• Interview Excerpt: Julie Heard, Owner, Mixer Design Group, Austin

    Check out some great work from Julie Heard.

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

    JH: I like to see a balance of thinking and skills, substance behind the pretty pictures. I love to see sketches; that’s kind of a lost art as people focus more on 3D CAD and making beautiful renderings. You can make a beautiful rendering of an unattractive or poorly designed product. Sketching by hand shows raw talent, though 3D CAD and visualization have become essential skills.

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

    JH: I’ve seen a few that resonated with us and the work we do. We are primarily a technology-focused firm, so if I see a lot of furniture or consumer goods, they don’t interest me as much as something that’s more relevant to the work we do. And, of course, the portfolios that really have beautiful sketching, those are the ones that catch my eye.

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    AH: If an industrial student came up to you and asked, “What should my portfolio be like? What do I need to show you in order to work with you?”, what would you tell them?

    JH: Show the whole process, but in an efficient way: research, concepts, refinement, final design. Carefully consider the graphic design/layout of each of your projects and only show work you are proud of and can talk confidently about.

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

    JH: We are a small office so personality is very important. We wouldn’t hire someone—as talented as they might be—if they don’t appear to be a fit for our organization. We want to learn a bit more about them, how they got interested in product design in the first place. We also make sure that people understand what our company is about, what we do.

    If they show work from team projects, I like to understand what contribution they’ve made to the process. When we interview students from the same school, we usually see the same project more than once, and it’s interesting how they talk about it. From initial research and concept development to the implementation and documentation—the right brain, left brain stuff—can they communicate all of these things effectively and confidently?

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    AH: You’re one of the few women that I’m interviewing, as there aren’t that many in the industrial design field at the leadership level. I’d love to hear what advice you have for women who are trying to pursue and break into this field.

    JH: I feel really fortunate. I know to some extent that some people treated me differently. If anything, they had lower expectations of me, and that was motivating. It drove me to work harder because I didn’t want people to think I needed an unfair advantage. I felt like I was rarely treated unfairly, certainly once I got into the workplace.

    I’ve heard from other women who have unfortunately had the opposite experience. At the last IDSA district conference a designer from Korea shared her story and though it was totally different culturally, I think she had a similar attitude to it as me—it just made her work harder.

    [ … ]

    Julie Heard of Mixer Design Group

    Julie Heard of Mixer Design Group


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