• Interview Excerpt: Jerome Mage, Founder, Mage Design, Los Angeles

    Check out some great work from Jerome Mage.

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

    Number one, they should be short. Everyone is very busy these days. I’d like to see a lot of hand sketching and things that are a bit different, whatever different means. Could be the project the person has worked on, the way it’s presented, something that shows a personal conviction. At the end of the day, there are more and more designers, more and more design schools and I don’t think they do a good job at filtering people that are going through.

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    Have you seen a portfolio recently that resonated with you, and what about it stood out?

    There was a guy who came in a few days ago. He was a really interesting kid in terms of his portfolio, which showed a unique design style but also a real maturity that showed that he understands the end result of a design. Not in terms of creative language, but in terms that there was a client at the end of the road. It showed a rare ability to understand how to solve a problem, the economics of the design process and a cool, unique vision.

    What do you expect to learn from the designer during an interview?

    In general, I would say we are a very team-driven place. I am looking for personality. I want to see that the person I bring in will be able to work with the rest of the team and the personalities that we have here. I would say again, in general, have a defined sense of self and your work. For example, on the product design side, so many kids are showing up with projects that have to do with recycling or saving the Earth, but it’s a common thing across each portfolio. This has little impact on me; it means they’re just another person coming out of a design school. If a kid would come up and show me a gun design instead, I would be more interested. Everyone is working on recycling and he’d work on something opposite.

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    It sounds like there’s a disconnect between what the students are being taught these days and what’s necessary for them to succeed in the industry.

    Yes, completely, I would say 100%. There are a couple of schools that prepare the kids better, but I think, in general, when you’re a design student—it was the same for me—there’s a strong emphasis on the creative process and some sort of clichéd ideology that is taught, and it’s not the reality at all. There’s nothing utopian about running a design studio, it’s very matter of fact. The client is looking for results, for problems to be solved. There are things that need to be understood about the culture that you work in and live in. It’s very factual.

    Obviously, maybe three or four designers are able to sell their name with some sort of a marketing twist to it but that’s five, 10 guys worldwide. The rest work as designers; it’s a very real thing. It’s great to be creative, but sometimes the word “creative” is a bit mismanaged in a way the schools are presenting it to the students. Schools should prepare students a little bit [for the fact] that, not everyone is going to be the next Philippe Starck. It seems like everyone’s pitched to be the next Philippe Starck at school and that’s a big mistake.

    What characteristics or qualities are necessary to be a successful industrial designer?

    It’s hard to say. One of the things that put me in the good situation was all the internships I did at the beginning, when I was in school. I’d get as many for as long as I could, for no pay. I think what I learned during those internships gave me an edge over some students to get a better position quicker.

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    If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?

    Work harder than anyone else. I’d definitely use multimedia in a way to reach out to more people and get my portfolio out there in a different and memorable way. When I studied in the mid-90s this was not available to us, and now it’s pretty incredible what you can do. I would also encourage myself to show diversity and be multidisciplinary, which I think was a key to my success—not to get stuck in a rut. Go do an internship in China, Japan, the US, or Italy. Travel and show a broad interest in disciplines and cultures. I’d study all sorts of methods and styles that would give me an edge to thinking things through and finding solutions.

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    Jerome Mage of Mage Design

    Jerome Mage of Mage Design

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