Check out some great work from Matt Corrall.
Interviewed while Mr. Corrall was Senior ID Designer at Kinneir Dufort in Bristol, United Kingdom.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
MC: It will depend on what kind of role we’re looking to fill. Some designers at KD [Kinneir Dufort] work mostly at the conceptual, innovation-focused end of the design process, some work mainly on mechanical design and development for manufacture, then there are some that work right across the board. At KD my work is most often at the front-end, so that’s the kind of role I’m more likely to be interviewing for. If I’m interviewing a candidate, I would want to see evidence of certain skills and working process captured in their portfolio. Evidence of innovative thinking and problem solving, the ability to interpret research, empathize with users, and work harmoniously with other disciplines such as engineering. Then in terms of core design skills: sketching, model-making, CAD, and understanding of manufacturing processes.
I also try to get an idea of how this person thinks, what their personal working process is like. Several times in the past I’ve received portfolios which have beautiful finished renderings of design work, but don’t tell me the story behind the design. What I’m more interested in seeing is how the designer arrived at that rendering—I want to see sketches, prototypes, and the design development to really get an idea of how this person works and how they think—not just the end result. I’m really interested in the story.
AH: Can you give me an example of a good way to tell a story about the product development process?
MC: One important skill for designers is the ability to communicate quickly and clearly to a variety of project stakeholders, so I expect a candidate’s portfolio to explain their work simply, over just one or two pages, in an image-based format. I’ll be flicking through and won’t stop to read a lot of text. What is this project? What exactly were you trying to achieve in this project and for whom? In a nutshell, how did you get from start to finish?
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Also, if I’m looking at student work then I don’t expect this person to have all the skills and to have mastered the entire design process just yet. Of course, I’ll view the portfolio with perspective on the level this person is at, where they are in their education or their career. We bear that in mind. For someone junior, if I can see that the basic skills are covered and there’s evidence of passion and intelligent design thinking, that tells me this person has potential. As with any interview the skills we look for will depend on the role we need to fill.
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AH: If you had an opportunity to guide an industrial student on how to create a portfolio that would resonate for you, what would you tell them?
MC: The person viewing your portfolio will likely have many to look through and be pushed for time, so avoid a lot of text and use good quality images and captions. Your portfolio will need to get their attention with some impactful work on page one, and communicate your greatest strengths over the next few pages, simply and efficiently. Start and end on a high note with your very best work, as this will be most likely to stick in their mind. Take good quality photos of your work—including rough prototypes—which are equally as important as the finished design.
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AH: What characteristics or qualities are necessary to be a successful industrial designer?
MC: Generally speaking, good designers have curiosity, drive, and an obsession with detail. I’m looking for someone who’s passionate about what they’re doing; you tend to need that sort of tenacity. In a project team comprised of many different disciplines, the designer should be the person who can get along with everyone from marketing to engineering to the CEO. The designer should be able to speak their languages, help them all towards a shared vision and be tenacious enough to overcome the inevitable obstacles along the way.
I guess designers are affectionate in a way, there’s a real love for the product they’re creating, there’s a drive to get to a better design, to find a better way of doing a product, to explore new avenues, new materials.
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