Check out some great work from Myk Lum.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
We review all portfolios closely, but the first hint of the quality of the portfolio is in the résumé. After viewing thousands and thousands of résumés and portfolios, we find that if the résumé is poorly designed, the contents are sure to match. Once we start looking through the portfolio, one of the first things we pick up on is the candidate’s sensitivity to form and aesthetics—not only in the products themselves, but in the layout of the portfolio and the sense of graphics. If the products are aesthetically appropriate, we’ll start to pay attention to how they derived the design, the research and strategy, and the level of innovation. Is it beautiful, but boring? Or did they first solve a problem or rethink how the product works, then made it beautiful?
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What do you think of showing work that’s not industrial design in a portfolio? Things like art, photography, hobbies, etc.?
Depends on what it is and how good it is. We’ve seen some candidates with incredible sketchbooks of non-product-related works that showed us an amazing attention to detail and sensitivity to form. Other candidates, who appeared very serious, showed their whimsical side by showing some very amusing sketches that showed a great sense of humor. But we’ve also had some candidates show us poor quality sketches and art that brought the level of their portfolio down a few notches. In general, we recommend sticking to ID-related work unless your other work is of exceptional quality.
What do you expect to learn from the designer during an interview?
We are hoping to find a little information that is not obvious from looking at a portfolio. What kind of a work ethic does the candidate have, can he get along with other designers, is he defensive about his work, how passionate is he about his work and being in the design field? We want to see what his working process is, and what kind of thought went into his design solutions. We are also trying to determine if he is interested in the types of projects that we frequently work on, and if there is “chemistry” between the candidate and our team.
What characteristics or qualities are necessary to be a successful industrial designer?
We believe someone who is passionate about design, and can’t imagine themselves doing anything but design, is an essential quality. They are determined to be a great designer. They eat, sleep, and breathe design. They are constantly trying to improve their design skills, whether it’s learning the newest program, analyzing products when shopping, reading books, magazines, and understanding that everything is connected. They are naturally curious about everything, and are not afraid to take a risk. We think a creative thinker who can look at a mundane product, and imagine what it could be, would make a great designer. We also think “teachability” is a great quality—someone who is willing and eager to learn, and hopefully someone who can teach us a thing or two.
What are some reasons you have rejected a candidate?
In most cases, we reject candidates because their skill set is not aligned with what we are looking for at the time. Sometimes we reject candidates because they have a reputation for being difficult to work with—the design community is small, so if you’re a difficult personality, word will eventually get around. Sometimes geography is an obstacle—we can’t fly everyone in to meet with them, so if we’re not confident in your ability to do the job, we won’t call you in.
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If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
Not long ago, I gave a lecture at California State University Long Beach, and part of that lecture was advice to students. Here are some of the talking points of that lecture:
If you are starting as a junior in the ID program, be strategic in your decisions in school—they affect the rest of your life. Pick design projects in the area that you want to get into (broad, such as product design or research/strategy). Pick design projects that allow you to show off your design skills. Develop a strong work ethic—don’t miss deadlines, don’t accept mediocrity because of time. In fact, don’t accept mediocrity, period. Strive to be the best. Design is a competitive field. Okay and fairly good are not acceptable—exceptional and awesome are what you should be shooting for.
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