This is far and away the most prominent questions I get when talking about portfolios with entry-level designers. It's a valid question, one which every beginner has top of mind. For those designers who are looking to break into our industry or even those who already have a job setting up a portfolio can be a daunting task. This is because a portfolio should reflect not only your values, but your skills and achievements as a designer. And if you're just getting started, you might feel as if the things you have done don't reflect how much of a badass you are.
I launched the first iteration of my UX Design portfolio in July of 2017, and although its gone through 2 redesigns since then, one project has remained a prominently featured case study. It's my account of the work I did for the IHG Your Rate campaign, a project which was, for the most part, production work. And although it is certainly not the most relevant entry to my current position, there are a number of skills I have which that work strongly reinforces.
These three qualities (and more) can be learned from doing production work:
There's a reason production design is relegated mostly to entry-level workers; it's hard! More often than not, cranking out this work can feel like a chore, but it's true what they say: opportunities are often disguised as hard work. It's more than likely that once you completed your production tasks, you felt the same level of accomplishment as you would on any other major effort. That's something that hiring managers can identify with; use it.
Production design teaches both. For hard skills, production design helps teach understanding and confidence in design tools and best practices. For soft skills, it can help solidify critical thinking, problem solving, and communicating with and beyond your team. Any of these skills are desirable traits for any prospective design position.
Most campaigns or products that require production design are a team effort. You coordinate with management, other designers, and even stakeholders to make sure that your designs, no matter how many there may be, are up to snuff. This type of teamwork is critical to the success of all projects, production or otherwise, and cannot be over-sold.
If you're on the fence about what to include in your portfolio at any level, I challenge you to think twice about excluding production design. Any case study which reflects you in a positive manner is worthy of inclusion, and you can always add new case studies as the opportunities arise.