• Interview Excerpt: Alfonso Albaisa, Executive Design Director, Infiniti Motor Company, Atsugi, Japan

    Check out some great work from Alfonso Albaisa.

    Interviewed while Mr. Albaisa was the Design Director for Global Passenger Vehicles and Electric Vehicles at Nissan Design America in San Diego.

    What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?

    There is not a shortage of portfolios out there; what there is a shortage of is individual risk. They’re all starting to look very similar. What we look for, because we don’t hire that often, is someone who’s bucking those tendencies and looking for their own ground. Just technical expertise is not so critical, because what we find is that the portfolios are very professional. Then everyone who comes in actually drops in skill for the first half a year. It’s very strange. Maybe because suddenly they’re with all these number ones from previous years, and they’re not the top person, so there’s kind of a shock. For us, instead of a technically impressive portfolio, it’s more about really clever individual ideas.

    Has there been a portfolio recently that embodies what you just mentioned, and can you talk about it?

    We haven’t really been that inspired in the last four years or so. There is such a saturation, unfortunately. I would more say that there are regions that are interesting. The Russian schools have some really interesting vibes, probably because of the aggressiveness—those schools really want to make a name for themselves. They encourage the students to be a little bit more rebellious. The culture of Russia is also somewhat provocative and artistic, so I find it very interesting to look at their portfolios. Coming up strong is Brazil, and Koreans continue to have very nice portfolios. Those are the ones where you can kind of feel the passion of design.

    How is “passion of design” translated in portfolios?

    There is a sense of labor, like when a portfolio seems very spontaneous but with simple gestures. Effortlessness of the line-work, but with strong impact. It doesn’t seem to be so tightly considered. You just immediately get the sense that this personality is exploding out on this document. It wasn’t so contrived where every line was considered, or use of color was scientific. Mixing watercolor with other media, the seeping of color, the drama of perspective…when you can get that it’s quite inspiring. That kind of spontaneity with power is usually a good sign of a student’s portfolio that’s going to come into the company and inspire the other members. At the end of the day, it’s what I need.

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    Once you do bring a designer in for an interview, what do you expect to learn from them then?

    If we are interviewing someone it’s because there was a level of impressiveness. Personally, I enjoy finding out about the motivation—where this young person found inspiration to do something unique. I like the dialogue to be mostly contextual, to understand what the daily thinking is, what inspired the shapes they are creating and stuff like that. Then, just naturally from those conversations, you start to understand if this is a repeated thing, how random it is. This is a person that you’re going to live with for hopefully 20 years, and because it’s a long-term relationship, you want to make sure that it’s a fit that is long term.

    [ … ]

    If you were starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?

    Don’t assume so much. I was fairly black and white. I was a little bit of a punk rocker and was very impulsive. If I didn’t like something I’d leave. That’s probably why I transferred schools so often. My parents didn’t really like how I left scholarships behind. I was probably just a little bit too radical in my intolerance of corporate structures. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned: within the very defined rules there are a million freedoms. You just have to look for those. Through my life at Nissan I’ve designed yachts, I’ve designed buildings, I’ve designed cars. It was nothing that I expected. Maybe I would say to myself “buy some shoes.” Those duct tape shoes were really quite annoying.

    [ … ]

    Alfonso Albaisa of Infiniti

    Alfonso Albaisa of Infiniti

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