Architecture Work Samples – Everything you need to know

Some of the most effective portfolios are those that are able to convey key design ideas and concepts with a minimal number of drawings and images...
Architecture Work Samples

When someone views your portfolio for the first time, it’s highly likely that they will quickly scan through it to get a sense of its overall design and content, before taking a detailed look. As the author, it’s therefore your responsibility to engage the reader’s attention from the very beginning and maintain it throughout each project.

One way to do this is to create a concise portfolio with a clear and compelling narrative – Commonly known as an architecture work sample, but also often known as a sample portfolio, short portfolio, or a mini portfolio.

As portfolio enthusiasts, and from personal experience of interviewing candidates for our own firms, as explained here some of the most effective portfolios are those that are able to convey key design ideas and concepts with a minimal number of drawings and images.

By using self-explanatory drawings and clear visual communication, you can keep the reader’s focus on your overarching narrative and avoid distracting them with unnecessary details.

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Keep in mind that creating a work sample can be just as time-consuming as creating a longer one, if not more so. It requires strong visual communication skills and an understanding of how to tell a story through drawings and images.

For those planning to create an architecture work sample, here we aim to provide a breakdown of what to consider and how to do it.

…starting with:

What is an architecture work sample, and why should you make one?

An architecture work sample is a summary of work that demonstrates the skills and abilities of an applicant looking for either a employment position or enrollment in a chosen architecture school . It can comprise of a physical model, drawings, digital renderings, and/or photographs.

It should showcase the architect’s understanding of design principles, ability to create functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces, and proficiency in the technical aspects of design and construction.

An architecture work sample may be used as part of a job application or as a way for an architect to promote their work to potential clients.

When applying for a job at an architecture firm, it’s important to make your portfolio as concise and effective as possible. This is because recruiters often have limited time to review each application, and a shorter portfolio allows them to focus more on the content.

A good rule of thumb is to aim for a portfolio that is no more than 10 pages long, but you can adjust this based on your own preferences and the amount of content you have to include.

Remember, an architecture work sample should not be a collection of thumbnails or a cluttered collage of drawings. Instead, it should contain just the right amount of drawings to effectively showcase your projects and demonstrate your visual communication skills.

A well-crafted, sample of work can be a powerful tool for making a strong impression on recruiters and standing out in the hiring process.

Architecture work sample

Architecture work samples examples

As touched on above, some examples of work that you might include in a work sample are:

  1. Design projects: This could include floor plans, elevations, renderings, or other visualizations of your design concepts.
  2. Technical drawings: This could include site plans, sections, details, or other technical drawings that demonstrate your drafting skills.
  3. Sketches: If you have strong hand-sketching skills, consider including some of your sketches to showcase your ability to communicate ideas visually.
  4. Models: Physical models or 3D digital models can be effective ways to show the form and spatial relationships of your designs.
  5. Photography: If you have taken photographs of your designs or built projects, these can be a great way to show the finished product and demonstrate your ability to bring a project to fruition.
  6. Diagrams: Diagrams can be helpful in explaining the concept or process behind a design.
  7. Written work: Depending on the focus of your portfolio, you may also want to include written work such as research papers or design briefs to demonstrate your analytical and writing skills.

Remember to choose work that demonstrate your skills and accomplishments, and that are relevant to the job or program you are applying for.

What does the interviewer want to see?

To create an effective work sample and impress potential employers, focus on the following three aspects:

  1. Attention to detail: Follow any instructions or guidelines provided, such as file size limits, to show that you are detail-oriented and capable of following directions.
  2. Proficiency in tools and software: Use your work samples to demonstrate your skills and expertise in specific tools and software, rather than just listing them on your resume.
  3. Coherent storytelling: Use your work sample to present a clear and coherent message or story, showcasing your best work and using limited space effectively.

Architecture work sample vs portfolio

As identified, an architecture work sample is a specific, heavily curated, and limited amount of work that is meant to showcase your skills and abilities in a limited amount of time.

A portfolio, on the other hand, can be thought of as a collection of work samples that demonstrate your overall skills and experience as a designer and architect. It typically includes a much larger amount and variety of work, such as design projects, technical drawings, sketches, and other relevant materials, and is meant to give a comprehensive overview of your abilities and accomplishments.

In other words, a work sample is a comprehensive summary of work, while a portfolio is a collection of multiple work samples. Both are important for showcasing your skills and experience, but the portfolio is meant to provide a more holistic view of your abilities.

Architecture Work Samples

How do you create the perfect architecture work sample?

1. Plan

Before you start creating your sample of work, consider the types of companies or organizations you will be applying to and select projects that are most relevant to them. Take some time to reflect on your work and identify common themes or design priorities, such as sustainability or material exploration.

Use these to create a narrative for your sample that showcases your personal design philosophy and keeps the reader engaged. A strong narrative is an important aspect of any portfolio, as it helps to keep the reader interested and provides insight into your design approach.

2. Produce a framework

To create your work sample, you will need to organize and present your projects in a clear and effective way. Depending on the size and complexity of your projects, you may have one page for smaller projects and up to three pages for larger ones.

For example, if you have eight pages to showcase five projects, you could use a layout such as 1+1+1+1+4 or 1+1+1+2+3.

It may seem challenging at first, but as you work through your portfolio, you will see that every element – from images to text – plays a important role in showcasing your skills and accomplishments.

3. Organize content

If you already have a comprehensive portfolio with optimized images and drawings, you can consider using some of these elements in your sample work portfolio, as long as you maintain a consistent narrative.

