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Interviewed while Philip Leung was the Director of Industrial Design at Altitude, Inc.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
The main attributes that I look for in a product design portfolio will heavily depend on the candidate’s experience and seniority. But in general I look at four attributes. The first is the layout of the information. How is the information communicated and organized? What points are the candidates trying to highlight? More often than not, many design portfolios are overly cluttered with too much information that is hard to digest, in particular when there is a lack of explanation to go with a project. Portfolios that get my attention are ones that are concise and to the point, laying out the problem statement, what was undertaken, and the solution it provides.
Secondly, I look at process work and richness of content. What activities were undertaken by the candidate from conception to final solution? Many portfolios only present the final result fully rendered and resolved. What is more of interest is how the candidate worked through the problem to get to the end result. It’s not to say that a beautifully rendered and modeled solution is not wonderful to see; it certainly shows technical skills, but it’s more about the design thinking process that resulted in the solution that is of interest.
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Have you seen a portfolio recently that resonated with you, and what about it stood out?
Every year we look for design interns and this year’s crop of candidates has been surprisingly strong. Brigham Young University, Virginia Tech, and Cleveland Institute of Arts had some strong students that stood out, in part because of project selection and how problems were identified and resolved through a product or service. In particular this year’s candidates were stronger in showing their process thinking.
What do you expect to learn from the designer during an interview?
How they communicate and convey intent on each project. How articulate the candidate is and how well they understand the subject matter.
How do you know if the designer you are interviewing will fit your studio culture?
After identifying a prospective candidate, the first stage is the phone interview where—along with discussing their portfolio—we would get a sense of their personality over the phone. After that we’ll have the selected candidates on-site for an in-person interview. We’ll have the design group meet the candidate on a one-on-one basis and have the team report back on their thoughts of the candidate.
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If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
Put yourself in the shoes of the design firm: understand their needs, what they do, what values you can provide, and what they would want from a candidate.
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