design process

My Portfolio, Myself


One of the reasons I took some time off was so that I’d finally be able to get my online presence in order, and that included getting my web portfolio in shape.

The good news is, I’ve done a lot of stuff.

The bad news is, I’ve done a lot of stuff.

I was both amused and horrified to realized that organizing a portfolio is just as bad as organizing articles in a CMS, in that it’s the same old challenge of fitting a square peg, based on narrative structure, into a round hole, delineated by the limits of tags and categories. Nobody’s yet figured this out, and I doubt anyone will. I think it’s always going to be a frustratingly human exercise. A portfolio is, at its heart, an act of storytelling, and tags just aren’t up to the task.

Additionally, figuring out what the heck I’d been doing with my time required a lot of archival digging. This was mostly a result of me not thinking in portfolio terms until too recently; I hang my head in shame when I think about all the pictures I didn’t take of post-its, ideation sessions, and the like. But to be fair, in my first career, no one talked about portfolios at all, and as I drifted more towards code, a portfolio became nearly synonymous with having Github repos. Which is what I’m trying to correct, now.

And so, after innumerable Twitter and Facebook searches to find out if anyone else had taken pictures, and sorting through the files I’d hastily downloaded from my last job, and no less than three backup drives and one USB, I  found all the artifacts I was going to find. Which means I had to return to the arduous task of actually organizing things.

It quickly became apparent that I’d need to just make separate pages for separate interests. After putting up an initial general portfolio, I got some very helpful feedback that urged me to tighten things up, both in terms of word count, and in terms of what items I presented. That was good advice, and it’s parallel to the (also good) advice to customize your résumé fore each job. My UX portfolio page is mostly done; ideally, I think I’d also have leadership/product and code pages. And possibly a quasi-DH (digital humanities) page, mostly to explain why there’s so much weird Latin stuff in my portfolio/life.

And then there was the final question of what to do with my teaching career, portfolio-wise. I realized I need to emphasize that designing classes was design. It involved UX, and IA, and iteration, and so many of the things that I’ve continued to use in tech. And I did it for ten years, for Pete’s sake. It deserved a place in my story. I’ll probably write a separate blog post about that, but suffice to say I’m pretty pleased with my first attempt at describing what I did in tech/design terms. I may even go on to make project pages for a few specific classes — if I can find any artifacts to prove I was there.