I was invited to be a mentor at the Digital Design Portfolio Masterclass organised by The Dots.

The Masterclasses are a monthly creative industry-led series of workshops at some of London’s most iconic offices and workspaces. They aim to offer aspiring creatives a really rare and valuable opportunity – to get their work in front of the eyes and ears of a selection of industry leaders.

Nearly 350 people applied to join this particular Masterclass and the successful 30 were invited to join myself and other mentors at the offices of AKQA.

As a UX Designer, I was mentoring with some exceptional talent including Ian Wharton (Group Creative Director, AKQA), Gareth Hughes (Art Director, AKQA), Tim Baggott (Associate Creative Director, AKQA), James Chorley (Creative Director, AKQA), Sam Andrews (Group Experience Director, AKQA), George Zafirovski (Senior UX Designer, Google), Gus Mackinnon (Creative Director, Poke), Kat Hahn (Associate Creative Director, R/GA), and Owen Thomas (Senior Designer, Made By Many).

Pip Jamieson, Founder of The Dots

Pip Jamieson, Founder of The Dots

After a quick introduction to the concept and evening from Pip Jamieson, Founder of The Dots, we soon settled down in to a speed-dating-style portfolio critique.

Each mentor had up to 4 people at once, for around 25 minutes and each person took to presenting either their favourite piece of work or as much of their portfolio as they could fit in to roughly 8 minutes.

Talking through design work with Steven

Talking through design work with Steven

Creatives got individual feedback on particular pieces of work and some very upfront and honest advice on building and re-energising their portfolios.

It was evident there was a real keen focus on getting this feedback – an abundance of energy for them to learn and hear constructive ways of how to present their ‘story’. It’s always a pleasure to see and hear from people so keen on furthering their career and developing their skills.

My advice was pretty simple – show your process, explain your thinking. Simple steps, simple wins – Kaizen like steps.

I saw lots of fantastic work, however not so much of the process behind it. For me, it’s important to understand how someone got to that polished design and their thinking behind it. By asking the attendees these questions they all had reasons ‘why’ and plenty of material about their process, but a lot had decided to keep their portfolio to a minimum, showcasing their finished pieces as opposed to the story behind it.

It’s one of those tough calls:

“How much do I put into my portfolio? How many pages; physical or digital do I need?”

The Dots Digital Design Portfolio Masterclass

I may be biased, but for me, the process is definitely as important as the finished product:

You can understand more about how a person thinks and their way of working by getting them to open up, by talking and displaying their process.

As both a designer and a mentor, these Masterclasses are important not just for the people attending but for the mentors too; it’s a perfect opportunity to network, meet new people and give feedback, even receive feedback yourself on how your ideas are presented.

It’s fantastic to see The Dots taking offline as seriously as online – real people in a situation that isn’t anything but honest. Every single person I spoke to was so keen to hear what others thought and it’s feedback that really does help to encourage people to learn more, think about things in a different way and ultimately look to improve upon what they have.

The Dots Digital Design Portfolio Masterclass

George Zafirovski (Senior UX Designer, Google)

A huge thanks to The Dots for inviting me, all of the attendees for showing me their work and for AKQA for hosting the evening and providing the snacks, pizza and beer.

The next Masterclass is a Graphic Design one, and it’s at Facebook’s UK HQ. Find out more here.

The Dots Digital Design Portfolio Masterclass


Book me to mentor at your next event