Check out some great work from Gianfranco Zaccai.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
GZ: Before I answer, it’s important to understand that the industrial design profession has an ongoing discussion of even its name. It was born in the ‘30s and ‘40s, when it was focused around the design of an industrial product. What we’re doing now goes way beyond that, so we’re involved in everything from qualitative research to innovation in both product and services. It’s much more multidisciplinary. As a result, the people that we hire are more multidisciplinary, so we look for people who have multiple degrees. What we’re looking for is not just technical skills in the portfolio, but also in how they think and the way they go about analyzing a problem, conceptualizing the solution and the skill sets in terms of implementing that solution.
AH: You mentioned designers with multiple degrees. What combinations have you seen that work the best?
GZ: There isn’t just one combination that works out the best. There are a lot of them depending on the nature of the individual. The people that we have here, for example, may have a degree in engineering and a degree in industrial design, or a degree in psychology or an MBA and a design degree, or an architecture degree. It’s very broad.
AH: Would you say that’s a reflection of the times these days? That it’s not enough to have just a traditional industrial design background?
GZ: We do have people with traditional industrial design background but they come from programs that are much more diverse in the way they train people, training them to think about problem solving in a different way. Some programs are more skill based; they are more about styling cars for example. It’s the nature of the program, the nature of the person, and sometimes the combination of the experiences that they’ve had in their educational background.
AH: With all of this said, if an industrial design student came up to you and asked, “What should my portfolio be like? What do I need to show to you in order to work with you?”, what would you tell them?
GZ: Show me how you think. How do you go about understanding people and their problems and aspirations? How does this understanding inform your concepts? Show me how you took such abstract insights and translated them into a practical and compelling solution. Finally, show me how your solution can make someone’s life better.
[ … ]
AH: Can you talk a bit more about the importance of design research in developing a product?
GZ: Very often things are designed, whether by designers or engineers, from their own perspective or their own sensibilities. We think it’s really important to get out and really understand how someone lives in the world you’re trying to improve. What are their values all about? What’s the child’s life while wearing diapers? What’s it like to think of a car for the city versus the country? A car for a young couple versus an elderly person?
That kind of in-depth research into someone else’s life leads you to uncover some important guidelines or objectives for the design process. It ultimately transforms design into an innovation process that can profoundly impact business success.
[ … ]