Advice for New Designers 2019

I am hiring 4 designers this year, approximately 1 per quarter. Therefore, I’ve been reviewing dozens of portfolios. I spend a little more time than average on them, because when I was looking for new jobs, I hoped hiring managers gave my work more than a cursory glance. Unfortunately, most design websites are fairly poor. Here is some advice for presenting yourself well and also for getting better as a designer.

Have a Design Tools Section

As a designer, you are going to use design tools. Sketch is not the only tool people use. You will not have a choice when you join a company. They will have a standard. Therefore, you should have experience with several different options. Have a section on your site called Design Tools and put at least 4 pages. (Sketch, Adobe XD, Framer X, and Figma — Feel free to add more like Balsamiq, UXPin, Axure, etc)

Download Free Trials of each tool and learn to use them. In the learning, make sure to take screenshots and document what you learned and what you thought of the tool. Pros and cons, interesting approaches, and anything else you find. Show in the page that you are thoughtful, observant, and have a point of view about this crucial part of the job.

Really Work on Your About Page

Not everyone reads your “About” pages, but I do. If this page is interesting and engaging, I am at least 2x as likely to send you to the next round. (Round 1: Video call; Round 2: Design Team Interview; Round 3: Everyone else) For example: Look at this Illustration on one candidates site.

That’s Adorable!

The site was OK, but I’m going to speak with him primarily because of that illustration. It’s not even a perfect drawing, but it shows creativity, personality, and cleverness.

Show Technical Skills

I don’t mean technical design skills, I mean technical, technical skills. As a designer you primarily work with two groups of people: Engineers and Product Managers. Both groups will respect you more if you can speak their language. I recommend learning a little bit everything, but here is a short list: (at least minimal basics)

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • jQuery
  • How the Internet Works (DNS, IPs, HTTP)
  • Databases
  • SQL
  • React Components
  • Git
  • JIRA

Again, you don’t need to be an expert, but demonstrating some technical knowledge goes a long way. Have one or more pages on your site explaining how much you know.

Spend Time on the Information Architecture

For the love of God, do not make your portfolio a PDF. A giant long page of unnavigable jumble is a terrible experience for me. Also, don’t combine mobile, B2B, websites, and industrial design into one big thing. Personally, I am 95% interested in enterprise application design. Also, in your case studies, put some navigation on there. Why is it a good idea to have a giant long scrolling page?? I am not spending an hour reading your site. I am literally there for under 5 minutes, often under 1 minute. Make it easier for me!

The thing that bugs me more than anything else is that designers do not DESIGN their websites. They pick a theme and jam in a bunch of content without once thinking about the hiring manager’s experience. You are a designer, give your website the same treatment you will give projects at work.

Lightning Round

Spend a little more time on:

  • Typography (Pick interesting fonts)
  • Readability (Especially for people with older eyes – people can’t read as well after 40 yrs old)
  • How your site looks on different resolution/screen sizes
  • LINK THE SCREENSHOTS TO BIGGER VERSIONS (Sorry, this is a trigger for me)
  • Aesthetics (Even if you aren’t a graphic designer, you still can have a pleasing site)
  • Blogs (I can’t remember the last candidate I reviewed who blogged regularly)
  • Stand out (Find a way, be funny, be serious, be creative, be something)

Last Things

When you apply, write a simple cover letter. Many people do not read them, but I do. Don’t make it too long, but have a point of view. Different design jobs are different. I promise to stand out in a positive way to you, if you promise to do the same for me. I will meet you halfway.

I look forward to reviewing your site.


2 responses to “Advice for New Designers 2019”

  1. Thanks for sharing. It’s fortunate to bump into an interviewer willing to give thoughtful and practical feedback to potential candidates.

  2. Thank you for the advice, it’s very helpful.

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