Make a Boring Portfolio

Why doing what is expected is sometimes ok

Mike Treanor
6 min readOct 21, 2019


There are two kinds of people in the world: those who understand data, those who think they understand data, and those who can’t count.

If a portfolio is used to show off to friends or to highlight your best work, then do whatever you want! It’s fun and exciting to create your own little piece of the internet, a permanent home for your design taste and eccentric ideas.

If your goal is to represent your professional career or brand, then a bit more thought should go into it. Whether you are a ‘hardcore’ developer who prefers to stay ‘close to the metal’ or an intuitive genius who can represent a brand to the world in a unique and tasteful way, what you put out there will be valuable and will change over time.

In fact, there are a huge number of variables that could be considered when talking about branding, client retention, customer service, and … the list goes on. I have chosen to limit the focus to very basic considerations of expected audience in a first impression situation for a basically unknown brand. I have a lot of experience being relatively unknown!

Ask yourself a few questions:

What types of clients do you work with most of the time? What types of clients do you wish to attract? What type of work do you do? Do you have a product or service? Is it ready now? Can you give examples? These are the types of questions to start with when designing a portfolio. I am assuming you already know about effectively communicating, developing trusting relationships, and managing expectations.

What types of clients do you know how to deal with? If you are just starting out in a creative endeavor, it is likely you will run into a lot of fellow creatives or supportive empathizers. Lawyers need plenty of specific and detailed feedback that often takes experience to setup. Skeptics are often experts themselves and have so much work that they need to outsource. They simply will not work with people that they feel don’t have much to offer.

Looking at the needs of different types of clients can help you setup the interesting details of a portfolio site that will stand out. In fact, you may not even consider it a portfolio site…



Mike Treanor

Mike is a software developer, chemist, motivational speaker, parent, and musician who writes about creativity and human nature.