Should you add Unfinished projects in your product design portfolio: Yay or nay?

Carl Wheatley
2 min readOct 18, 2023

Whether or not to include unfinished projects in your product design portfolio is a personal decision. There are both pros and cons to consider.

As a recruiter who has worked with and hired thousands of designers, I get asked this question all the time.

Pros:

  • Showcase your design skills, even if the project is unfinished. Share wireframes, sketches, or user research findings to show your process and thinking.
  • Highlight your design process and problem-solving skills. Talk about the challenges you faced and the solutions you came up with, even if you weren’t able to implement them.
  • Turn unfinished projects into conversation starters with potential employers. Discuss your design process, challenges, and learnings.

Cons:

  • Too many unfinished projects could make you seem like you’re not serious about your career. Show potential employers that you’re committed by showcasing completed work.
  • Explaining unfinished projects can be tough, especially if you were dealing with factors outside of your control, like budget cuts or scope changes.
  • Including too many incomplete projects might divert attention from your finished work. Keep your portfolio focused on your best, well-organized projects.

My recommendation:

If you do decide to include unfinished projects in your portfolio, be strategic and highlight the positive aspects of your work. Here are a few tips:

  • Only include projects that you’re proud of. Even if they’re incomplete, they should still showcase your skills and abilities.
  • Be clear about why the project is unfinished. Explain the circumstances that prevented you from completing it, and what you learned from the experience.
  • Highlight the work that you did complete. Focus on the positive aspects of the project, and show how your work made a difference.
  • Use unfinished projects to showcase your design process. Even if the project is unfinished, you can still use it to demonstrate your approach to UX design.
  • Don’t include too many unfinished projects in your portfolio. A good rule of thumb is to only include one or two unfinished projects for every three or four finished projects.

Ultimately, the goal of your portfolio is to show potential employers that you’re a talented and qualified designer. So, whether or not to include unfinished projects is a decision that you should make based on your own unique situation and goals.

Carl is a Recruiter who has a track record of building Product Design Teams. Before recruiting, he was a product designer working with many tech startups to design mobile apps. Carl is also the co-founder of a Meetup called Global UXD where he helps connect designers with each other and create new opportunities. Having completed Bloc and DesignLab bootcamps before becoming a recruiter, he’s an expert at helping designers land their first design roles. Find Carl on carlwheatly.com and LinkedIn. Need your Design Portfolio Reviewed?? Check out carlwheatley.com

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Carl Wheatley

I specialize in the placement of Design, Product and Engineering professionals. Prior Designer. If you have any questions please reach out.