Check out some great work from Todd Herlitz.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
TH: Before digging into a portfolio, I always give it a quick flip-through to get an overall sense of the designer’s work. The things that usually grab me initially are exceptional sketching skills and a good feel for refined form development. These two things tend to jump out immediately because they are relatively rare.
Sketching is always a key indicator. I think of it as a language that we speak and the more competent you are at it, the greater your ability to communicate with others around you. If you struggle with visual communication, it can impede your ideation and adversely affect the thought process. Fluency is ideal.
Beyond the sketching skills, there has to be evidence of great creative thinking and problem-solving skills. This is the most important thing that we do from day-to-day in product development. While I love a beautiful sketch or rendering as much as anyone else, without some deeper thinking informing them, they are illustrations, not concepts.
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AH: Has there been a student or junior-level industrial design portfolio that you’ve seen recently that really stood out? What made this particular portfolio successful in your eyes?
TH: Something that always stands out as exceptional is a consistency of quality work throughout the whole portfolio. It’s common to see varying degrees of maturity in a young designer’s portfolio from project to project. They, after all, are learning, growing, and trying to find their “voice.”When I come across a young designer’s portfolio that’s exceptional from cover to cover, it stands out immediately.
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AH: What do you think of showing work that’s not industrial design in a portfolio? Things like art, photography, hobbies, etc.?
TH: I love seeing designers have other interests like art, music, photography, etc. That said, I think that those interests belong on the résumé, and not necessarily in an introductory design portfolio. If I receive a PDF portfolio as an initial contact about a design position, I like the portfolio to be design-focused. If the candidate has a website where you can then find out more about them and their work, I think this is a good forum for sharing other work, interests, or hobbies.
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AH: What are some common mistakes you’ve seen students or junior designers make in their portfolios?
TH: Over-designing the portfolio itself. If there is visual clutter in the layout and design of the portfolio, it detracts from their work. A piece of advice that I always give students is to think about your portfolio like an art gallery. Gallery spaces are usually designed to recede and let the artwork within it stand out. Portfolios should be treated this way as well—a clean, simple backdrop against which the strength of the designer’s work can be presented. The work itself can then communicate everything the viewer needs to know about the designer’s strengths, personality, and values.
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