Check out some great work from fuseproject and Yves Behar.
What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in a product designer for an interview?
For me, it’s always been somebody who’s working on the near future. How students can abstract what we have today—how we’re living, how we’re working, the state of our lifestyle today—and project it into the near future with some new ideas, that’s what’s interesting. That always creates a stimulating discussion versus just reviewing skills or aesthetic and mechanical or technical abilities.
The 3D skills and drawing skills are expected, but we look for someone who can add something to the type of work that we do. What we do is never about the now or iterative design projects, it’s about being focused on what’s next. Seeing this in students’ portfolios and how in the future they project themselves is what makes them unique.
What do you expect to learn from the designers during an interview?
Cultural fit is really important. We want people who are going to have an initiative. We want people who have a personality. We essentially look for two things: one is a high level of design skills and abilities and the second one is the ability of someone to be complementary to the rest of the team. What is their other passion? What is their other drive? Their other inspiration? Are they an expert snowboarder? Are they passionate about environmental sustainability? For me, it’s very important that they’ll fit with what’s expected within the team and also bring something that’s new, different, and fresh.
What characteristics or qualities do you think are necessary to be a successful designer?
I think the ability to think big, to go beyond what’s expected, to think in a multimedia type of fashion. How does the design affect the user? How does the user affect the packaging? How does the packaging affect the brand? Design, for me, is more of a ricochet. How we can get to the next idea and how ideas are not isolated from one another. How they all connect into each other is what’s interesting to me.
So product design as an entire ecosystem of solutions and experiences, as opposed to just one singular object.
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Where do you see the future of industrial design going as it evolves further in the 21st century?
We’re going to see making things different for sustainability reasons. I think there is no doubt in my mind that sustainability is going to drive design in the future. On the other hand, I think the future of design is multidisciplinary and requires a holistic approach. That means that industrial design is very much at the center of what makes a business today. It’s very much how you look at all of the different aspects, the contextual aspects, the societal changes that are happening, and how they’re dictating how you’re viewing things.
There’s been talk that the field is changing dramatically, that it’s dying. How do you feel about that?
That’s a ridiculous notion. I think we are probably experiencing a golden age of design because in the last few years design has become a lot more influential than it has ever been. That influence goes beyond restrictions that have been imposed on us by marketing and other people. We’re at a stage where we’re truly doing product making. I think if you look at the great design periods of the last century, the modernist in the ‘50s and the mid-century guys, that was when designers had a very deep and profound effect on the core parts of the business. I think the same thing is happening today. It’s not hard to see comparisons to this in the way Apple works, or other companies—designers are at the center of their entire operations.
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If you were just starting out now, what advice would you give yourself?
The earlier I was able to get a business partner on board, the better. I think being able to focus on the creative part, and finding someone complementary to your skill set to deal with the other things, is key. I think that’s what I did, but if I could’ve done it earlier it would’ve been even better.
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