Check out some great work from Demetrius Romanos.
Interviewed while Mr. Romanos was Executive Creative Director at Kaleidoscope in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
It depends on the level we are looking for, but ultimately, you want people who are well rounded and people who stand out. We want someone who has a good sense of aesthetic, good overall technical skills, especially at the base level of sketching. If we are talking about entry-level designers, that’s the bulk of the stuff they’ll be doing: sketching and initial concept development, participating in as many projects as possible just to build up their skill sets. They also might be skilled at things that are more in the technology kind of area. Anything that would make somebody stand apart and perhaps bring something new to the team, to not only be able to demonstrate a high sense of aesthetic but how they arrived at that.
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Was there a product design portfolio that you saw recently that really caught your eye, and can you talk a bit about it?
Somebody who is presenting a portfolio would show not only good content in projects, but navigation of how you see and experience their work [which] just shows another level of consideration. I’ve been getting some portfolios that are more along those lines. I think people recognize when they’re sending portfolios or applying for positions that they are taking time out of someone’s day. You’re getting only so much time to engage with them, so you better be pretty quick at it. If I have to click a link and that’s going to take me to somebody’s Coroflot page, and then I have to hit their profile or portfolios…if you bury your content too deep, you’ve sort of lost the portfolio reviewer or hiring manager.
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Once a product designer is in for an interview, what do you expect to learn from them during that meeting?
I want to learn how they’re wired, what really gets them up in the morning, and if they would be a cultural fit. If we take the time to actually bring somebody in for an interview, that means that we’ve already deduced that their skill set is good: they can sketch well, have good sense of aesthetic, and know how to present that work. That would be a given.
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With that said, what characteristics or qualities do you think are necessary to be a successful designer?
I’d say diversity in skill set and willingness to learn and grow. As ID has evolved and you see more interaction and more graphic design come into the mix, somebody that’s willing to learn those or can adapt to those fields is really important. We always say that industrial designers are educated to be problem solvers and I think we have focused so much on the aesthetic form that sometimes we lose sight of the problem-solving capabilities. With projects getting more complex and there being a lot more demands from the client side to validate and prove out that there’s going to be some sort of return on the investment—and quantification of the quality and appropriateness of design—systems thinking, paired on top of good aesthetics, is really important to have and to be able to somehow demonstrate.
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If you were starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
I would definitely learn how to process information so you get interaction design. That is sort of where everything is moving and merging. It used to be just web design, and it’s obviously so much more than that right now. I think really understanding how interfaces work on products and making those cohesive stories is key. I suppose I would say focus on design but understand interaction, both in a static sense and in a digital sense.
Anything you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about? Any final words of wisdom?
The biggest part of how I got both my career started and how it seems to continue perpetuating was to really leverage all the relationships and network I built slowly over time. I get that at some universities it’s easier to do because you have co-ops and internships, so you get into the professional sphere a little bit earlier than perhaps other students, but anything you can do to engage with professionals early on will really pay off down the road. It’s a small community that’s pretty close-knit. We all care about one another.
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