You wouldn’t know it, but it only took me four-plus years of hemming and hawing to finally revisit my online design portfolio. The old portfolio itself was ten years in the making. Truth be told, for over ten years I was managing my employer’s website, and that job security kept me from feeling the need to create any type of self-promotion whatsoever.
It was not until the Fall of 2017, when asked to teach a web design course at Sacramento State University, that I quickly had to throw some things together and publish them on the web. It was a sad mix of badly-lit photos and a cookie-cutter Behance’d layout. But…it was a web presence. One that I had imagined revisiting ever since.
Once the dumpster fire of 2020 went into high-gear, an abundance of time at home and a lack of job security became the dual motivators that allowed me to focus on what finally needed to be done: craft a new portfolio. A portfolio that was easily updatable, reflected my design style and personal tastes, and showcased all of my work, from 2007 to now.
But where to start? Whenever I tried to apply the design process I would afford one of my clients, my creativity seemed to stall. I had to learn how to push through that, and in the end I worked through the process detailed below.
The process behind crafting my updated design portfolio
If I had a dollar for every potential business name I have conceived over the last several years, I would not need to promote myself. I wasted so much time and energy on names that could have worked, but in the end just did not feel right. I finally took the advice of my friend John who told me, “Just make a monogram and be done with it.” DONE.
Choosing a CMS
Over the past year I considered using Web Flow or Squarespace to publish my work. With either choice I would be able to utilize a highly-regarded content management system, as well as the hosting that came with it. In the end, I decided to stick with using WordPress, as I knew from experience that I could craft what I wanted, and would have the knowhow and freedom to pivot to new themes or platforms in the future.
Who to Host With?
I have been using Siteground for web projects for the past several years. While other hosting interfaces are convoluted and make it difficult to find what you’re looking for, Siteground’s user interface is clean and to the point. Each plan comes with a free SSL certificate, and depending on what hosting package you spring for, you can also utilize their backup service, and even setup a staging site. Their customer support is friendly and quick to respond. Highly recommend.
Custom Design vs. Using a Theme
To get my site up and running quickly, I decided to choose a pre-built theme. Looking for something with a modern feel, I happened upon the Candar theme by ThommusRhodus. It is an older theme*, but I love its simplicity. It also came bundled with Visual Composer, my page builder of choice. My goal is to eventually recreate and expand upon this theme using CSS Grid.
*When choosing a theme, make sure it is still being supported/updated by the developer, and read through the user reviews before spending any money.
Slog Through 13 Years of Work
Unlike my physical desk, I keep my digital space fairly organized, work organized by client. That meticulous setup allowed me to quickly scan through names and files looking for jobs that might be appropriate to showcase. I first made a handwritten list of names broken into the three categories: branding, web, and print. From there I created a folder for the appropriate files, including screenshots of all the websites I decided to feature. To best present the work, I found that a mix of digital files, glossy mockups, and photography provided enough visual interest.
This was the most tedious part of the job, but it also helped me to see areas of the website that still needed fine-tuning. Once I started uploading content and writing, I found a workflow that ensured consistency,
Review Every Post and Page
As mentioned above, having content placed allows you to see how the many lines of code affect how things are represented on the page. Despite your best planning, things may not always do what you think, especially when working with a theme.
Keep That Content Coming
Due to three overlapping client websites needing my attention, my portfolio had to take a backseat. It sat in unpublished-limbo, waiting for my return. Despite having populated a good amount of projects, I felt that it still wasn’t ready to see the light of day. The fear of publicity, however, made me change my tune. Just having launched the new Aging UP website, I learned that they planned to showcase the new site and give me a shout-out in their next newsletter. The fear of being seen was a wonderful motivator.
Promote Thy Self
When you have imposter syndrome and constantly doubt your place in a profession, promoting work is the hardest thing to do. In order to combat that, I’m planning to make a concerted effort to post work on Instagram and Twitter (DELETE FACEBOOK). I am also going to attempt to write more. Expect more blog posts like this, as well as case studies, and possibly even a monthly newsletter.
Do No Harm
2020 has been a tough year personally, in more ways than I care to admit (Hello, Lexapro!). I want to take the opportunities that this platform provides and not only work towards a better self, both personally and professionally, but also work towards communicating and advocating for a better world through design. How that will manifest itself, I am not sure. But I know I can do more. I promise to love, listen, and engage.
So what did I learn and how did I learn it? The most important lesson I learned is that the best solutions are usually staring you right in the face. Don’t overthink it. Just do the work.