The architecture portfolio is the most important when it comes to applying for jobs, internships, or even if you are going to pursue a master’s degree. The portfolio is an exhibition of the architect’s professional experience, academic knowledge, and other skills; and so, the approach to crafting an architecture portfolio has always been one unique to every individual. But the underlying questions about the variety of representations, the hierarchy of the various projects, and the length of the portfolio, becomes a bit generic when it comes to any architecture portfolio. Among these various perplexing questions, the length of the portfolio has been the most popular one among young architects and students.

What should be the ideal length of your architecture portfolio? - Sheet1
Architecture portfolio_©Yasin Köylü

The Typical Portfolio Length

Being clueless at the beginning of the process may lead to this question about the length of the portfolio. But the application process within the field of architecture is so competitive that the length of the portfolio can directly influence the viability of the application itself; so it becomes more of a commandeering aspect of any architecture portfolio. Surely, the design of any portfolio, much like any architectural design, is greatly subjective. But the fact that we need to understand is that of the audience who will view the portfolio. A typical portfolio has about 20 to 40 pages.

What should be the ideal length of your architecture portfolio? - Sheet2
Portfolio spread_©Anastasiia Perova

Know Your Audience

The architecture portfolio for a job application needs to communicate a story that is extremely distinctive from the portfolio for a graduate school application. Thus, knowing your audience becomes an important aspect of designing the architecture portfolio. Applying for a job is a highly competitive process and hiring firms have an outpouring of applications. Among the influx of applicants, the hiring manager is usually looking for a portfolio that conveys the applicant’s abilities in the shortest time. In such a scenario, having a short portfolio with 20 to 25 pages makes a whole lot of difference from having a lengthy one. On the other hand, a portfolio for graduate school applications is required to demonstrate the research capabilities of the applicant, which, in most cases, has to be in-depth. In such a case, the portfolio length can be from 25 to 30 pages. Even in such cases, the portfolios that garner the most interest are the ones that convey the most in the least number of pages. The thing to remember the most is that the document will only be looked at for less than a minute before being passed on.

What should be the ideal length of your architecture portfolio? - Sheet3
Using portfolio for self-expression_©Studio Sly

Designing Your Portfolio

Much like the illustrations, project descriptions, and compositions, the length of the portfolio should also be designed alongside the various contents of the portfolio. The length of the portfolio has to be in synchronization with the design ambiance of the portfolio itself so that it doesn’t detract from the layout and presentation of your work. Creating templates that are consistent in the hierarchy of their appearance and using a font palette that amalgamates the entire portfolio together is important. But also outlining a specific format of pages for each project will determine the length of the entire portfolio along with finessing a journey for individual projects.

The design of this format can be approached by considering a narrative that is both logical and engaging when it comes to explaining your work. Give your audience a general outline of each project, and use minimal and readable text to explain the gist of the design problem, your approach to solving it, and the solution. The less the reviewer has to read to understand your process, the better. Use short captions for images rather than the accompanying body of text to communicate your ideas forthrightly. Avoid using an influx of text to fill up pages and don’t be afraid of blank space. Creating a balance between positive and negative space gives your portfolio room to breathe. Blank space can help in creating a well-designed portfolio as long as it is designed well.

What should be the ideal length of your architecture portfolio? - Sheet4
Using blank space_©Julia Borba

Creating a Master Portfolio

One of the most common practices when it comes to creating a brief and engaging portfolio is to create a master portfolio with all the projects that you would like for your portfolio to have. You can work on the graphic style and the template composition so that it has consistent language throughout all the projects. This way, you can compile a portfolio with the projects that are most relevant to the particular application requirement. This will help in creating a portfolio that is both succinct and apropos. Reorganizing a portfolio for a particular opportunity sends a clear message to the review committee that you are serious about the opportunity. It will also help in crafting a portfolio that is concurrent with the application requirements.

What should be the ideal length of your architecture portfolio? - Sheet5
Master portfolio_©Mélanie & Nicolas Zentner

Finesse!

The most important thing to remember is to keep your portfolio clean and crisp. With that being said, the only way to craft an appealing portfolio is by exercise. Keep exploring and updating regularly. A lengthy portfolio has the potential to narrow your opportunities and can hinder your career growth. An engaging portfolio reflects your communication abilities as an architect as well. 

Creative representations_©Anastasiia Perova

Your portfolio is more than just a collection of your works; it is an opportunity to show your design skills and with it your creative self. Get Started! Get creative!

Author

Mariam is an architecture graduate who is inclined towards architecture's influence over the lifestyle of people. A lifestyle in which the cycle of existence is complete and is towards the neutrality of existence. The power of architecture to influence that kind of social setting is what she likes to explore. To rethink and reconsider the things that we usually overlook and to strive not towards excellence but a collective essential is what motivates her work. The collective being an intersection between art, architecture, history, literature, and culture.

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