Check out some great work from Gary Natsume.
Interviewed while Mr. Natsume was the Director of Design and Research at ECCO Design in New York City.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
The design industry has changed; there are a lot of traditional design schools whose focus is solely on form development; however the industry is looking for something beyond that. Basic skills of model-making, form development, and problem solving are essential––but the students need to come in with something more than that, with skills like ethnographic research or background studies. They need to talk to consumers and understand the problem, frame the issues and identify the design challenge by themselves. That whole skill set is something that is more important than the actual implementation of design.
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How do you see this impacting the actual content of portfolios? What do you expect to see?
I’d definitely like to see strong storytelling: not only the final result, but the process of where they started and how they identified the challenge and how they solved the problem. Also in terms of output, instead of just simple renderings or models they need to show us different stages of products with the users. If there were any interactions on the screen or a physical aspect, they need to demonstrate that. I welcome them to come in with more multimedia presentations.
When you say multimedia presentations, you mean…
It can be online, it can be a video, a webpage, an animation. There are so many rich tools available that weren’t around a few years ago. I finished school about 20 years ago now, and back then we had to bring in a printed portfolio, but at this stage you can connect to a network anywhere and when you send a portfolio you can send a link to your website. There is so much one can do beyond just a static image. What else can you demonstrate? What rich storytelling can you demonstrate? How can you demonstrate what else you can do beyond the actual project?
Have you seen a portfolio recently that embodied these qualities, and what about it stood out?
I do see students approaching us with their online portfolios and sending us links. Instead of seeing a physical flier or a PDF of their portfolio, we’re able to go to their site, click through and see their dynamic thinking behind the project. I teach a class at Pratt and the students are very capable in using new media. I think students are becoming much more creative in finding ways of incorporating this. Still, there are students coming in with a more traditional view of design, with photographs of hand models and traditional hand renderings. These are basic skills, which is good, but I want them to know that the world went beyond that.
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What would you say are the characteristics or qualities necessary to be a successful designer?
I think the designer is an interesting hybrid between a creative artist and a skilled businessman. To be a businessman, you need to have a really logical mind. How can you make a smart decision at the right moment? Versus the artistic side where it is this very unique personality. This fine balance is what makes a good designer.
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If you were starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
I always try to make whatever I do relevant to the world. If I start seeing something that I’m repeating, I need to warn myself. If I feel that then I’m overly comfortable with what I am doing and I feel like my work or my contribution is not relevant to this very fast-changing world. I feel like something is not right. I want to be on top of this very fast-changing world and I need to be a part of it. We are no longer repeating the “form follows function” type of design in this modern age.
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