13 Tips to Make a Strong Landscape Architecture Portfolio
Simply having a landscape architecture portfolio isn’t enough. You need to stand out from the crowd.
How? We brought you 13 pieces of expert advice, along with some amazing examples for inspiration. What’s more, we’ll help you set up your portfolio in a matter of minutes with Archifolio.
13 Tips for a Strong Landscape Architecture Portfolio
1. Tell a story
Every project presents a story. Starting from the building site’s conditions, you walk your audience through your design process and end up with a master plan, or photographs of the end result.
The tricky part is telling a story with visual elements instead of words. The right structure can help you with that. A tried and true formula is the following:
- Show part of the result or master plan (think of this as the “cover”),
- Most important information for context (in writing, but keep it short in a bullet-pointed format),
- Territorial analysis,
- The “before” state of the site and the client brief,
- Initial sketches,
- Masterplan, and
- Photography of the result (or the “after”).
Here’s an example of how Elisa Alexandra Orla told a story in one of her projects:
We love that looking at the concept plan, we can actually imagine being beside her as she sketches up her ideas. We have some proof of how she manages to turn her concept into detailed floor and section plans.
2. Keep it short
It may be tempting to show the full range of different projects you have ever worked on, but don’t. The key to a good portfolio is keeping it short and relevant.
So, curate your portfolio carefully. Look at all of your projects and be ruthless about the selection. Only include the best of the best. It depends on your seniority level, but including somewhere between 5-9 projects is ideal. With this amount of projects, your audience can easily process the information you provide without getting distracted.
When you choose which pieces to include, consider the following:
- Date of the project. Regularly update your portfolio to present your best and most recent work. This might mean you need to say goodbye to some old favorites to make space.
- State of the projects. Finished designs land you clients. Sketches show the versatility of your skills to employers. Consider your focus when selecting your pieces.
- Common theme. Show what you’re specializing in, or what connects your projects. You can build your entire portfolio around a concept, such as sustainability, which will help you select what’s relevant and what isn’t.
- Common goal. Your portfolio has a purpose: always be mindful of the requirements.
- Target audience. Keep in mind what your audience wants to see. Which leads us to the next point: tailor your portfolio to your audience.
3. Tailor your portfolio to your audience
It’s always a good idea to get to know your potential employer or client as much as possible.
When it comes to applying for a job at a landscape design studio, start with a quick search (in the job description and the company’s website) and find the following information:
- Project types of the company (commercial, industrial, residential landscape design, etc),
- Required work experience for the position,
- Scope of activities and necessary skills for that position,
- Must-know software, and
- If the company has any specialization or niche.
This will help you create your resume and your portfolio. Highlight those of your skills that are relevant to your future employer and show them why you will be perfect for the job.
It will also help with what to include. For example, if you know that your tasks will mostly be creating concept designs, you won’t be tempted to include all of the construction documents you’ve made.
If you are looking to get hired by clients, you will need to highlight something completely different. Your main focus should be your finished projects, either master plans or photography.
Your portfolio should also include:
- A focus on your personal brand
- Highlight the type and quality of the services you offer
- Client testimonials
- An “about me” page with your professional CV
Place call-to-actions all along your portfolio (e.g. buttons or links to your contact page), to make it easy to contact you.
4. Pay attention to your images
Your visual content is the protagonist of your portfolio. Don’t get us wrong, your copy needs to be on point too, but your images will do most of the talking. Therefore, take the time to make them look neat and only include high-quality images. If you are presenting construction documentation or blueprints, make sure to make them look as tidy as possible.
Keep in mind to compress your images before uploading them to your site. This will speed up your website, which is key.
Here’s the example of Board & Vellum, with high-quality professional pictures:
5. The presentation is just as important as the content
When it comes to any design field, your work will be judged based on how you present it. People can’t appreciate even the best projects if you have a sloppy portfolio layout with 5 different fonts and colors that simply don’t work well together.
But if you choose the right tool, formatting your portfolio will be a breeze. With Archifolio, you just choose a template you like, customize it to your liking, and then upload your content. Your architecture portfolio website will look amazing without having to worry about line spacings and HEX codes.
6. Make a good first impression
First impressions matter. And while you may have an awesome portfolio once people dive in, if you don’t grab the attention of your audience right away, you may as well have sloppy projects. That’s why you need your portfolio cover, a.k.a. your main page to be top-notch.
Here’s what your main site needs to showcase right away to make it easily understandable:
- what it is for (to showcase your landscape architecture projects),
- whose it is,
- and why it should be looked into any further (with for instance a high-quality cover picture from the project you are most proud of).
After these, your main page can feature a short paragraph about you, and then come your projects. The best practice is to have your projects on separate pages, but show them on your main page with thumbnails.
Here’s an example of an impressive main page from Sudbury Design Group:
7. Show your personality
In the field of landscape architecture, universities are looking for creative students who can show some artistic skills and enthusiasm for this area of work. Thus, introducing yourself in your portfolio is a great way to express your love towards nature and the outdoors as well as drawing.
Don’t write long pages of text though. Keep it short and relevant. If you are in doubt about what to write, think about what can move your application to the ‘yes’ pile. For example, if you’ve won an art competition in school, don’t be shy to brag about it. But you don’t need to mention your GPA from each year if they were average.
