Online portfolios: Form vs function

by Andrew Glaros

We use portfolios to show off our work and ability, often hoping to land a new job or opportunity.  An online portfolio can be a great asset for any artist or designer.  However, among portfolio sites, I’ve noticed a lack of attention paid to form or function.

Portfolios that focus on form are flashy and beautiful.  Mark Uraine and Beta Tataki are good examples.  Both sites become an example of work in themselves, which is a great demonstration of ability. These portfolios let a bit of the designer’s personality through.  However, the function—viewing portfolio work—seems like an afterthought.  Both designers chose to place form over function, which impairs the viewer’s ability to digest the main body of their work.

Portfolios that focus on function are optimized for content consumption. We get hired based on our demonstrated ability, so showing off our work is a must. Dan Gretta’s site is a great example. His minimalist design places his work front and center. Navigating within and between projects is effortless. I don’t have to think. Unlike the previous examples, however, Dan has missed the opportunity to use his own site as an example of work. His emphasis on function left the form seeming neglected.

In our portfolios, we should strike a balance between form and function. Check out John Magnifico and Ross Nover as examples. Both sites are visually distinctive, yet easy to digest. Sure, neither site won awards for being flashy, but they are still excellent examples of work, while showcasing the designer’s personality. In these examples, function does not dictate form, but neither is form neglected.  Check out Smashing Magazine’s Does Form Follow Function? for a more in depth discussion.

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design