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Stop using isometric mock-ups

If you looked at online portfolios or “inspirational” websites lately, you have probably noticed isometric or skewed mock-ups. It seems they’re the hottest thing at the moment.

I didn’t want to put anyone on the spot, so I created a demo from screenshots of my website. The mock-ups or screenshots are usually skewed and then tiled next to each other.

I have been interviewing job candidates in the last year, and observed isometric mock-ups slowly creep into design portfolios. After giving it enough thought, I can think of only one benefit for presenting your work this way and many drawbacks.

Let’s say candidates comes to the interview and decide to do the right thing: instead of showing only screens or images they had designed, they tell a story of their process and impact. If they want to give more context around the product they worked on, and decide to show how people use it in real life or compare it to something else, then using isometric screens is perfectly fine.

An image for marketing purposes needs to evoke a feeling or compare ideas. This image might show how an app can replace a whole reference book so you don’t have to carry it around. Using an isometric screen here is justified because analyzing the quality of work is not the goal.
Building a photo story may require showing how a software product operates in real life. For example, remote collaboration, warehouse management, in-store payments, and similar use-cases.

However, showing mock-ups in context is usually not the use-case I encounter; the tiled cards type dominates. It’s hard, and often impossible, to follow the intended flow when designers arrange cards in this way. I usually get the feel of the style, but can’t see any details. Typography, readability, and text clarity get lost through scaling down and skewing original images. Projecting it on a wall or a TV display decreases the image quality even more.

Using the isometric mock-ups approach exclusively tells me that at least one of the following statements is true about the candidates:

  • They didn’t think about their audience’s point of view and the absence of context required to understand what’s on the screens (lack of empathy)
  • They don’t know how to tell a story (lack of skill)
  • They quickly follow trends (lack of judgment and experience)
  • They want to cover up things they didn’t do well (dubious character)

I imagine this is the last thing interview candidates or designers publishing their portfolios want other people to take away.

Please refrain from using isometric mockups for displaying your work. There are a couple of good uses for them, but they shouldn’t be your main presentation style. I made a similar mistake when I was starting out. I was inexperienced, and I thought it looked cool and trendy. Don’t be me, be better.

Don’t miss this one:
Brutal prioritization

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