it is important that you design a portfolio theme, template, style, etc. that can effectively narrate your design to your viewer.

How to curate the best Architectural portfolio?

Choose your target audience - Engage the viewer or the employer

  • Students applying for internships and post-graduation courses need to showcase their software skills through their portfolio. Practicing architects need to have more of their live projects included and professional photographs as proof.
  • Structure your portfolio around your employer’s profile. A bit of research on where you are applying for an internship or work can help you get an idea of what that particular employer is looking for in an architect.
  • Consider which firm you are applying for an internship or job, try emphasizing what would capture the employer’s interest.  Convince them you would make a great employee in their office through your portfolio. However, be innovative in the same. Don’t cook up the same dish they served you. Reflect your own style and don’t copy designs of the architectural firm you are applying to, they are looking to find talents who can be innovative and add extra merit to their design and work.
  • Display your projects in the clearest and most concise way possible. Don’t give room for mistakes, and even so don’t emphasize your mistakes through your presentations.
  • Don’t lie about your skills, keep it real.

Follow a narration

You are marketing yourself through your portfolio. Bringing all elements of design present your portfolio in a way that it communicates your design as engaging as possible. Follow a timeline or criteria to present your designs.


How you present  your portfolio is just as important as your design projects. Knowing to sell your design through your presentation is an important skill that the recruiter would look for. There have been multiple instances of portfolios with excellent designs being neglected since the viewer wasn’t able to comprehend how it looks. Misleading portfolios can rob you of great opportunities in spite of great content. It is vital that you give importance to the layout, composition, and graphic design of your portfolio, keeping texts minimum.

  • Keep it simple - Do not clutter all your work into the portfolio, follow a uniform layout and theme. Convey your concepts using simple diagrams that effectively provide the employer clarity on your designs. Don’t give them everything at once. You are asked to give a general idea about what you do and how well you can do it. Instead of stuffing your portfolio with just working drawings making it boring add them wherever you need to showcase your drafting skills and attention to detail and precision.
  • The theme, establishing a signature style - Present with a theme, a signature style in a way it captures the viewer’s attention. While flipping through the first few pages of the portfolio the viewer must be interested to go through the entire portfolio and must feel that it is worth the time going through the portfolio. Follow a particular color theme, go for tints and shades. Choose a color palette for your portfolio. Monochrome themes bring unity to the portfolio.
  • Emphasis - While composing your portfolio, establish a visual hierarchy. Decide what you want the reader to focus on a project and what needs to be highlighted. For example, you might want the reader to focus on a particular view or image in your project. In that case, you can draw the viewer’s attention by bringing a difference to that image in terms of scale from the rest of the drawings or by highlighting it with a different color that contrasts with the rest.  
  • Templates and layouts - While choosing your templates, remember how you want to direct the reader’s eye while interpreting your design. Establish a visual hierarchy.
  • Respect the white spaces - White spaces help in maintaining a minimalistic approach and order to your portfolio. They help in the composition of your portfolio, reducing confusion for the viewer. 
  • Font and legibility - Do not mix up more than 2 fonts. Fix a standard font size for headings and the body of the text. Don’t go for fancy fonts, they need to be legible and simple.
  • Images – A picture can speak volumes. Your portfolio needs to have about 80 percent graphics and a maximum of 20 percent text. Drafted line drawings should be well weighted and clearly labeled. These images can be photographs, Graphic illustrations, sketches, renders, etc.
  •  Orientation and size of the portfolio – Your portfolio can be any size. However, A3 is what is mostly printed since it is handy and legible. Design your portfolio in A3 in a way that it will be legible even when viewed in A4. Depending on the requirements of the firm or university you apply to tailor your portfolio size and orientation. Most firms prefer landscape-oriented portfolios as they are easy to view on a computer screen.
  • Software and tools for presentation – I would recommend the use of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator for your graphic design and Adobe InDesign for composing your portfolio. 

Cover page

A good cover page is the one that entices the viewer to pick up and read your entire portfolio. It provides an insight to the viewer on what kind of an applicant you are.

CV page

Do not confuse your CV page in your portfolio with your actual resume. It is the first page of your portfolio and must make a good first impression. You will have a proper professional photo of yourself and add only relevant information on your education, work experience, software skillset, and hobbies.

Choice of projects – Quality over quantity

Choose work that you are most proud of to showcase. Having a portfolio with 3 excellent projects holds more value than a 20-page portfolio with tons of mediocre projects. Be honest and truthful in your projects. Include competition entries that are innovative and show that you’re a team player. Be honest about your contribution to the same.

Table of contents

They are mandatory for easy navigation through your portfolio

Personal work

Work outside academics can interest the viewer and create an impression on how you go about your ways outside the university to experiment and explore.  Don’t incline your work towards one particular skill unless you are looking forward to being hired for that alone.

File type and size

Your portfolio needs to be not more than 10 to 15MB and must be easy to send via mail. Never send png or jpg files.

Most importantly the above guidelines are based on what is generally preferred. Based on your preferences and needs changes may be made. Experimenting with your portfolio while keeping the above tips in mind can get you a long way.

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