Check out some great work from Matthew Paprocki.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
My first impression is always based on what I see visually. How do their final designs look? If it catches my eye, then I look deeper for innovative and appropriate features and functionality. How smart are their designs? How will people use the products? How will the designs communicate their value at retail and through marketing? I look to see if a designer can tell a story with their designs and demonstrate how they could live in the real world.
What impresses me most is when a student can tell a convincing story and that it’s evident they thoroughly thought through all the different aspects of the design, as well as the context that the product will live in. Who will use it? How will they use it? Where will it be used? How will users learn about it? How will users purchase it? How will it be made?
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Has there been a portfolio that you’ve seen recently that resonated with you? What about it stood out?
Not one that comes readily to mind. I’ll say that the portfolios that stand out the most are from students who were able to take an idea they were passionate about and cultivate it into a great design that is viable in the real world. I’m impressed with students that can stay steadfast to the spirit behind their designs, but can also adapt the design’s expression as they learn and explore. The best designs develop organically and adapt. As layers of reality are added to the designer’s consideration, they need to be willing to re-conceive the design. For example, if they thought their design was going to be a box, but as they began developing it, realized that a circle really made sense, they need to be willing to make that shift. That is one of the most important skills for a designer––to be able to have perspective on their work and have the willingness to reinvent their design.
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What do you expect to learn from a designer during an interview?
Designers have to be intuitive in their work, and so naturally I use my intuition about people that I’d like to work with. I want to learn about their personality. I want to get a sense of what drives them, how they relate to other people and how they conduct themselves.
I want to work with designers who are internally driven, but externally focused on creating products and experiences that are engaging and valuable to others. I look for designers who are driven to learn, collaborate, and adapt to different situations. It’s important that designers are able to connect to users like themselves, and even more important that they are inquisitive and empathetic to others with different needs and perspectives.
What characteristics or qualities would you say make a successful designer?
A good designer is optimistic. They can face the realities of the world, while imagining how people and objects can live, work, and play better together in it. While artists and designers often share some of the same skills and talents, the fundamental difference is that an artist creates to express themselves to the world and a designer creates to serve the world.
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If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
Trust your intuition and instincts. There are always opportunities around you. As a creative, you’re instinctually optimistic about trying to make things work. One thing I’ve become better at is being more discerning about the opportunities I focus on and putting myself in better situations to succeed.
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