In recent years I've reviewed hundreds if not thousands of portfolios. This was while working at a range of agencies and especially after I founded Semplice (a portfolio tool for designers). I've seen so many portfolios that I've started to notice some patterns.
And if there is one thing I learned, it's that one particular page on your portfolio always gets the most views. And funnily enough, it's not your most popular project.
It's your ABOUT page.
This isn't only what the numbers show, but it's also how I see myself browsing a portfolio when I have to review one. My first instinct is to navigate to the about page. And even on my own website at vanschneider.com, the about page is by far the most-visited page.
Yet the about page, if we are lucky to find one, is often one of the worst designed pages of a designer's portfolio. Why is that?
You might say: "But isn't it more about the work than about me?"
Well, technically you're right. The work itself is one of the most important aspects, and most portfolio advice focuses on that.
However, your personality is the glue that holds everything together. As a potential client or employee, I want to see who is behind the work, get a glimpse of who you are, what you like and if I can imagine working with you. Because even if the work is amazing, who wants to work with an asshole? Of course you can't fully judge a person just by looking at their about page, but it can give you a good starting point. Often, it’s critical to getting you hired.
So let’s have a quick look at details that are easily forgotten when it comes to about pages now.
Show your name
I know, this sounds almost too stupid and simple to mention. But you don't know how many portfolios I've seen that did not show a full or even first name. I've had to click through to someone's Instagram account to find out their name. And yes, there are many reasons why a potential employer would want to know your full name (for example, LinkedIn research).
Let's have a quick look at Alexander Radsby's about page. Everything is there, his name, a short but personal bio and additional information such as awards, press etc.
Show a picture of yourself
I know, we're all shy designers. But including a picture of yourself will help a lot. Of course, no one should judge you based on the picture, but your work. But a picture on your about page makes it more personal, especially if it's a nice picture of you being happy in your natural environment. It doesn't have to be a perfect, professionally-shot portrait; even a quick shot of you working, sketching, designing is enough. It gives the viewer a sense of who you are in the most simple and authentic way possible.
Below you can see Alina Skyson, whose portfolio includes one of my favorite about pages I've come across lately. Her "10 true facts about me" is unique and memorable.
Show some personality
You already show your personality by sharing a picture, but you can add even more personality by writing a bit about you. People always ask me if they should they write the bio from the first person or third person perspective. It doesn't matter. This is totally up to you.
Mine is written in the third person, but only because I feel weird writing about my professional accomplishments myself, so I hired someone to do it for me. But that's also my professional bio. If it's a more personal about page, then I'd write it myself.
Write about your passion and your skills. Your passions are more important if you're looking to join another team. Your technical skills may be more interesting if you're a freelance designer and clients look you up to see if you can help them with their project. Just listing your skill set isn't enough. I want to see how you think and what you're passionate about.
Your about page should make readers feel like they've had a quick lunch with you. It should be brief, pleasant and memorable.
On that note, check out Sarah's about page. It's clean, simple but has all the information needed, including straightforward services so I know how she can help me.
Do something special
You know, most about pages still look the same and that’s OK. The good news is, you can put in a little more effort to make a big impression. Most about pages maybe have a photograph, some text and that's it. But rarely do they have more personal information, or something fun, something that makes me smile and remember you. What could that special detail be on your about page? Here are some examples I still have on my mind simply because the about page made me smile. They stood out from the rest.
I enjoyed Roxane Zankel's portfolio above for a few reasons. Her about page gives me a clear picture of what she believes in, what she's working on right now and her detailed skill set. And the best part is, Roxane isn't even a visual designer by trade. Yet her about page is better than most I've ever seen.
Show your email address
Try to avoid the contact forms madness. It's not 2001 anymore. Some people still think contact forms are the shit, but they're not. Especially not if you're dealing with industry people. Show your email address so I can click or copy it myself and use whatever email app I use. If someone can't find an email address and there is only a contact form, you could be missing out. Why? Because it's annoying to write in these tiny input boxes with no formatting, and I can't even cc myself or someone else on it. Of course, if you are a freelance designer that has a very specific “project request” contact form, it might work for your clients. But in any case, I would always include a clear text email address.
Include links to interviews, if you have them.
Interviews are great for further reading if I want to learn more about your personality, work and opinion.
Just don’t be boring.
The great thing about your about page is that you can go crazy as long as you provide the minimum required information. There are no rules and everything goes as long as you are able to make the visitor smile and remember you. Take your about page as an opportunity to surprise and impress.