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So i have started seeing this a lot in portfolios of designers.

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This person has a title that says "My Skills", and at the bottom are bar graphs that are in percentages. So I asked this question - "What do the Percentages mean" ? If you say Photoshop = 85%, does that mean you know 85% of all there is to know about Photoshop?

What is a good way to represent this

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Being cynical my first question would be 'so how did you measure your Photoshop Skills ? ' ( and what is the margin of error on your measurement ?) –  PhillipW Jul 27 '13 at 23:02
It means absolutely nothing tangible. It's just design fluff for the sake of fluff. –  DA01 Jul 29 '13 at 16:55

8 Answers 8

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Put a percentage next to a skill looks good at first sight, but when you start to think about it it means nothing relevant and worst, it can confuse the visitor. "50% Photoshop ? I guess he knows how to draw shapes but doesn't know how to colorize them."

But nice charts are sexy and can be easily understood if properly used. Instead of using this Skill / Percentage use more appropriated and labeled charts. Look at these portfolios, this is definitively more relevant to me than a simple : Illustrator : 70%.

Histogram charts (describe your skills with labels) :

Pie charts (display a real percentage of a specific skill in your 100% skills panel) :

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I think the best way to represent it is to...not represent it and let the work done speaks for itself.

The association between the skills and the percentage cannot convey the intended message, it is wrong from a semantic point of view: knowing a tool doesn't make the person good/great at the job and "knowing" 85% of Graphic Design would be simply pretentious.

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I have always liked seeing process. For me process validates the end result and how you work.

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Can you elaborate on what you mean by process? –  Charles Wesley Jul 26 '13 at 22:04
Your creative process. From concept through final deliverable. Sketch work and rough ideas to multiple variations within program design to a final piece. Describe how you came to the conclusion that this is the best direction and why. –  Ryan Jul 29 '13 at 15:10

I'm not going to beg the question by contending I don't like the idea in the first place. (For a designer, I don't have a problem with it at all) Obviously you do, and want to know how do it the right way:

It is a bit hard to see the image, but it looks like it doesn't add up to 100%, so it's not representing a breakdown of your skill-set.

So I would assume "Photoshop = 85%" Means that you're an 85/100 level Photoshop Developer - i.e. - you're quite good at it, 100% being a Photoshop Guru. Same for the rest (as best I could see from the image).

A simple, clear way to convey this intent might be to add a little scale or 'legend' along the lines of:

0%=Clueless; 100%=Guru.

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Strictly speaking, it is not very usable way to define ones creative skills in such way.

But it is non-standard, creative and emotion arousal, so it works! And it could be more funny and creative to increase some progress bar while someone watching the page. For example, suddenly Logo Design skill is increased and pop-up with newly designed logo with link to gallery is displayed. It is real wow effect!

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If you are searching for a logo designer and you end up with two persons. P1 says hes 85% skilled in logo design. P2 only shows examples of his work, without those "skill-bars". Lets say you like the work of P2 more. Does the 85% of skills even count in your decision?

When you state "Adobe Illustrator -> 20%". Does it mean you know the software, are able to open it and draw some vectors? It doesn't say anything about your creativity and ability to work with the software.

Personally I can't take those "skill-bars" any serious. The best way to show your skills for me is to give the visitor examples of your work. Displaying images, live examples and case studies.

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An article titled "The Worst Portfolio Ever" recently made the rounds and touched on the subject of using "skill bar" graphs in your portfolio. The short of it is "don't do it", and the title of this post highlights the silliness of the question as the actual work and descriptions (I really encourage writing a small blurb about each project including what skills you used, your contributions etc.) thereof are as honest as its gonna get.


These charts are hilariously useless. What’s the scale? You know all 55% of logo design? What could that possibly mean? Adobe Illustrator is at ~80%? Am I supposed to be impressed or concerned?

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I am a person that is always very conscious of the data-ink ratio - how much pixels do you need to show your piece of information. From your screenshot, it looks like you are taking a very big portion of the display to show 5 numbers.

Jokes are not funny if you need to explain it, and I think graphical design can take it as analogy - it becomes cumbersome if you need legends and text to explain your graphics.

I think people are generally more accustomed to the good old 5-star rating display. You don't need to show any numbers, and you don't need explanation - 1 star means you are bad, and 5 stars mean you are excellent.

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