Creating the Perfect Portfolio

Admittedly, a portfolio of visual works is not something I have had to consider up to this point in my ongoing will-they-won’t-they relationship with graduate school.

I started my search on the Information is Beautiful Awards website, which ironically gave me more ideas of what I wanted to avoid in my portfolio than what I would like to adopt. Their showcase is appears to be a floated list of blog entries for each visualization, however the result is much more cluttered than I would like:

One glaring issue I find with this approach is the disparate heights for the thumbnails. In the above example, nearly a third of the screen real-estate is dedicated to the middle visualization due to its vertical orientation, which detracts heavily from the other visualizations showcased on the page. Another issue is that the text area at the bottom of each post is a fixed height, which results in some posts seeming “squashed” due to the orientation of the thumbnail. An easy solution to this would be fixed thumbnail sizes for each visualization.

Another issue I have with this example is that the blurb beneath each thumbnail typically explains more about the dataset than the visualization itself.  In the case of a data visualization portfolio, I think this section would be better suited as a place to explain what tools or software was used to create the visualization, with more information about the data on a separate webpage. Even if not the software used to produced the visual, this might be a place to explain particular features of the visualization, or particular design decisions that went into making the visualization.

Going outside the realm of data visualization, I think a “portfolio” that does this well is the demo reel for the design and development company Support Class. In their demo reel they provide visual examples of their work as well as itemized lists of the particular tools or considerations they had to make when creating their designs.

One portfolio I found that more closely mirrors my ideal portfolio comes from Visual Cinnamon. Their fixed thumbnails more closely mirror what I would like my portfolio to look like, and the mouseover effect that lists the visualization titles and tools used is a nice touch. The minimal screen space dedicated to the fixed header is also a design choice I am a fan of.

One change that I would like to make, and one I will probably adopt in my own portfolio, is limiting the number of visualizations per row to eliminate clutter. In this case, I would like to see the number of thumbnails limited to two per row, with the size of the thumbnails increased to show only one row per screen.


Austin Round


2 thoughts on “Creating the Perfect Portfolio

  1. It’s always strange to me when practitioners of a discipline don’t embody that discipline in their own sites/portfolios. It’s like when graphic design syllabi are just ill-considered default Word documents or seeing typos on an editor’s site. I’d love to see a data visualization-based navigation of the Information is Beautiful awards. A good faceted search option would also get at some of the issues you raise.

    Visual Cinnamon is a WordPress site and it uses the the Multicorp theme. One way to spot the tool used to build sites is to flip into view source mode, many CMS tools will have particular URL patterns you can spot. WordPress sites tend to have wp-includes or wp-content that are easy to pick out on a quick scan.

    How man visualizations do you have to show currently? Are you looking to show just final products or use that as a way to discuss/show your progress.?

    1. At present, I do not have a portfolio of visualizations ready for presentation; I have maybe four or five network visualizations I could use from my past coursework, but I’m not certain I would want to showcase them as indicators of my “best” work.

      In the long term, I see my portfolio as a place to showcase finished products, while utilizing a blog structure (such as this!) to showcase works in progress. In terms of developing that portfolio, I draw a lot of inspiration from sites like fivethirtyeight and that create find unique or off-kilter datasets to flex their visualization prowess (the Prince’s Top Billboard Hits visualization from fivethirtyeight is a personal favorite). Obviously I want my visualizations to showcase the data for my sociological work, I also want my portfolio to be a demonstration of my abilities and design choices with these tools more broadly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Privacy Statement