Thanks to BFG and their Creative Seed Initiative, we had the opportunity to meet DJ Stout. Head of Pentagram/ Austin and long time idol (but then again who at Pentagram isn’t one of our idols?). While it was great listening to the thought process behind some of his iconic work the most useful aspect I thought came at the end when he answered a student’s question about what a new design graduate should do to distinguish themselves when interviewing in this compressed job market.
His response broke down to the following points:
1. It’s all about the process
When talking about your work, emphasize the process you went through, not the “prettyness” of the final product because “You’re hired for the way you think.” I couldn’t agree with this more. Heaven knows there are enough tutorials out there to teach you which buttons to push to get the latest and greatest visual tricks. So what’ll set you apart is your decision process. A quote I got from the book Don’t Make me Think that I use constantly is “Not just doing things right, but doing the right thing.”
To that effect, he recommended framing the work within the context of the problem you were trying to solve. So avoid the ever present “Well I did this for class” answer we’re all tired of hearing.
2. Make it Brief
3. Do your Homework
This should come as no surprise, research the company you’re interviewing with. What’re their areas of specialization? Recent awards? Cool projects you liked? Which ties perfectly into his last pearl…
4. Get Them Talking About Themselves
While it might seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, his reasons have a ring of truth in them. It keeps you from saying anything stupid for one (always a good thing). Secondly it gives you more insight into the company you’re interviewing with, not to mention shows you’ve done your homework and are interested in them. And which professional designer doesn’t like talking about their own work?
I think everyone who was there was duly inspired and appreciated the Pentagram swag. Of course, I wished we could’ve seen more of the work, but maybe next time, and we’ll make sure it’s a bit warmer for you when you come back.