• Interview Excerpt: Rajat Shail, Global Director of Industrial Design, Honeywell, Minneapolis

    Check out some great work from Rajat Shail.

    AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?

    RS: Typically, there are two ways to look at a candidate: you look at a résumé or you look at their portfolio. I think a level of creativity is also how people present themselves, how they pitch themselves. I think that’s very valuable because the essence of industrial design is to try and stand out from the other products. It’s your ability to enable the customer to understand the value of your product, the face value as well as the assumed value. The same philosophy needs to be used by candidates to get the attention of prospective employers. It works well, this notion of approaching a job as a design problem, the way they present their portfolios.

    A good portfolio is one which is empathetic to the user, the user in this case being the prospective employer. A good designer knows their audience and has a sense of how much information needs to be projected, using the right amount of detail to get attention. Once you have the hook, you can lead the audience through your project. It’s almost whimsical and audacious at the same time. Design is the hook to provoke me to ask, “How did you come up with that amazing solution?”

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    AH: What do you expect to learn from a designer during an interview?

    RS: Usually when we invite a designer over to interview, it means we are impressed by their work. Then we look for the signs: “What gives them that extra quality which makes them stand out over the other candidates?”The design field, particularly in corporations, is still quite young. One has to do a lot of presentations and sell one’s design ideas to diverse groups, so we would look for someone who has storytelling ability, for someone who is persuasive enough to engage others in believing their dreams.

    AH: What characteristics or qualities are necessary to be a successful designer?

    RS: That’s a loaded question because success in design can come very quickly, but sustained success is very critical. It’s like photography; anyone can buy a good SLR camera these days and take pictures. Investment in taking pictures is not heavy so you can keep taking 200 pictures, and you’ll come across one picture that looks fantastic. That doesn’t make a person a good photographer. Annie Leibovitz said that what makes a good photographer is when a person can take a good picture every time they take a picture. That’s part of a sustainable design skill, the one where you consistently give results. Your process is so solid and robust. I’m going to quote Matt Damon here; he said, “There are no small roles or big roles, there are only small actors and big actors.”I feel that about design also. What makes a successful designer is a designer that can pick up anything and find its full potential.

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    AH: If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?

    RS: At the end of the day, it’s never a bad day. Whether you have success or a loss, you’re still getting paid for doing work you enjoy. I have never wanted to do anything else. The advice I’d give myself is: everyone wants to be a coach, but it’s better to be a player and lead by example.

    AH: It sounds like a designer needs to always stay curious and keep learning.

    RS: Designers sometimes take themselves way too seriously. We need to have fun. We need to become child-like and really enjoy. The more I design, and the more I read about designers, I’ve realized that if you’re not honest, you can’t do honest work. If you’re trying to do smoke and mirrors, your design starts to be very superficial also.

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    Rajat Shail of Honeywell

    Rajat Shail of Honeywell

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