Check out some great work from Moray Callum and his team at Ford.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
I think what’s changed a lot is people’s abilities in terms of skill levels and different techniques. Obviously, it’s not just looking at sketches but has a lot to do with their ability to create those in 3D and ability to use additional programs. There is a technical level we look for and flexibility within that level. We don’t want a person who can just do one thing, we need a range of abilities.
We are looking for creativity and new ideas. I like to see a chronology through the portfolio. If they’ve been in college for three or four years, I’d like to see where they’ve started and how they’ve developed throughout these years. You can tell a lot about a designer through the range of improvement, and it’s also kind of interesting to look at. The appropriateness of design is also important. A lot of designers tend to design for themselves and they need to realize you’re not designing a car for yourself. You’re designing not just for a specific brand, but for specific clientele and the tastes that they have. It’s an ability to put themselves in their customer’s shoes and those of the employer they may be working for—the ability to design appropriate to the customer and appropriate to the brand.
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Has there been a portfolio recently that you’ve seen that resonated with you, and can you talk about it?
There was a student from Art Center recently who had a range of work. His ability to design for different brands was very indicative of how he matured as a designer. He designed a car for one brand and then another, and there was very little surface language connection with the two but it still came from the same designer. It showed his flexibility in being able to design appropriately for the brand he was working for. I think that shows a level of maturity. It’s not something design students always think about. They try to put their best foot forward and pick a design they want to do, as opposed to what’s good for the brand.
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What do you expect to learn from a designer during an interview?
We employ designers not just for their design ability but for their opinion as well. I like designers to be quite strong in terms of describing why they did things. They need to have strong opinions of design and be able to explain why they’re designing something specifically as opposed to just letting the portfolio do the talking. Their ability to present shows maturity and potential as a designer, to put forward their opinion and explain why they’re doing things, as opposed to just being automatic. I think that’s really important.
What are the characteristics or qualities necessary to be a successful designer?
Be very patient.
I think it depends. I think a lot of us who have reached senior management in design probably never aspired to that. To be frank, the higher up you go, the less you get to design. I think it’s a necessary evil, just being able to control what the right thing to do is. I think in terms of characteristics, it’s the ability to articulate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. A lot of our job is communication and collaboration and negotiation. For a successful designer, you need to be able to do all these things. It’s not just about doing a great design.
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If you were just starting off now, what advice would you give yourself?
While you’re actually designing, it’s going to be the happiest part of your career and as you move up the ladder you’ll do less of what you love and more of what is necessary. So I’d tell myself enjoy the good times while you’ve got them.
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