From the Dev Couch: Designers and their Portfolios

by Dan DeMeyere - @dandemeyere

There are back-end developers, front-end developers, and then there are designers. BE devs primarily work with models, databases, and then set-up the controllers so the front-end can get the data they need for their views. With that data, FE devs typically work in the views and use HTML/CSS & their JavaScript framework of choice to make compelling pages. Designers, on the other hand, typically aren't coders and they spend their days in Photoshop/Fireworks taking a wireframe in sketch form to something visually spectacular. If you are one of the few designers who can code as well, we have job openings ;)

There is another type of person in the web community and those are the people who say they are designers when they are not. You can teach someone how to become a programmer, but you really can't teach someone how to become an artist. I admire great designers and because of that I find myself getting upset when I come across pretenders. So for all those who claim to be designers, here are some real designers and here is what your portfolio should look like:

Stephen Caver

Website: Homepage || Portfolio
Dribbble: stephen
Twitter: @deadgraviti

If your a designer, your website should be something special. If it's not, then you better have a pretty good portfolio available. It's difficult to determine if someone is a good developer or not by glancing at their websites or even their source code because there are so many factors that have to be taken into consideration. Were they the sole developer? Is the code theirs or is it a plug-in they're using? Did they even write the code or are they claiming credit for something they just modified? With designers, their work is more transparent. So what's a good example of a designer's website that's special? Take a look:

It's unique. It's expressive. It demonstrates competency in the area of web design and graphical design. Did I mention it's also responsive? My next post will be on responsive design, but if you're new to the term it's when your website responds to different browser dimensions with separate designs. Take Stephen's website and make it smaller. Now make it bigger. Notice how all the elements change? This is so the viewing experience is great on all types of media devices and in all sizes. I love his website.

Chris Spooner

Website: Homepage || Portfolio
Dribbble: chrisspooner
Twitter: @chrisspooner

Chris Spooner is a whole different league of designer. He can code, blog, design and he's an almost unattainable freelancer because of demand for his work. In addition to his freelance web shop, he runs a web design blog called Line25, he has his own personal blog, a graphics blog, and even one for his dog Jake. I'm not saying that if you're a designer you should be like Chris and do all of these because that's unfair. But I guarantee you could learn a couple lessons from looking around on his website and following some of his articles.

His graphics are stunning.

Daniel Burka

Website: Homepage
Dribbble: dburka
Twitter: @dburka

There are exceptions to the rule and Daniel Burka is one of them. He doesn't have a portfolio per sé, but that's because he has held prominent positions in a number products that regularly feature his work. When you're the creative director at Digg or director of design for a game primarily known for it's graphics like Glitch, you have living portfolios and a formal, consolidated portfolio is less necessary. Freelance developers require something to show all their work in one spot, but entrepreneurs and design professionals are able to share their projects (if they are big enough) and let the person inquiring experience their design for themselves. I can only imagine what Daniel and his good pal Kevin Rose are cooking up with their new mobile app in-house incubator Milk.

A good example of these living portfolios is our Chief Creative Officer Oliver Lubin and the graphical/design lead Heidi Howland. Oliver might not have a public portfolio, but he practically designed every UI element on our website thredUP. If you sign-up and use our website, you take a tour of his portfolio. Same goes for Heidi. Every graphic on our website from the clouds in the thredUP sky to the badge icons to subtle background graphics on our How it Works page.