• Interview Excerpt: Kyle Swen, Partner & Executive Vice President of Design, Astro Studios, San Francisco

    Check out some great work from Kyle Swen.

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

    First and foremost, we are looking for dynamic work, but we’re also looking for clever ideas and insightful solutions. Did the candidate think about the overall user experience in regard to their projects? Oftentimes a portfolio gets more attention if it’s easy to go through, organized well, and is graphically stimulating. We are still a sketch-heavy studio, and look for how a candidate uses a sketch to communicate ideas and evoke emotion.

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

    We’re always looking for talent, but recently I’ve been looking at more experienced designers—designers with five years or more under their belt. For the more experienced candidates, I look for a range of concept ideas, and the variety of products that they’ve worked on. It’s not just about the object, it’s about the overall experience and how they consider that. I’m looking at how the person solves a problem and offers a solution to see how much depth is there.

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    Can you talk a bit more about the importance of sketching in industrial design?

    If you go straight to CAD you might get to a solution faster, and it’s going to look “real” quicker, but often the emotional content won’t be there. You could end up with just another polished rock.

    Sketching allows designers to communicate ideas quickly and effectively. A sketch or doodle usually has more emotion and feeling than a CAD rendering. It’s quick and spontaneous. When you start building in CAD you become committed to an idea before you have had a chance to really figure out a solution or had a chance to see if there was a better one. Sketching allows you to get a lot of ideas out quickly without a big commitment. You can also sketch emotional movement in the drawing that you may want to try and capture in the refined 3D world.

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

    Usually when we call them in for an interview, we’re already excited about their work. When they come in, we’re looking to see how they fit culturally with our studio. Because every studio is a little different, the cultural dynamic is important to us. Even though they might not have all the answers, we want them to be well prepared. Depending on the experience level, we want to see how they present their work and what they present.

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

    Fortunately, it worked out for me, but nowadays there are so many skill sets to learn and it’s easier to learn from other professionals. Try to get real-world experience any way you can.

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