• Interview Excerpt: Bryon Fitzpatrick, Professor Emeritus, College for Creative Studies, Detroit

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    AH: You have had quite a long and illustrious career as a product designer—probably the longest of any of my interviewees. So I’m curious: what is the hallmark of a stellar or successful industrial design portfolio? What is the common thread?

    BF: Portfolios are a visual indicator of how an applicant is looking for a position in the design business—how they present themselves and their skills. A great cover design can help set up a positive feeling about the work inside, assuming there is the quality material to back it up. Good graphic design and layout, first-class sketches, explanatory notes, and so on are all helpful. Errors of project sequence, insufficient—or too much—coverage on projects, and lack of a good story are all factors contributing to an overall bad portfolio.

    AH: Have you seen an industrial design portfolio recently that resonated with you? What about it stood out?

    BF: Of the portfolios I have seen recently, one fulfilled the good design criteria perfectly. A great cover graphic, carried over to each page on a smaller scale, an intro index, sections devoted to various product designs and all divided by a titled acetate sheet. Everything was illustrated by a full range of skills–sketches, digital work, explanatory text–with superb depiction of the design process.

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    AH: If an industrial design student came to you looking for advice on how to prepare their portfolio to get an internship or a job, what would you tell them to do? What should be in their portfolio?

    BF: The basis of any good or great portfolio would be the control of the content. That means illustrating a good range of expertise without overdoing it in any one area–which is often a temptation–to attain a good balance. Some applicants may have a preference for specific areas of industrial design, and even though the portfolio content may be wide ranging, it may be useful to show more emphasis on their preference, be it product, furniture, etc. to show their area of focus.

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    AH: What advice would you give to someone preparing for an interview at a design studio?

    BF: Lots of things have to be considered before any interview. Apart from the obvious: being neat and tidy—basic as that is—or talking too much and not listening. It’s okay to state a preference for a particular area of design if asked, especially if one has the appropriate portfolio content. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good sketch book—or two—as they can sometimes contain more evidence of a good thought process in the development of a design, or observations not even connected to products, cars, and so on.

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    Bryon Fitzpatrick of College for Creative Studies

    Bryon Fitzpatrick of College for Creative Studies

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