If you don’t have a portfolio yet, you will need to spend some time determining the best way to represent each project. This may involve exploring different mediums and methods of representation, such as using an axonometric drawing for some projects and a sectional perspective for others. Templates can speed this process up greatly.

You may also want to consider presenting design development as a series of smaller images. As you work on your layout, you can add placeholders for each image to get a sense of how your the final composition will look.

4. Optimize text

To optimize the text, it’s important to let your drawings do most of the talking. The text should provide additional information and answer any questions that the reader may have about the project. Here are some tips for optimizing the text in your portfolio:

  1. Keep project titles brief and specific, so that readers have a clear idea of what each project is about.
  2. Keep project descriptions to a maximum of 3-4 lines, using a font size that is legible but not too large.
  3. Clearly and concisely describe how your design intervention addresses key issues in the project.
  4. Consider including information about the project location, design team, and floor area in a separate text box that is consistent for all projects.
  5. Maintain a consistent tone in your writing and be concise in your language.

By following these tips, you can create an effective and well-organized work sample that showcases your skills and accomplishments.

5. Other info

Your architecture work sample must include a cover that should be consistent with the overall narrative and visual language of your work.

You also have the option of including an “About Me” page at the beginning or end of your work sample, but be sure to include your name, a brief bio, contact information, and CV. You may also want to include a link to your comprehensive portfolio or website, where readers can view your work in more detail.

In your bio, focus on highlighting your personality rather than your work experience and accomplishments, which should be addressed in your CV. By following these guidelines, you can create a professional and effective work sample that showcases your skills and personality.

Architecture work sample

6. Fine-tune

To ensure that your work sample is well-organized and visually appealing, it can be helpful to print each page separately and lay them out next to each other. This allows you to get a better sense of the overall structure and make any necessary adjustments.

Pay attention to details such as layout, text size, white space, and image resolution to ensure that your portfolio is consistent and professional.

Once you’re happy with the final product, consider printing a booklet version of your work to take with you to professional events, interviews, and meetings. Remember, your portfolio is a reflection of your skills and personality as a design professional, so be sure to put in the effort to make it your best work.

To sum up:

  • Use a limited number of images per page (3-5) to ensure that they are legible and prominent.
  • Organize the pages with a clear hierarchy, including brief, organized descriptions and credit for any collaborators.
  • Include your name and contact information, possibly using the same design as your “letterhead” on your resume.
  • When posting on a school’s website, limit yourself to two sample pages and a resume, and make sure to credit any collaborators. Follow any file size restrictions and guidelines for solo vs. collaborative work.
  • When networking with contacts, you may offer more sample pages, but be mindful of file size limits.
  • To showcase your design process, include diagrams, photos of study models, pre-design iterations, and technical drawings.
  • Personal artwork is appropriate to include on sample pages, but avoid using images from professional work.
  • Carefully select the most excellent images that best demonstrate your skills and interests.
  • To avoid text clutter, consider using a key for project titles and skills/media used.

What are some examples of architecture work samples?

There are several characteristics that can make up a successful work sample, some of which are presented in the three examples below, that present and provide:

  1. Quality: Work that is of high quality and demonstrates the authors skills and abilities in a clear and concise manner.
  2. Relevance: Work samples that are relevant to the job or program the author is applying to, and that showcase their strengths and interests.
  3. Clarity: They ensure that their work samples are well-organized and easy to understand. Through using clear and concise labels and annotations, including diagrams or other visual aids to help explain their work.
  4. Creativity: They showcase their creative thinking and design skills through their chose of work, by including projects that demonstrate their ability to come up with original solutions to design challenges.
  5. Attention to detail: The work presented is well-crafted and polished, with a high level of attention to detail. This includes elements like accurate drafting, proper use of dimensions and notation, and clean presentation.
  6. Context: They have provided context for their work by explaining the purpose or inspiration behind the design, and any constraints or challenges they faced during the design process. This can help to give your work sample more depth and meaning.
Architecture work sample
Architecture Portfolio sample by Lewis Grant
Architecture Work Samples
Sample portfolio by Eliska Horackova
Architecture Work Samples
Sample portfolio by Farah Nadhiera

Both Behance and Isuue have plenty more examples of sample portfolios.


How many pages should an interview portfolio be?

The number of pages in an interview portfolio will depend on the individual architect’s experience and the types of projects they have worked on. In general, it is important to include only the most relevant and high-quality projects in an interview portfolio, rather than trying to include every project the architect has worked on. This will help ensure that the portfolio is well-organized and presents the architect’s work in the best light.

Some architects may choose to include only their most recent or most notable projects in their interview portfolio, while others may include a wider range of projects in order to demonstrate a diverse range of skills and experience. The overall length of the portfolio will depend on the number and size of the projects included, as well as the format in which the portfolio is presented (e.g. online, physical, etc.).

It is generally recommended to keep an interview portfolio concise and to the point, as the interviewer will likely not have a lot of time to review it. Aim for a portfolio that is a few pages long, rather than a lengthy document that may be overwhelming or difficult to review in a short amount of time.

What is a Work SAMPLE portfolio?

As discussed above- A work sample portfolio is a collection of past projects that showcases an architect’s skills, experience, and style. It can include drawings, renderings, models, or photographs of completed projects, and is typically presented to potential clients or employers as a way to demonstrate the architect’s abilities.

It is important to choose high-quality projects that showcase a range of skills and styles, and to present them in a visually appealing and logical way. It is also helpful to include clear and concise descriptions of each project, as well as any relevant details about the project’s size, materials, or challenges faced during the design process.

Overall, a well-crafted work sample portfolio can be a powerful tool for architects to showcase their skills and experience, and to differentiate themselves from other candidates.

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