Check out some great work from Jonah Becker.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
JB: The portfolios that grab my attention are graphically clean, well edited, and show a range of good skills throughout the design process. They are clearly organized in terms of how projects are presented from brief to research to concept to execution, and most importantly they communicate a fresh perspective and great energy.
AH: Have you seen a portfolio recently that resonated with you, and what about it stood out?
JB: There have been a couple recent portfolios that really stood out. The main difference is that these young designers presented themselves as mature beyond their years. The communication of their ideas—both written and visual—was excellent, the initial vision on projects was maintained in the final execution, and the perspective was fresh. Essentially they presented themselves as designers who could come in and really contribute while at the same time showing a youthful spirit and desire to continue learning.
I always like to make hires that are a “two-way street”: the designer, even if young, should be able to contribute as much as we will be able to teach them.
AH: What are some common mistakes you’ve seen students or junior designers make in their portfolios?
JB: There are two mistakes that are most common. The first is poor editing of projects. If a project doesn’t portray you in the best light, then leave it out, or redo the project on your own time and show both the original and the new-and-improved version—that shows ambition. Obviously, only show the revised project if the new version is actually improved.
Second most common mistake is not communicating the project and idea well. If you show me a design for a bike helmet, I want to know—in a very succinct way—what the challenge was and how you got to your solution. Were you asked to design a bike helmet? Were you asked to design something that protects a human? Or were you asked to identify a new opportunity in any industry of your choice and design a better solution? The original challenge frames my understanding of your solution. I also want to see your thought process—again, clearly and succinctly—from research to concept to execution.
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AH: What are some reasons you have rejected a candidate?
JB: Sadly there are more reasons to reject a candidate than to hire one. The first impression is important and can be an area where candidates slip up: spelling my name incorrectly, sending a form letter and forgetting to change the names from the other companies to which you also are applying, poor spelling/grammar, unprofessional communication, or even choosing the wrong typeface for a cover letter can be a big turnoff—and generally a good indicator of design sensibility in other areas.
Once reviewing a portfolio the first reason for dismissal is poor design skills. Sketching, form development, CAD, and graphics are a designer’s language, and you need to show the ability to communicate your ideas. I’m not necessarily looking for high-end transportation sketches but rather sketches that show thinking, energy, and the ability to solve problems and establish a perspective.
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