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Interview Advice from Design Veteran, DJ Stout

It's all about the process.


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

nuff said

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.

Andrew Davies

Drew's degrees in Illustration, 2D animation and Broadcast Design, and his volleyball skillz mean he can get your design done and play well with others at the same time. He’s the Creative Director at Paragon and will call you out if you start hanging out with shady-looking fonts and messing around with whacked-out color palettes.


One thought on “Interview Advice from Design Veteran, DJ Stout

  1. lindsay green says:

    When I interviewed with a graphics firm, I got the boss talking about himself and all the projects he and the firm had done. At end of interview, I knew more about him and the firm than he did me. He hired me anyway!

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