Check out some great work from Paul Bradley.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
PB: It used to be that portfolios themselves were kind of design projects and students would hand-build some type of a portfolio. It was very typical in the past that you would get a portfolio class towards your last semester of school and you would learn how to create a portfolio. Now, there’s a lot of similarity in how most of the portfolios look and feel because they’re on a digital page and share a lot of formatting and almost standardized appearances, particularly the ones that come through websites like Coroflot.
You’re often looking for an exception, someone who’s thinking a bit differently than everybody else. We used to call that “the green haired people.” I think the term is still appropriate. It came from the new age or punk scene where people ran around with colorful hair. They were a little bit off-center and interesting.
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AH: Has there been a portfolio that you’ve seen recently that resonated with you? What about it stood out?
PB: It still comes down to design for me. It’s less about how well put-together the portfolio is, or the imagery in the portfolio, or the renderings. There’s a certain bar to the skill set that you expect the students to have learned in school. You’re looking for people to at least meet that bar, but that only gets you through the first level. The second level is really “Are they showing their own design approach? Have they begun to understand who they are as a designer?”It might be a high expectation from someone just graduating school. But if you can find that, then you’ve got a real opportunity.
If you’re looking through hundreds of portfolios, which we often do, you might see one or two of those. Maybe 1% of portfolios coming in really show a student who’s looking more inside themselves than they are looking around.
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AH: Once you find that “green haired”portfolio and you bring the designer in for an interview, what do you expect to learn from them?
PB: Again, I’ll separate between interns and normal hires because you’re looking for something different with both. I stopped interviewing interns a long time ago because I wasn’t so worried about the risk. I was happy to pick them based on the capabilities demonstrated in their work. I wasn’t too worried if they fit in because they weren’t going to need to stay there for more than three or six months.
For a permanent hire you’re obviously looking for a fit within your group, finding what role they will play, and how they will get along with the other designers and engineers and co-workers that are in the studio. You’re trying to, in an hour, get a sense of what their personality is.
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AH: What characteristics or qualities would you say make a successful designer?
PB: I really appreciate someone who can be honest about their work and not defensive. As designers we all have some projects that are better than others. Someone who doesn’t fight tooth and nail over everything they’ve designed, who is honestly willing to discuss some of the shortcomings and reflects on their own work is really valuable. Someone who understands their design and when it’s good and when it’s not as good. Someone who’s going to work effectively with others, who has the ability to distance themselves a little bit from the things they’ve created. Someone who’s not too wrapped up personally in each of their creations.
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