10 Tips for Creating an Outstanding Undergraduate Architecture Portfolio

Are you looking for some advice on how to create a stunning undergraduate architecture portfolio? Read this article and get the best 10 tips and a great tool to start creating.

There’s fierce competition to get accepted to any studies related to architecture all around the world. The top universities are drowning in applications, and you need an exceptional undergraduate architecture portfolio to stand out from the crowd.

But fear not, creating a portfolio does not have to be a daunting task. The team of Archifolio is here to make this process less stressful, – and even fun.

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In this article, we’ll talk about creating undergraduate architecture portfolios for when you are applying for your first degree, and also when you’d like to get accepted to your Masters’ studies.

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10 tips for an outstanding undergraduate architecture portfolio

There are some important things to consider that we want to share right at the beginning to cover all the bases. Following these tips will ensure that you submit an outstanding application and get your foot in the door. So, before anything else, keep in mind the following:

1. Carefully follow the requirements

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s super important. Usually, each university provides detailed portfolio requirements. We advise you to start right here with the college that you prefer the most and read it carefully. This brings us to our next advice:

2. Tailor your portfolio

You may want to save time by creating one portfolio that you edit to perfection, but that hardly ever works. Instead, modify each portfolio specific to the requirements and the profile of each university.

3. Be conscious about the format

The format of the portfolio can greatly influence the success of your application. On the one hand, make sure to stick to the format that the university accepts. Fail to do so, and they may not even open your portfolio.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t create something extraordinary to stand out from the crowd. For example, if you are to create a PDF portfolio, you may add a link to your architecture portfolio website as an additional bonus. Thus, you can show more of your projects without the annoying file size limitation.

The easiest and fastest way to put together your portfolio website is with Archifolio. Thanks to this platform, you’ll only have to focus on your projects. We take care of the coding, and you can choose from premade color presents and font pairings that were specifically created for the architectural industry.

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4. Only include your best work

Curating your portfolio is just as important as creating it. Only include those projects that you are proud of and would like to be judged on.

Are you in doubt of what to include? We’ll give you a detailed list further down the road.

5. Let your images do the talking

The main event of your portfolio is your imagery. So, give them the proper attention they deserve. Also, try not to write too much, but let your images tell the story. If you follow the guiding questions of Archifolio, you’ll include all the necessary information that your audience will look for without writing too much.

Don’t be afraid of whitespace around your images. Without the clutter, your audience can appreciate your projects in their glory. But keep in mind to only include high-quality pictures.

6. Be meticulous about grammar and spelling

Make sure to double-check the spelling and grammar in the short written content of your portfolio. Ask your teachers or friends to proofread it as well. It’s easier to spot the mistakes with a fresh eye.

7. Be consistent with the design

Throughout your whole portfolio, choose the same fonts, colors, and formatting. This will tie everything together and make you look professional.

Pro Tip: Use an architecture portfolio template to get you started. It will help you create consistent layouts, linespacing, fonts and colors throughout your portfolio and you can make it totally unique to you.

8. Tell a story

The aim of your architecture portfolio is to introduce you and your work. Build your project pages in a way that walks the reader through the whole design process. 

9. Back up your files

If you are to create a PDF document, always – and we mean always – back up your files online. This is another reason why an architecture portfolio website can complement a PDF portfolio. Even something goes wrong with your PDF, you have a professional website as a backup. 

Banner with button and an architecture portfolio shown in a laptop. The text says: “We help you tell visual stories quickly and easily.” Button: "Create your portfolio " It's free. Get started today.

10. Adhere to the deadline

We don’t have to go into details with this one. However, as it’s one of the most crucial things about your application, we could not leave it out.

How long should an undergraduate architecture portfolio be?

First and foremost, check the requirements of the university. The admission officers set how long your portfolio should be for that particular application. If they don’t have a limit, include 8-12 projects. One project can take up one page. 

Don’t think that putting everything you’ve ever worked on in your portfolio will impress the recruiters. If you include more projects than their limit, they may reject it at once.

If you are already an undergraduate, then your portfolio should include 5-9 projects, unless stated otherwise. Out of these, 2-3 projects can be more detailed, each presented in up to 3 pages.

Comparison: Undergraduate vs. professional portfolio

All in all, the aim of any portfolio is similar: you want to present your skills, experience, and personality. However, there are slight differences in the formatting, the content, and the evaluation as well.

Applications for undergraduate programs:

The admission officers’ main purpose is to find dedicated and enthusiastic students. They aren’t looking for perfectly designed buildings with perfectly life-like renders. They are searching for students, who understand basic visual communication techniques and demonstrate skills of creative thinking.

What should you include in your portfolio?

As a person applying for undergraduate architecture programs, your portfolio will mostly consist of artworks. Most of these projects don’t have to be related to architecture at all. However, if they are, then it will show enthusiasm towards the profession. 

Here are some ideas to include or create:

Freehand sketches

Pencil sketches aren’t supposed to be perfectly detailed, but they can give proof of visual communication skills. Even today in the digital world, sketching can be the quickest form of conveying messages in the field of design.

You don’t yet have any sketches to include? Choose a building or landmark that makes you enthusiastic about architecture and draw it. 

Paintings

Artworks allow you to showcase your knowledge of color theory. You can choose any technique that you want to experiment with.

Pro tip: If you have more paintings, put them next to each other in chronological order to demonstrate your development.

