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, 2013 at 23:02
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    It means absolutely nothing tangible. It's just design fluff for the sake of fluff.
    – DA01
    Jul 29, 2013 at 16:55
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    On my resume, I have a 5 star system. For the most part when it's talking about certain software, it's irrelevant -- you don't know how to mask in photoshop, just google it. But on my resume, they are mostly for programming languages -- people often do want to know your proficiency (or at least, your confidence, in specific languages, which I think can be self-evaluated)
    – CleverNode
    Jul 29, 2015 at 18:29
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    @David13: Like I said, you and your potential employer will have different standard, it's all about how confident you are at certain skills. Using your example, If I rate my CSS skills 5 stars, I assume I can do everything in css3, do it well and quickly, know how to organize css, and make sure it follows some ocss or scmcss standard so it'll be scalable. My potential employer, the interviewer, most likely won't know css, so he just wants to know I'm confident and competent at what I do. They most likely won't expect me to be part of the voting committee to create css4 standard... ;)
    – CleverNode
    Jul 30, 2015 at 13:10
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    Maybe "years of experience" might be more appropriate. Like, I've spent 3 years working with C# & C++, 1 year Java etc. It's tangible, something employers will want to know, and easy to measure.
    – Joe
    Sep 8, 2016 at 9:32

12 Answers 12


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) :

  • The skill chart at the bottom of gosligon.com is absolutely hilarious..
    – HC_
    Jul 29, 2015 at 17:08

Something I do which I believe is more relevant, is instead of using ambiguous percentages I use years, relative to my career. I still use a sort of 'bar graph', but the numbers have context in relation to the length of time I've been working:

A snapshot of my experience, measured against the number of years my career has spanned

The numbers across the top are the years of my career (2000 - 2015) and each skill is represented as a 'percentage' of my career in years - so eg. I've been working in Web & UI Design since 2002, and Branding since 2005.

This also means the numbers are relevant and measurable. Anyone can jump on my LinkedIn and check the numbers if they wanted to.

As long as the numbers have some context, I think they can be valuable.

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    I think your graphic would make more immediate sense if there were start dates associated with the start of each new bar graph.. just imo
    – HC_
    Jul 29, 2015 at 17:13
  • I agree with HC - I also think the "Expertise" heading tends to dissociate the scale from the bars too much - I couldn't understand what you were showing here at first. Jul 29, 2015 at 17:54
  • Fair call I guess - there are very faint lines running from the year at the top down behind the graphs for a quick reference, but they're very faint. This is the last page of my CV, so it's a summary page and not intended necessarily to be viewed on it's own. Once someone (I assume) has read the skills & experience section, this is a small reminder at the end. Do appreciate the comments though!
    – dannyrus
    Jul 30, 2015 at 9:32
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    I disagree with @HC_ , since this is a retrospective graph, it looks correct for me since it goes back in time. A very different story would be if, instead of "going back to year XXXX" the graph labels were "I have X years of experience". Also, it disrupts the expected "left to right" orientation, which serves to call attention to the element, so really likes this solution, +1
    – Devin
    Jul 30, 2015 at 19:22

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.


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

  • Can you elaborate on what you mean by process? Jul 26, 2013 at 22:04
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    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, 2013 at 15:10

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?


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.


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!


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.


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.


In my opinion if you can understand any percentage based info graphic you can understand that what she is trying to convey is that on a scale of 1 - 10 or 1 - 100 that is where she ranks herself. I think this is very helpful to the recruiter or interviewer because they will be able to look at the resume right away and tell if this person is a good fit for the job rather than having to read all the fluff in their resume to get to this point on their own. Essentially you are telling someone in your resume what the caliber if work is that you do. This chart should sum that up for the reader.


You could add a word cloud with tags like 'photoshop', 'indesign', 'html' and have them scaled based on how many projects of you use that technique, how many years you've used it. This way you highlight your strong suits in an intuitive and relative (no absolute numbers or percentages) fashion.

The point is not to accurately grade yourself on how good you are with a particular tool. The point is to roughly convey to clients what possibilities you offer.


Or a bubble cloud, which is almost the same concept.

bubble cloud]

  • 1
    I would say that word clouds are passè, but I'm seeing them again lately. (And when I see them I say, "I thought word clouds are passè.") Jan 4, 2017 at 17:53
  • @KenMohnkern I think we can get away with calling them "retro" nowadays ;). Anyway for the job at hand I think they still work. Better than uncontextualized numbers anyway... Jan 9, 2017 at 18:03

Though, I am bit late but I think I can answer this in a different way. Skill is a measurable quantity. So, for example when you have three skills in your profile (ASP.NET, SQL Server, PHP) and you mention that ASP.NET is 60% it can have two meaning (at least for me)

  • In terms of weightage, you are measuring that out of three skills you have 60% expertise in ASP.NET and rest (i.e. SQL Server and PHP) have 40% share.
  • Other meaning is that you rate yourself in ASP.NET as 60%. Which is still ambiguous because any skill has not measurable because it always tends to example. So, yours today 60% will automatically become 59% next day when new feature appears. Also, in my opinion, you can not list out every feature of a skill and then divide them in %.

Alternative, you can use same bar which is being for identifying language proficiency (for brevity)

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Expert

You can easily justify yourself based on your knowledge where you stand and hence it becomes easier to analyze that.

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