• Alicia Leo

Iterative Design Theory & My Portfolio

In my life most recently, it’s important for me to be aware of how my priorities fall. People ask in interviews what I do in my spare time, but the truth is for the past four years, I haven't had much of it. I've been a student, an intern, and in my "free time" - a customer service representative at my local bakery. My internship and job search is something that consumes a lot of the time I have idle.


Something that I find that I am constantly going back to and re-evaluating/testing is my resume. It has always been the first impression and is something that takes a lot of thought and strategy to get right. But more recently, this portfolio site has been my priority. In an age where my capstone portfolio is my only course left before graduating with my masters and I'm stuck in quarantine due to COVID-19, I've become dedicated to crafting the most accurate representation of myself and my work.


But it’s important for me to remember that neither my resume nor my portfolio is ever “complete” at any time. It should always be growing and progressing.


Back when I started reading my coursework for my first user experience course, I found that I was connecting these ideas and strategies to this type of thought collective. According to Understanding Your Users: a Practical Guide to User Research Methods, the idea of Iterative Design “recommends that experiences are collected and the product is designed, modified, and tested repeatedly” aligned with the process I went through with my resume so often. I have always thought that the look of my resume was important, but only recently in the past year have I really focused on understanding the audience that I am presenting it to for each submission. This is mostly because I finally have the range of experience that I am able to tailor my resume to each job I apply to.


This perspective and revision tactic has really changed the way I look at my resume and has shown me that it can pay off with the types of jobs that I have been both in consideration, and hired, for.


I have to work toward gaining experience that is relevant, which means seeing all the benefits of what I have to work with presently.


My goals have changed over time, so it has been important for me to keep in mind how these experiences have prepared me for each role I apply to. I've had to reflect on my previous job titles and remember that even if a function is different from my goal, I was able to take away fundamental skills that can still benefit me at this new role. When reading an article from career services at UPenn regarding iterative design and resumes, one of their points resonated with me greatly:


“However, when you’re reaching out and applying to opportunities of interest, it’s quite possible that your history, however, detailed or nicely presented,  may not be a direct match to your interest area."

And this holds true for me. I aspire to work with scripts at some capacity. This seems very vague, but whether I am working in live TV production, development, or in literary management, it's all about the fundamentals of storytelling and how a script tells your story. But when my personal work experience ranges far and wide in different corners of this industry, I have to be able to talk to professionals and see what parts of those experiences have prepared me for a role like theirs one day.


And it is not only just going back and modifying after an interview, conversation, or rejection from a job to edit the contents of the resume to fit goals and requirements. It’s also the way that my portfolio is read that makes a huge difference.


With every revision, I must keep in mind the audience that I will be showing this to for my first impression. I have to expect that there will be an analysis on each detail, and understanding who I'm targeting and what they are looking for is extremely important. That is why I've gone back into my own personal design cycle and have changed the focus, wording, colors, fonts, and layout many times.


And for my portfolio, it's just the same.


I've been working on these pieces collectively for about a year now. I've gone back and updated, changed some gears, and added new points that I wouldn't have had a year ago. That progress has shown me what skills and outlook I have gained for myself over this time. The product was "finished" at one point, but since I've been revising and editing for it to be included in my portfolio, I definitely feel more confident in it. I've seen that taking a step away from my work and then going back has shown me that there's always room for improvement. But, there also is a time where you must decide to stop.


Feedback is a huge part of Iterative Design for both my portfolio & resume.


It is interesting because not everyone gets to see the before and after, only people close to me who I turn to a lot for the feedback. This is just the nature of how your job search works, or how mentors may come and go. I reach out to former coworkers, long-time friends, and people outside of my industry to hear what they think or perceive of my work. What’s nice about using an iterative design perspective on my resume or portfolio rather than a complex physical project is that it can be easily amended and changed in an instant. I can always go back and change something within a blink of an eye and keep multiple copies to reference. The attention to detail and revision process makes a very big difference, and will especially help when I am looking for and applying to full-time positions.


And just because it is something so personal as a portfolio, does not mean that design principles, wording, and understanding your audience for each revision do not matter in decision making. Those things are the most important. It can not just be words on a page, but it's a story that you're telling, a message you're conveying, and having that revision process of those things while considering your audience's needs (or recruiter) will only better you for the future.


And that, I believe, is the spirit of Iterative Design.