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What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
The first thing that catches my eye is usually the craft. Traditionally, in industrial design there is some type of form giving, so the ability to create a visually compelling and well-crafted presentation certainly catches my eye. Then, I move pretty quickly to understand their motivations, strategic process, and rationalization frameworks. If, upon first glance, I see poor sketching, renderings, or form development it’s a turnoff. However, if they are applying for a research or strategy position, then I would reverse the order of importance.
Have you seen a portfolio recently that really stood out, and what about it caught your eye?
It depends on the position we’re looking for. Whether we are looking for someone with product design and engineering skills or someone that’s more strategically focused on consumer and marketing insights, or someone who is more brand focused. Each portfolio resonates differently depending on the position we’re hiring for. But the portfolios that have caught my eye recently are the ones that demonstrate prolific divergent thinking.
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A combination of really good technical skills and critical thinking skills are important in their portfolio?
Absolutely, two sides of the same coin. If you’re sending in a portfolio without the benefit of being able to present it, you need to be aware of both your audience and your craftsmanship. People are very busy these days and are bombarded with content, emails, and portfolios. It’s a different kind of portfolio than the one you would use for an in-person pitch deck. There is a reason magazine ads look the way they do: no one spends time to read them, it’s all headline and picture. I’d suggest you think about your portfolio in terms of progressive disclosure.
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When you bring in a designer for an interview, what do you expect to learn from them at that one-on-one meeting?
For junior designers I look for maturity, passion, openness, and verbal skills. I’ve met several very talented designers who had egos the size of the Hindenburg and, well, you know how that story ends. When you join a studio, you join a culture and that culture is made up of people who all have unique temperaments and skill sets. In all cases, being a team player that can lead but also follow is important, so I try to get a sense of how they will fit into our culture. They’ve already made the cut in terms of their design skills by that point.
What would you say are the characteristics or qualities needed to be a successful designer?
A deeply integrated perspective on innovation is the short answer. People who strive to uncover meaningful consumer insights and market gaps and translate those insights into the unmet rational, emotional, and symbolic needs of people. Then, how to create a solution in the form of a product or a service experience.
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So understanding the entire scope in which the product lives, not just the product itself?
Yes, thinking beyond the object is critical at Boombang. We are moving away from designing just objects to designing systems, from business systems to software and experience systems, service systems. Product is usually just one part of a bigger equation. For a designer to be able to have that awareness is, in my opinion, the primary hallmark of a design leader.
If you were starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
Probably to plan less. We spent a lot of time modeling our multiyear plans. What I’ve experienced is that, although you have a target and an idea of what you are managing towards, there are so many variables that are unknown. Our ability to trade up to higher value opportunities along the way is part of the key. Where we entered into the business plan is certainly not where we exited. It’s a series of pivots and shifts along the way, and those are just impossible to predict. We spent a lot of time planning and it really never turned out the way we thought and I think that’s okay, because sometimes it turned out better.
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