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Panel: How to Get a Job in Design

By:

Emilee Dover

on 8/25/2016

We get a lot of resumes. A lot of agencies get a lot of resumes. But we don’t always get a lot of prospective employees. At VIA, we have recently gone through the challenge of trying to hire a new member of our design team. It is a delicate process that has more variables than the average designer may think.

I like to call it the Road Trip test. Hours in a car on a trip full of uncertainties would surely show you a few things about a person.

But since we can’t do that to our prospects, here are some questions we ask: Is this personality going to fit seamlessly into the culture of our team? Do they have the ingenuity and motivation to to fit into the work ethic we have tried to cultivate? Aside from just a set of Adobe Creative skills, how do they showcase their actual talent and concept of thought?

I’ve talked with several friends who have been in similar hiring positions recently. Being relatively new to the industry as a whole (most of us for less than 10 years), we have a unique perspective on the process– and probably some similar expectations. With Design Week rolling in and summer ending (the season of interns trying to get their “big kid” jobs in line), we decided to host a panel discussion for AIGA Louisville‘s Design Week on How to Get a Job in Design. The cast list included yours truly, Nathan Weaver of StrADegy, and Matt Barnes of Studio Post Office.

To prep, we each came up with a few things that we wanted to make sure to discuss. Some of my topics were Gumption & Self-Motivation, Saying Thank You, Creating your Own Network, and Presentation of Ideas. Nathan wanted to discuss things like Practicing your Craft, Knowing your Audience, and How to Present your Work. And Matt was interested in talking about his current education path and some of his adventures in freelancing.

The always-wonderful Leslie Friesen, Professor-of-Practice at University of Louisville Hite Art Institute, was present for this conversation and had some thoughtful questions about how she can better prep her students for the employable world. (Big shout out to Leslie for continuing to always bring thoughtful discussion to the mix and share with us her thoughts and ideas.) ”What is one thing you wished design curriculums focused on more for students that become prospective employees?” (I’m paraphrasing Leslie here. But it was something along this line).

There was one thing we could all agree on: Presentation of Concept. This is the reason why garbage ideas make it into production and why amazing ideas get thrown in the trash.

Presentation is everything.

You can concept the best idea comprehensible; but if you can’t sell that idea to the client, it will never see the light of day. There is a specific art to leveraging client goals and balancing them with pure creativity that make a good designer into a great designer. And that is something some of us didn’t learn until we got into the employable world.
So next time you send your resume to a design agency that you admire, take a pause. Are you presenting this agency with a memorable message that showcases the impact that you will have on that company as an employee? What really makes you and your ideas shine? (Hint: it might *not* be a resume)

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