• Interview Excerpt: Brian Stephens, Founding Designer and CEO, Design Partners, Dublin

    Check out some great work from Design Partners.

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

    We get relatively few and maybe that’s partially because our main office is in Dublin, Ireland. What gets our attention is somebody who has a clear proposition from the beginning, and a clear point of view. Somebody who’s confident, somebody who knows what they’re about. Somebody who makes a sustained effort to connect with us.

    When it comes to technical skills what do you expect to see in an actual portfolio?

    Some visual acuity, a sense of judgment, a clear understanding of the design process, a clear demonstration of intelligence and vision, and obviously a sense of excitement, passion, and creativity.

    Has there been a portfolio that you’ve seen recently that resonated with you? What about it stood out?

    Yes, one was a post-graduate employee and what impressed me about him was his passion, his sense of energy, and his clarity about what he was presenting. In this particular case, it was his creative ways of using digital media and videos to communicate how he solves a problem. Also, he bridged mechanical engineering, innovation, and industrial design. Finally what impressed me about him was that he was working in the medical area and had the ability to understand the language of science and to communicate that both through his portfolio and his face-to-face presentation.

    If I may, I’d like to share what I don’t like in a portfolio: badly selected work, clichés, both visual and otherwise, and noise—stuff that’s there to superficially impress but it doesn’t have any reason behind it. You really want to have chapters in a portfolio, each that is trying to make a different point. Then have some judgment on the day of the interview to go back and forth between the stories. I’d say portfolio presentation is 50% work and 50% the ability to engage the audience.

    [ … ]

    When you say cliché and noise in the portfolio, what are you referring to?

    Sometimes it’s easy for people to pick up idioms and stylistic references and to incorporate them into a product. It results in work that’s a little bit derivative. It’s better for the work to be a little planar with some solid thinking behind it. I’m also thinking of presentation styles. Sometimes you see students who hide behind presentation techniques. It takes a while to read through the presentation stuff and actually look at the design behind it.

    [ … ]

    You mention bringing in actual, physical models to the interview. Can you share more about that, and why is that important for your team to see and experience?

    It’s part of our own philosophy that you’ve got to work in a three-dimensional world. If you live in the 2D CAD world, you’re not embracing the opportunities of designing a product. We look for people with an understanding of that and with a relatively high level of craft skills, who can express themselves well in model form. Not just in CAD or sketching, but in three dimensions. Therefore, the quality of models and of experimentation in three dimensions is key. Often people show photos of models that have been retouched so you don’t know if they made the models themselves. You don’t know what level of hands-on experience they’ve got.

    What else do you expect to learn from designers when they come in for an interview?

    That they can listen and have good social skills. That they have the right balance of being confident but not arrogant, and that they’re potentially good team players.

    [ … ]

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

    Be ambitious and take the long view. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Trust your instincts.

    [ … ]

    Brian Stephens of Design Partners

    Brian Stephens of Design Partners

    Read the full interview in BREAKING IN: Learn more about the book or Buy it on Amazon
    The book contains over three times more interview content.

    Comments are closed.