How to Project Manage Your Own UX Portfolio

5 steps to help you stop pushing pixels and start telling a story

Karen McClellan
Modus
Published in
5 min readAug 12, 2019

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Photo: Antonio Sedano/EyeEm/Getty Images

This cotton candy video making the rounds on Twitter immediately reminded me of my portfolio:

Me: Stuffing hours and hours of work, sweat, and tears into case studies

My Portfolio: Nothing to see here, just a tepid pool of gray sugar water

Building a portfolio is hard for two reasons. First, we’re too close to our own work to look at it with enough perspective, meaning that it’s easy to think every sketch is important. This means we have a hard time teasing out a concise, coherent story and choosing the most relevant artifacts to tell that story. We end up packing a case study so full of images and anecdotes that a recruiter’s eyes glaze over before they even get to the “How might we…” statement.

The second reason it’s hard is that we are often our own harshest critics. We see all the flaws in every screen and process photo, and spend a ton of time fine-tuning every single pixel. This means we sink time into final edits before we even know what we might be trying to communicate with that image (see reason number one).

Now, I am not preaching against perfectionism — fine-tune your pixels if that’s your thing! But do you see the theme? At the core of each of these challenges is an inability to prioritize, whether it’s the content in your portfolio or the time, energy, and attention you’re putting into it. You need a project manager. Or better yet, you could hack your way to becoming your own.

As a former project manager myself, I’ve come up with a (fairly lax) system to help me put together case studies for my portfolio. This system helps me distill complex, winding processes into convincing stories that will hopefully convince a recruiter that I’m worth interviewing. Here’s a breakdown of the five key steps I follow:

1. What’s the story I’m trying to tell?

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