Three years ago, Odes Roberts launched the Brooklyn-based design agency Almost Studios to work with likeminded people on cool branding projects. He was fed up being in the position he often found himself: the only Black person on corporate design teams, his ideas pushed aside and not given a fair hearing.
An experienced multidisciplinary designer who got an early break doing in-store graphics and signage for Victoria’s Secret, he’s gone on to work in prominent design roles at Shutterstock and Verizon, where he’s hired design teams. He’s also built out his own small team at Almost Studios, taking on projects with clients like Product Gym, Adobe and Vimeo.
For graphic designers seeking to set themselves apart with their portfolios, he stresses that design sensibility and software knowledge is less important than enthusiasm for the work itself.
“I do a bit of UX design, a bit of product design, but, at the same time, you know, in a previous life, I designed clothing,” Roberts said. “To me, I think the best thing you can do is just show how passionate you are for whatever it is that you’re doing.”
Still, the bar can be quite high when it comes to portfolio design. Hiring managers may review thousands of portfolios each year, and customization options on DIY portfolio builders like Semplice, Cargo, Readymag, Wix, Squarespace and Carbonmade have upped the ante on what’s expected. At the same time, social networking sites like Dribbble, Instagram and Behance have given graphic design a public face, making it easier to get noticed by colleagues or hiring managers — but adding to the pressure to stay current.
Still, when it comes to presenting your past work to hiring managers, many of the same rules that applied a decade ago still matter, says Michael Johnson, executive director of design and experience at the New York-based design agency Happy Cog. Do you have a unique point of view? Can you tell a coherent story about a brand or product? Do you play nicely with others?
And it’s not always the flashiest portfolio that stands out, Michael Sacca, an executive vice president and general manager at the design portfolio platform Dribbble, told me. Overwhelmed hiring managers tasked with scanning a high volume of portfolios may be drawn by big names — say, Nike or Adidas — but it’s often the writing embedded in case studies that sets candidates apart.
“We don’t hire designers for their technical skills,” he said. “The medium in which you create — Sketch, Figma or Photoshop — doesn’t matter as long as you’re open to learning and adjusting to the company’s method. Tools can be learned: the deciding factor is how you approach problems and solve them.”
Built In spoke to these design leaders, along with Cielle Charron, a freelance graphic designer and …….