Check out some great work from Paul Hatch.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
PH: There’s the obvious: looking for a well-rounded set of skills. For the junior designer, we need to see the skills demonstrated, but the most important thing is to see the “right” thinking. The type of thinking that has the ability to explore and find multiple solutions, and chose the right path—the demonstration of using both the left and right half of your brain. The ability to explore and feel your way around a problem, using a certain amount of empathy and a general sense of optimism that show multiple solutions to a problem.
Finding those solutions, whether they are for styling or practical solutions, is a very creative process. Then you’ve got to use the other half of the brain to show rational judgment on how they can be combined and how you can make something better. When it comes down to the portfolio, we are looking for the sort of person who can already show that ability to look at multiple paths simultaneously and be able to use rational judgment to find the best one.
AH: Have you seen a portfolio recently that embodied those qualities, and can you talk about it? What about it stood out?
PH: The work that a good portfolio shows catches your attention—it attracts your initial interest. The second line of judgment isn’t just on how good the sketches are or how good the products look; it’s to understand how they came to these good designs. The recent ones that I’ve got in mind showed a lot of loose sketches—not doctored sketches—they were the real thing.
You could see this person is thinking on paper and having a conversation with the paper back and forth. They can draw the ideas rapidly, reading them through their eyes back into their brain, and then they react again with another idea and the cycle continues. You can witness if that happened on the paper.
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AH: When you bring in a designer for an interview, what do you expect to learn from them then?
PH: The interview conversation gives you some clues as to the knowledge they have behind their ideas. Did they explore? Did they get passionate about their idea or their work? Are they self-critical about it? If they did it again would they do it better? We are looking for signs of an inquisitive, passionate, and critical designer. Those three elements show creative and critical thinking working in combination.
We also study what we call “designer’s DNA” to help us think of how the skills of individuals balance out. The “DNA” is not attained by looking at their set of skills but their mental attributes, their inherent personality traits. If you’re interviewing someone and the job entails a fair amount of research, and if the person has never done research, how do you know they can do it?
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AH: What qualities or characteristics are necessary to be a successful designer in the long term?
PH: Experience and skill. You gradually build skills that utilize your strongest traits. Your skills evolve drastically as you develop from a junior into a senior designer and head towards management. However, your personal traits stay with you. For instance, you use empathy differently as a senior designer—you’re not just putting yourself in the shoes of the user as a junior designer does, but you’re also connecting with the client in a personal way and motivating your team.
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