Check out some great work from Christopher Chapman.
Interviewed while Mr. Chapman was Director of Automotive Design at BMW Group DesignworksUSA in Newbury Park, California
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
After 20+ years of looking at portfolios, the truth is I flip through them rather quickly.
I can usually tell in a matter of seconds who has original ideas and who is a copyist. I also can tell who has put the time into sketching. It’s all about mileage. The ones that catch my eye contain the least amount of flash. Usually, this means they are “DWP.” No, it doesn’t mean Department of Water and Power, it means “Deadly With Pencil.” If you take away the computer, they can still capture and command attention with a simple, monochromatic sketch. It’s really apparent when someone hasn’t used a pencil enough. They try and compensate by “bedazzling” their audience with flash and color and digital filters. It’s a smokescreen for laziness. Beyond that, I look for someone with graphic sensitivity and overall craftsmanship and layout skills. The true professional has the ability to tell a visual story in a concise manner. It is, without a doubt, the true differentiator.
What do you think of showing work that’s not industrial design in a portfolio? Things like art, photography, hobbies, etc.?
Nothing wrong with that…why not? Inspiration usually comes from places outside the main subject matter anyway.
What do you expect to learn from the designer during an interview?
We are a satellite studio, so beyond shear design talent, we need to know if an individual would be a good personality fit. It’s a nightmare if even one person doesn’t “get it” in such a small environment. We can’t “hide” them away somewhere.
What characteristics or qualities are necessary to be a successful industrial designer?
Most of the successful, and happy, designers I know are humble people. They have a quiet confidence. They are aware of what they have achieved and even more aware that they have not done it alone. Fill in the antonyms in my sentence and you have the basis for the unsuccessful.
What are some reasons you have rejected a candidate?
Lack of “sketching mileage” tops my list. I can always tell when someone has made excuses not to draw. Another is mistaking arrogance for confidence.
What do you think is a good way for people to improve, to get better?
I am a big believer in homework. There is no substitution for practice and repetition. Unless you’re da Vinci, you need to be sharpening your pencils all the time. In addition, we need to be in support of a culture that rewards risk-taking and mistakes. Sometimes I think we’re being too careful not to break eggs.
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