At a time of great competitiveness, applying for a job in landscape architecture can get quite stressful. Your portfolio plays a crucial role in whether you land your dream job.
When creating an portfolio, landscape architects get to play the role of marketing experts. They need to think about all the elements that go into creating a perfect presentation and figure out how to communicate their value as succinctly and engagingly as possible. The design and content of a portfolio depends on many factors, particularly its target audience. The process of applying for a job requires a wide range of skills and combines the power of interpersonal communication skills, written word and quality content presented in a compelling way.
Here are some of the most important tips on crafting a great portfolio.
#1 Just Say “No” to a Stand Alone CV
Never just send your CV without a portfolio of your work. That’s rule number one, without a doubt. Plain text resumes are rarely looked at and won’t stand out when compared to others. Where you graduated from is much less important than your actual ability in the profession.
#2 Your Portfolio’s Presentation is just as important as its content
Visual composition can make or break your portfolio. This shows your grasp of an essential skill: graphic design. Even portfolios with amazing projects tend to be overlooked or become invisible when compared to ones with more attractive presentation. Very cluttered pages can hide content. The images need to breathe. Do not overload your portfolio with a lot of information to make it look more full: the more concise and attractive the layout, the better. Usually the people looking over these documents can tell what information is relevant and what is just filler. The font, margins, structure and proportion of a page say a lot about your ability as a Landscape Architect as well.
#3 Include Lots of Personal Information
A Landscape Architect’s work is multidisciplinary. For virtually every practicing Landscape Architect it is important to have general knowledge that transcends the technical design or building project. Personality is critical to the job. If your poems are good, if your drawings are cool, if you write well, if you like art, if you take great photos; there is no reason to hide any of that in your portfolio. Offices almost always seek Landscape Architects who think for themselves. In addition, this information can make the portfolio more fun. They should also appear visually. Your photo ID or a selfie of a group of friends on the beach aren’t really appropriate, but a photo – even abstract – that shows your personality and how you present yourself or represent your interests may add a nice touch: choose images that reflect, most importantly, your personality and your interests.
#4 A Long Portfolio Isn’t Better Than a Short One
On the contrary. Some offices receive dozens of CV’s a day and so it is important to be short and sweet; straight to the point. Portfolios with lots of pages are rarely looked at fully. Put your best projects first. Close with something attractive too, but the first impression is the one that counts. If you have many projects that you think are good, don’t put them all in; only the best of the best. Mediocre projects – ones you aren’t proud of or have any doubts about – leave out, they may have mattered to you, but don’t hang on. It’s better to have two excellent projects than 10 average ones. There is no rule for the number of pages, but a 40 page document already seems too long. Remember: at first the document will be looked at for no more than one minute before being passed on.
#5 Research Potential Employers
Landscape Architecture portfolios are always a work in progress. We constantly update them with new projects, change layouts and try to strike a balance between great content and stylish presentation. When job-hunting, many landscape architects and young graduates send out the same version of their portfolio to different firms. You should avoid doing this, unless the firms you’re interested in are very similar in what they do and how they do it. Ideally, you should tailor each submission to better fit each firm.
This doesn’t mean you should take a sociopathic attitude to the job application process and change your entire personality and professional interests to please potential employers. It simply means that when you apply for a job, you need to know as much as possible about the firm and focus on crafting a CV and portfolio that accentuate those among your projects that are most relevant. It is not about mimicking the style of the firm, but showcase ideas that explore relevant concepts and solutions in an original way.
#6 Attach a PDF With a Maximum of 10 Mb
Online platform portfolios are not cool. They’re always very slow and with interfaces that are difficult to navigate. It is important for the office to keep the file on their server because in the future they may be interested in something that there was no opportunity for in the past. A PDF makes it easy to search your portfolio. Sites with their own domain and architectural visual programming can be very well received, but do not replace the old PDF. Google Drive and large file sending platforms should be avoided.
#7 Make Your CV Page Appealing
Despite its limited importance compared to the works and images, the CV page should contain clear data. Which city do you live in? What languages do you speak? What software do you use? But be sure to put information about foreign language! This is a useful skill for offices doing work abroad, and its absence could make your portfolio immediately eliminated.
#8 Theoretical Projects
Nothing shows a Landscape Architect’s potential better than theoretical and academic projects. University is the time to create the start of a portfolio and these works are worth a lot. This type of work can be worth as much as real project.
#9 The Inclusion of Technical Drawings Can Help, but Can Also Distract
Submitting a portfolio isn’t the same as submitting construction drawings. You don’t need to explain everything thoroughly, with plans for all the areas and dozens of sections. But it’s important to get the general idea of the project (the concept) and to show your skills. If you are called for an interview, then take something more detailed. Including many drawings, and particularly, many technical drawings, can only hold your portfolio back; it takes up valuable space.
#10 Duties for Each Project
Be clear and truthful about your contributions in each project. The real contributions! Even if you were an intern, put what you’ve really done, “graphic work,” “preliminary project concepts,” “planning work”, “site supervisory work”, etc. This will show your actual experience. Landscape Design is always a collective work and therefore, even on work of your own jobs, you probably didn’t do it alone. Be honest.
#11 Cover Letters
The text in the body of the email is important. It should be brief and attractive. No big speeches. In any case, this is also an area to be a little less impersonal. Honest and poetic letters are better than very formal letters. In fact, nothing sounds worse than formal letters. Unless you are trying to get into an office with hundreds or thousands of employees (in this case, all of the recommendations in this article don’t seem to work well in general). The famous letters of recommendation from other landscape architects are falling out of favor. They’re almost always written by the landscape architect himself and just signed by the landscape architect making the recommendation. These letters should only be included if the office asks for them within the process.
#12 Most Importantly, Always Tell the Truth
Don’t invent or exaggerate anything in your portfolio or resume. Honesty is the best policy. You can even get a job, but lose it afterwards because you lied. The truth comes out quickly. Just be yourself.
For all sorts of tutorials, design and printing tips, check out Alex Hogrefe’s Visualizing Architecture website. It offers a huge amount of information on crafting portfolios as well as visualization strategies to get you inspired.
What do you consider to be the most important element of a great landscape architecture portfolio?