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AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
BS: I’m actually quite surprised how bad the portfolios are, and it has nothing to do with the students but how designers are trained these days. I definitely feel like the students are being trained to literally design products based off of what’s happening now. I always look for innovation and ideas, and it can be pretty raw. A designer who has a vision or an idea that can be put in a product is far more valuable than a sleek presentation. These days it feels like students go to design stores for research and all they’re doing is copying what’s already out there. It’s happening more and more; there’s definitely a lack of innovation.
It’s not a good sign. My professor in college was always saying, “If you want to design a cup, don’t go into a shop or a museum, or anything where you look at other cups—what you should be doing is going into a forest or going to the cinema—get your inspiration somewhere else.” The reason why is to train your eye.
AH: What do you expect to learn from a designer during an interview?
BS: I expect them to be intelligent, to have good research skills—that’s really important these days—and interest in marketing as well. Right now, a lot of the manufacturers in the big industries employ designers to be just a designer. If the company is to be successful, they should look for designers who have a much more multi-layered skill base. Someone who can help change a brand or enter a new market, who knows how to showcase things, someone who is not just a pure designer anymore, but an advisor.
AH: Sounds like product design is wearing a lot of different hats these days.
BS: Absolutely, yes. However, you also need to have knowledge and experience, that’s really important. Another important thing is to encourage students to do a lot more work placements during their studies; it will make them far more employable. An employer will find it hard to hire them straight out of college without any actual work experience. They’ll be so far detached from reality. So I highly recommend getting a work placement or an internship during school.
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