Check out some great work from Stuart Karten.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
SK: The very first thing I look for is a state-of-the-art skill level in design—smart and creative use of color, proportion, form, etc. This is the minimum threshold that a candidate must meet. But beyond that, I’m interested in portfolios that demonstrate a breadth of capabilities, from research through concept development. The way a portfolio is formatted should present a narrative thread that lets me know where an idea originated, what research—what consumer or market need—supports the idea, and what thematic visual inspiration drove the design.
AH: What do you think of showing work that’s not industrial design in a portfolio? Things like art, photography, hobbies, etc.?
SK: I think this is a good idea. It helps me gauge a candidate’s passions and areas of interest that might inspire his or her designs. However, outside interests should only be a small percentage of a portfolio’s content.
AH: What advice do you have for preparing the content for web versus a printed portfolio for interviews? Or has everything gone digital these days?
SK: For the most part, I would say that things have gone digital these days. Many people come in for interviews with portfolios that they present on laptops or iPads. That said, it is easier than ever to create a high-quality print portfolio. One candidate came to an interview with an amazing book of his work that he created on Blurb.com. Whether to have a printed portfolio or both printed and digital is up to the candidate.
AH: Would you suggest sending just a teaser or full portfolio from the initial contact, and why so in either case?
SK: I recommend sending a teaser at the point of initial contact and using your full portfolio during an interview to open up a deeper discussion of your work. This is my personal approach when speaking to potential clients. Prior to our discussion, I will send a one-sheet or very short portfolio to capture their attention, but I wait until we speak in person before presenting our larger body of work and capabilities. This allows me to personally guide the audience through my work and frame the exact story I want to tell, rather than leaving things up to interpretation. I think this approach is equally valid for an interview candidate.
AH: Has there been a student or junior-level product design portfolio you’ve seen recently that really stood out? What made this particular portfolio successful in your eyes?
SK: Yes, what made it stand out was the storytelling component combined with a truly innovative solution. Both aesthetic and functional innovation were addressed.
AH: What are some common mistakes you’ve seen students or junior designers make in their portfolios?
SK: A few mistakes I’ve seen is that often they don’t make the portfolio function as a standalone. There is no graphical hierarchy or clear story around each project and oftentimes the graphics and layout overpower the work itself.
[ … ]