Since returning to University, I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things. Instant mash, 10am alarms, and just enough cash to buy beer (but not quite enough to buy books.) I familiarised myself with the modules I’d be taking for my final year, and one in particular made me think “This’ll be a walk in the Park!”

Multimedia Portfolio struck me as something I’d rather enjoy, and might even find a little bit easy since I’d had some experience in the field. It would only occur to me later how difficult it would be.

Solid Foundations

I’m lucky enough to have had the time to work on a number of personal projects, giving me a fairly solid portfolio. And having looked at the examples of previous work for the module, I could tell that a simple list of project names, thumbnails, and short descriptions would gain a sufficient mark. Easy peasy. I could have handed in what I have already, but I wanted to do something special. So I sat down at my computer and began to code out the ideas that I had as they came to me.

Three or four different designs and a copious amount of tea later, I sat in my room, feeling defeated and disgusted at the way in which I’d presented my work. This isn’t how I want my work to be shown. This isn’t how I’d want to be shown anyone’s work. Browser screenshots? Please. Videos? Not everyone will browse my projects the same way. It was then I came to a scary realisation.

This Medium is a Frankenstein’s Monster

The way I see it, there are three - maybe four - types of creative portfolios on the web today. There are the traditional designers; graphic and print designers, as well as artists, who can display their work as their medium has intended - on a fixed canvas, with fixed points of interest. Their work is judged by their ability to communicate an idea, be it their own idea or the idea of the client. Simple. Then you have video production, animation, 3D modelling, et al. A video showreel of their best work should suffice.

And then you have the web designer. The web is a very strange in-between place. It’s not graphic design. Our work is not set on a canvas, especially not with the rise of responsive design. Our work will vary wildly depending on the device on which it is viewed. Our work is certainly not video production or animation. Some elements are similar. We use animation to enhance our work and create compelling interfaces. But we can’t record a video of someone using our website because everybody will use that website differently to the last.

We don’t design pictures. We design experiences.

An experience is something that is impossible to display in a static format like a picture. It’s this same reason why I design in the browser. I don’t give my clients mockups, I give them a God damn experience. Something they can click and tap and drag and rotate to their heart’s content.

So pictures don’t work. Videos don’t work, since we don’t all operate at the same pace. There’s simply no good way to display web work. Whatsoever. I challenge you to prove me otherwise. For me, the next best thing is to display a photograph of the product on a real device and encourage the viewer to experience it for themselves. You can scoff at tilted screen photos all you want, but if you ask me they sell. And they sell better than a fake browser window.