Ahhh, portfolio season. It’s that time of the year where the instructor in me critiques and guides students towards refining their portfolios.
It’s also that time of year where I almost always see at least one student attempt some sort of complicated data visualization or complex bar chart allegedly illustrating their skill. These charts often involve Adobe software logos accompanied by a self-diagnosed ability on a range of 0 to 100. You know, something like this:
I always steer my students away from this approach. Why shouldn’t use it, either?
It’s biased, and could make you look arrogant (or ignorant!).
I’ve taught classes based in Photoshop and have used the software for over a decade. I’m no candidate for the Photoshop Hall of Fame, but I think I’m a competent instructor. I know my Photoshop Etiquette, I’m comfortable color correcting in LAB, and I’ve made my own automated script and actions.
That said, I know next to nothing about SWOP or any of the 3D tools, so there’s no way I’d consider rating myself near 100 percent. Frankly, I think to do so is insulting to those who know more than me, yet I find students often rate themselves at 95 to 100 percent. It’s what we don’t know that hurts us, isn’t it?
So, unless you’ve taken an official Adobe certification program, you’re likely using your own yardstick, meaning it’s biased, and the ceiling is limited to your own knowledge.
Outdated logos can make you look out-of-touch with industry standards.
Which version of the software are you proficient in?
Software companies often revise their logos with each major upgrade to visually indicate to their customers that there’s a new release. This means that you’ll either need replace those logos in your résumé (and be familiar with the software upgrades) or risk looking behind in the times.
I always struggle to even recommend what to put on a résumé. Should you list the latest version number with the software?
Coding languages don’t have logos*.
I’ve seen students place Dreamweaver as a proficiency.
Seeing Sublime Text, Atom, or Brackets would probably look better, but this is a flawed approach and is detrimental to marketing oneself, as an employer is more impressed with HTML skills (or a GitHub account!) and not proficiency in a particular code editor. After all, it’s more important to know what the software is writing as opposed to knowing a particular text editor.
It’s copyright/trademark infringement.
Now, I seriously doubt a company like Adobe or Microsoft will be sending out cease-and-desist letters to up-and-coming designers (they likely welcome the free promotion), however, at its core, you’re using copyrighted logos without the owner’s permission. A potential employer could construe it as a general disrespect, or worse, an ignorance of copyright law.
The graph is statistically inaccurate or poorly designed.
The bar graph itself is a representation of the designer’s skill, and often it’s not well thought out. For instance, the designer may not accurately measure the bar widths. Would hash marks in the bar help illustrate the value? Should the bar graph indicate the value as a fraction or percentage somewhere? Is any of it even necessary?
The presentation itself unlocks the door to the designer’s thought process, and if the presentation isn’t optimal, what does it say about the designer?
Is it really necessary?
I understand the allure; résumés and about pages can often be plain and text-heavy in a designer’s eyes, and the inclusion of a chart or graphic is an opportunity to show off some visual flair, make statistics more interesting, and help break up the copy. Still, the points above should really make one evaluate the need for such a chart, as opposed to a simple list.