Check out some great work from Chris Zarlenga.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
Everyone comes in knowing how to draw, so it’s not about just knowing how to draw. The biggest thing is seeing different ideas and a graphic breakup of your concepts. The beginning ideation sketches are the number one thing that the majority of the industry is looking for because the industry is a little bit stagnant on the design side. Everyone’s looking for the next great designer, for the new great wave of thinking, for possibilities of rearranging the components to make the design more fresh.
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Has there been a portfolio that you’ve seen recently that resonated with you? What about it stood out?
I just went to Art Center to look at the student show a couple of weeks ago and we didn’t hire anyone. It was a little disappointing. It was not a strong class. Sometimes schools go through that cycle—one school is up, one is down. Right now, there was nobody there who was thinking about putting something new together. There were some good people who knew how to put a car together and how to do traditional surface development, but no one really stood out.
I looked at a portfolio around Christmas and this guy had some really good problem-solving skills and good “real world” skills as well. He knew how to put a car together. The really hard thing to combine is someone who is really creative with someone who is disciplined enough to bring that passion into reality.
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What do you expect to learn from the designer during an interview?
We look for how they articulate their ideas. Do they know what they’re drawing? How they are showing you their vision, promoting their ideas. The main thing is personality, checking verbal communication skills, and how they articulate their design aesthetic or philosophy to you, and their own personal preference.
What characteristics or qualities would you say make a successful designer?
Being highly creative in coming up with great designs two dimensionally by drawing them, and translating sketches into three-dimensional forms. At the end of the day, that’s what’s being sold and how the company will make money. The companies are making money on the translation of an idea on paper to a real vehicle. That’s the hardest thing to find, a person who is well rounded with great communication skills. Someone who’s setting a vision, doing great work, and taking on ideas and translating them into three-dimensional models. What makes a great designer and a great leader is someone who can do all three.
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If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
That’s a good one…don’t do it? I kid. Maybe I would tell myself to pace myself a little bit, slow down a little bit. The tendency is that people will work really hard and then burn themselves out. It hurts their motivation and long-term goals a little bit. Slowing it down and pacing yourself may be better. If I could go back, I would definitely pace myself.
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