• Interview Excerpt: Derek Jenkins, Director of Design, Mazda North American Operations, Irvine

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    AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?

    DJ: It’s hard to really qualify because you just know it when you see it. Certainly I’m looking for someone who’s got a natural taste and sense of balance in their work. They look like they’re drawing, illustrating, and modeling nice proportions. This is a priority for me personally, and for our brand. Second is real creativity, someone who’s pushing form language, some kind of graphic language that we find fresh or appealing or relevant to the direction we are going in. Also, an awareness of technology, brand awareness, industry awareness. Someone who understands the broader picture because those demands are put on us quite regularly.

    The portfolios that I review on a regular basis run the gamut of really conservative to very professional but somewhat predictable, all the way to really extreme, creative, inspirational type [of portfolios], and pretty much everything in between.

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    AH: Has there been a portfolio that you’ve seen recently that resonated with you? What about it stood out?

    DJ: I feel like for the last several years the automotive design has been really pushed and dominated by the European schools and by the European brands. The last six or seven years have been really dominated by BMW and Audi, and now it’s shifted towards French brands. Most recently some of the portfolios coming out of the Strate [Collège] and some of the other smaller French schools have just been outstanding. They’re very creative, very fresh, very vibrant, and very professional. The level of execution of freehand drawing all the way through digital sketching and digital modeling and then clay model execution [is excellent]. It’s the whole presentation. I monitor what’s going on at American schools, and I’m getting portfolios from all over the world at any given time, and I really think there’s a lot of strength in France right now.

    AH: What makes their portfolios fresh?

    DJ: I think a little bit of it is that we’ve gone through this era of very disciplined, structured, linear design dominated by Audi and I think it has had a very broad influence on Asian brands and American brands. Somehow I feel what the French offer is the next chapter. The discipline of execution is there, but with more risk-taking, breaking more rules.

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    AH: What characteristics or qualities would you say make a successful designer?

    DJ: You do have to know where the business is going and generally understand how people live—what people really want. It’s important that you’re always applying your experience and knowledge of general life in a creative, yet thoughtful way, to what you do. That you’re coming up with types of vehicles that you think would be leading in the industry, but also capture the desire of a broad audience.

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    Derek Jenkins of Mazda

    Derek Jenkins of Mazda


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