Check out some great work from Chelsia Lau.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
A product designer needs to have a really good sense of proportion. We also look for creativity and innovation. We often see portfolios with really strong sketching techniques but sometimes the design is not original or innovative enough, so we will not be particularly interested in those. We are looking for people with well-rounded skills, there has to be good problem solving, offering new solutions, really going beyond just a beautiful sketch.
Have you seen a portfolio recently that resonated with you, and what about it stood out?
The auto industry in China is still developing. We see a lot of portfolios, but I feel most of the time the students’ work has not yet reached the level of refinement or sophistication we are looking for—but we do see the potential. I’d say that we pay more attention to originality and design thinking.
What do you expect to learn from the designer during an interview?
Designing in the car industry is all about teamwork. As good as a person’s artwork may be, we’re looking to understand their personality. Is this somebody that can work in a team environment? At the end of the day, we will have to work with different cross-functional teams and those teams will be constantly changing depending on which program they’re working on. This person really needs to have a lot of interpersonal skills, be willing to work with the team—that’s very important. Then we will, for instance, look at a sketch and will want to know what the thought process behind the sketch was. What triggered all of this creative thought, what exactly are they solving, and is this design for a specific type of target customer? And what kinds of things will be inspiring them?
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What characteristics or qualities are necessary to be a successful industrial designer?
You need to have a good sense of design and taste. Certain technical skills can be taught in school, but certain things like aesthetic sense and taste cannot be taught. It has to be within you. That is the difference between a mechanical mind versus a creative, imaginative, visionary [mind].
I’m sure you hear this question a lot, but as we know industrial design is still very much a male-dominated field. So I’m curious to hear what advice you’d have for women who are trying to pursue and break into this field?
Even back when I was a student, yes, product design was very male dominated—and car design especially. It was really rare to see a woman involved. However, nowadays they are encouraging more women to enter the field, with some success. I have in the past helped out at events, whether it’s going to a high school or talking to design students, sharing with them my experiences, my struggles as a car designer and to let them know that there is a car industry and to get them interested in the creative field. Things are changing and I see a lot more female designers in the industry.
I think, first of all, it’s a tough industry. It’s highly competitive. There are only a very small number of car designers in this circle. On the other hand, to do a car is a huge task. A car will contain easily many thousands of parts, and then as a designer there’s a lot we have to consider. As your career progresses, you’ll take on a more leadership position to orchestrate and lead a team in shaping a compelling design that resonates with the customers.
It is rather complex. I think if any young females want to enter this field, first of all they must ask the question: do I have the passion for doing car design or industrial design? The passion is what will keep you going. I think to be truly successful in the industry you need to have the push to continue to improve and reinvent yourself. You have to have the desire to see beyond, doing more than you think you can: endurance, perseverance, and determination.
It’s tough, it’s challenging but you should enjoy the journey. Just be determined and don’t look back. Just go all the way. Push as hard as you can.
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