Include the following in your bio:
- Mission statement
- Education highlights
- Career highlights (when applicable)
- Skills (software used and soft skills)
- Outstanding achievements (awards, extra certifications)
8. Include extracurricular work
As an undergraduate, your landscape architecture student portfolio won’t consist of perfectly detailed elevations and master plans. Instead, you should showcase your skills in the form of artworks and extracurricular projects.
You can, for example, include sketches, paintings, photographs, and the like. These don’t necessarily have to be in connection with landscape architecture, but if you have some, then great!
Here’s An Vo’s portfolio with her extracurricular projects:
9. Start networking, get feedback
Networking is a part of every architect’s life and it’s best to start early. As an aspiring landscape architect, you have the opportunity to reach out to your professors or role models in your field and ask for their feedback on your portfolio. You won’t only get invaluable tips and help, you can build a great relationship that can last a lifetime.
When you land your first clients, don’t be shy to ask for feedback, be it an online review or a client testimonial.
10. Always update your portfolio
As you go along your career, your focus will shift. You will start to specialize in a particular field or market, and you will work out your own style. Therefore, it’s essential to update your portfolio as your career changes to reflect who you are as a landscape architect.
Therefore, it’s extremely important to choose a portfolio builder that allows you to make changes quickly and conveniently. With Archifolio you can create and update your portfolio in mere seconds. Even if you’ve never built a website it will be effortless thanks to the intuitive editor. Give it a go and build your portfolio.
11. Keep it relevant
Once you have a good number of projects, it may be hard to decide what goes in the portfolio and what doesn’t. This is when you go back to your research and see what is relevant for your potential employer. For example, if you are applying to work at a botanical garden, it’s best if you don’t include the parking lot layouts you’ve done in the past.
12. Touch up old student projects to make them portfolio-material
You may feel like you don’t have enough high-quality projects. A great workaround is going back to old projects – school projects even –, and perfecting them. This will serve two purposes: on the one hand, you’ll get another great project that you didn’t have to start from scratch. On the other hand, you will remember the project better, which is crucial, as the interviewers might want to ask questions about it.
13. State your contribution to the project
Landscape architectural design is collaborative work. Due to the sheer volume of the projects, it’s common sense that you didn’t do it alone. So make your contribution clear. You can start each project with a sentence or two about what sort of tasks you performed.
In addition, you can give credit where credit is due. For example, you can mention the professional photographer you worked with if you decide to feature their photographs.
Here’s an example from the urban planning portfolio of Guram Niauri:
What to Include in an Application
A landscape architecture application consists of 3 main parts: your portfolio, your resume, and a cover letter. Here are the best practices for submitting an application that stands out.
A couple of decades ago, all architecture portfolios were printed books that could be physically flipped through. As you would think, this tradition has become relatively outdated in the digital age. Today there are two main portfolio types, websites, and PDFs. Let’s see in detail which one works best for you.
Ever since website building became easy, portfolio websites were no longer just for firms and studios. Freelancers and employees started to use them as well. However, right now there’s this perfect sweet spot. Soon everyone will have them, but today it’s a huge help to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. Here’s how Dirtworks created one of their landscape architecture project pages.
Here’s why it could be a great choice for you:
- It’s easy to create and update,
- You can customize it completely,
- A personal domain name makes you look professional (e.g. yourname.com),
- There are many stunning architecture portfolio templates available,
- It’s convenient to share, and
- There’s no file size limitation you have to look out for.
It may seem complex now, but creating a website is actually a breeze. You just need to find the right tool. Lucky for you, we have an awesome recommendation: Archifolio is a website builder tool that was created specifically for the architectural industry. With the intuitive editor and our writing prompts, you can create a portfolio in no time. Try it out, it’s free.
PDF portfolios have been around for a long time. They can mimic the old feeling of flipping through a portfolio. Here’s why it could work for you:
- It’s printable,
- Some employers are reluctant to open links, and only accept PDF files,
- With the right tool, it's easy to create, and
- It’s easy to create multiple PDF portfolios.
If you choose PDF as the format of your landscape architecture portfolio, keep in mind the file size. Don’t send a humongous file (›15MB), because recruiters are often reluctant to download them.
A great example of a PDF portfolio is this one by Florent Bessoud-Cavillot:
A sure-fire tactic is to have a combination of both. Your website can be your master portfolio (storing all of your projects in one place) that you can access at any time and place. And having your PDF portfolio ready can come in handy when you want to send an architecture work sample or a very specific application.
Build your website in a matter of minutes and when you're done, export it to a PDF with a click of a button.
As much as our industry relies on portfolios, you still need to have an appealing landscape architecture resume.
It needs to contain the following:
- The basics (name, contact information, location, etc)
- Your relevant work experience,
- The software you use and an indication of how practiced you are in them,
- Languages you speak, and
- Relevant extracurricular activities.
Make sure to create a tailored CV for each application, as you’ll need to highlight different architecture skills and experiences for each position. Plus, don’t go overboard with the content, keep your resume to one page and pay attention to keeping it relevant.
Here’s how Marco Blažić created his resume in his portfolio:
Nowadays when we say “cover letter”, we mainly mean the copy of the email that we send our application in.
It’s important to research the company enough that you are aware of whom you should address in your email. Forget “To whom it may concern” and find the person that your email will indeed concern. Your email can be fairly informal but keep it short and relevant.
Create Your Landscape Architecture Portfolio Website Today!
So, there you go. You now have a great base for applying for your next position. And why wait? The sooner you start working on your portfolio the better.
Give Archifolio a go and see for yourself just how easy it is to build an impressive portfolio.
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