Graphic design

Have you experimented with colors, shapes, and other graphic elements to create a logo or a poster? It can be a real asset to your portfolio. 

If you used some popular software for your designs (e.g. Illustrator or InDesign), make sure to mention it in a brief caption somewhere on the page. Admission officers know that the basics of these can prove to be beneficial when learning more complex 3D modeling software.

Architectural model

Even in the era of the BIM software, architects value real models. These can convey messages that 3D drawings simply can’t. If you’ve ever built a model of any sort of building, then include a few photographs from 2-3 different angels. 

Pro tip: Create a collage of pictures to walk your audience through your model in a visually pleasing way.

Photography

Architecture and photography are connected in multiple ways. Showing interest in photography can indicate your attitude towards architectural design in general. Experimenting with light, shadows, and composition will play a huge part in your architectural projects. Plus, if you like taking photos, why not showcase your best work in your portfolio?

Computer-Aided Designs

Don’t worry! We’re not talking about renders that look like real buildings. That’s not what universities expect at all. 

However, you can start playing around with 3D modeling software if you feel like it. Or maybe you enjoy building in Sims or any other videogame? Don’t be afraid to showcase your best design. We don’t necessarily recommend putting Sims under skills in your first architecture resume, but hey, at this point it shows enthusiasm.

As we mentioned above, let your pictures do the talking. However, it’s worth placing brief captions under your artwork to provide context. You can include

  • the method/technique you chose,
  • the software you used,
  • whether the project was done individually or in class,
  • the original size, and
  • the title of the piece (optional).

Portfolios for undergraduates: 

In undergraduate architecture portfolios, you are expected to include academic projects besides your artworks and extracurricular designs. However, don’t get discouraged by looking at postgraduate portfolios with developed renders and incredibly challenging projects. You should present the best designs that you have created so far.

What should you include in your portfolio?

At this point, the content of your portfolio is a bit more straightforward. Anything you’ve created in class is welcome. But the “quality over quantity” rule applies in this case as well.

If you are unsure about what pieces of work you could include, here’s a handy list:

  • sketches for academic projects,
  • photos of architectural models,
  • site plans,
  • construction detailing,
  • CAD designs,
  • artworks,
  • graphic design, and
  • photography.

Besides giving titles for each project, you want to place a short caption, where you include:

  • the course title,
  • the semester,
  • the software you used, and
  • whether the project was done individually or in class.

Remember, you want to showcase your passion, creativity but also your dedication, diligence, and knowledge from your studies.

How to make a portfolio for undergraduate school? 

1. Choose the format

How do you start with that? Yes, you guessed it: Check the requirements of the university. See what sort of portfolio the admission office is looking for (printed, PDF portfolio, or personal website link), and act accordingly.

You can create a printed or PDF portfolio in InDesign with the help of architecture portfolio templates. If you’ve never used this software before, a quicker solution would be to use something simpler, like Canva, for instance.

In case you need to create a PDF, make sure to look out for the size limitation. If it’s bigger than the limit, try to compress the images and the file as well. For a printed portfolio, make sure to choose the right paper quality, so your work is presented in the best way possible.

If they ask for a link to your portfolio, create one in Archifolio. This will give you a stunning portfolio in a matter of minutes. You can set your own domain (think yourname.com), upload your content, choose a design that fits your style and end up with a portfolio that you can be proud of.

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2. Create a cover page/set up your main page

First impressions matter a lot. Therefore, create a cover page (for PDF portfolios) or home page (on portfolio websites) that sets you apart and shows how creative and professional you are.

On your cover page include the following:

  • your name, 
  • the title of the portfolio (which can simply be “portfolio”), and 
  • the year you are submitting it.

To your website home page add these: 

  • your name, 
  • a short introduction, and 
  • thumbnails to all of your projects.

3. Upload your projects

It’s time to add your projects to your portfolio. Depending on the page limit for a PDF portfolio, add a title page before your images for each project. When it comes to your artworks, put them in a composition that works well for each piece. 

On a portfolio website, you can create a gallery for your artworks on a separate, “Extracurricular” page. As you go about in your architectural career, you can add more and more project pages, and update it as you like. 

How do you create a stunning undergraduate architecture portfolio fast?

It may be hard to know where to start if you want to create a superb portfolio, but wouldn’t want to spend weeks on it. But lucky for you, we have the perfect solution. 

Archifolio is a portfolio website builder created specifically for you, architects out there. But why is it the right tool for you?

Compared to InDesign (and other complex PDF creators), you can use Archifolio without having to watch thousands of tutorials on Youtube. And you will still end up with an impressive portfolio.

Plus, it takes a fraction of the time to create a website in Archifolio in comparison to any other website builder. Others lack the guidance that our tool provides. 

In addition, you don’t have to worry about the coding and get lost in web development jargon. You only have to focus on what really matters: your work and the presentation. 

If you’ve never created a portfolio before, it’s best to start working on one that you could use, modify and update for years to come. With Archifolio, your architecture portfolio website builder you can create something that stands the test of time.

Banner with button and an architecture portfolio shown in a laptop. The text says: “We help you tell visual stories quickly and easily.” Button: "Create your portfolio " It's free. Get started today.

We hope that this guide helps you end up with a portfolio that starts you off on the right foot in your career. We wish you the best of luck with your application.

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Fanni Szalkai

Online Marketing Manager at Archifolio and a huge fan of architecture and interior design. 🛋 🏛 Get in touch if you have any questions at fanni.szalkai@archifol.io.