Check out some great work from Jason Mayden.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
JM: The best portfolios are by people who are able to demonstrate their aptitude for learning and also demonstrate their capacity for maintaining a high level of curiosity. I never actually get caught up in the skill set; I get caught up in mindset. When you come into a corporation, we’ll train you on the principles that define how we look at design and the product—the consumer engagement stuff and all that—but what we can’t train is the pure hunger to learn. That isn’t something that’s taught.
I love portfolios that are diverse, those that present research and process rather than just the finished product. I love people who are multidisciplinary, who take classes in crafts, fine arts, and any other discipline that surrounds design. I’m looking for people who are creative, analytical, and critical thinkers who can think beyond the context of just the product.
AH: How do you decipher that skill by just looking at a portfolio? What about their portfolios tells you that they have those qualities?
JM: Well, it’s the portfolios that aren’t heavily related to product but to the process of getting to the product. People who clearly package their steps, their approach, how they address assumptions or opportunities. If I see a whole bunch of pretty sketches, obviously a person is celebrating the end result and not the steps he or she took to get to that end result. It’s really clear. Sometimes people think that research and all of that stuff is something that needs to be articulated with words on a page. It can be articulated with photos, ethnography, the basic principles of studying user behavior, and mapping out your consumer’s journey.
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AH: What do you expect to learn from a designer during an interview?
JM: By that time it’s about the cultural fit more than anything. It has less to do with skills at that point—we are really trying to decipher this person’s ability to communicate, to have confidence in the way they speak and so forth. We understand that in today’s global society there are some cultural barriers around comfort levels and how people view authority and how people express their opinion. But in person, you always can tell if someone’s a cultural fit for your company.
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AH: If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
JM: I would tell myself to be patient. I would tell myself to be tremendously, tremendously patient. Design is a lifelong sport.
The only sport I can correlate design to is golf. Over years of experience, the more patient you become, the better golf player you’ll be. It’s the same with design. If you become more patient, you will become more introspective and you’ll learn about yourself and your boundaries, and you’ll get better as a designer. Just be patient. Just pace, pace, pace yourself. So many designers will hit the ground running and get the Red Dot award or go to the big consultancy, the big agency, or the big corporation, but what really makes you successful are all those little, small projects that you didn’t think were important. They give you a foundational base to draw from when you have those big, hairy, complex problems that you need to solve.
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