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P.O.P. to product design

Postby youyou2 » November 2nd, 2015, 6:00 pm


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I'm wondering if I can get some advice from the community on switching industries. I've been graduated 3 years and have been working POP at an agency. I'd like to transition to traditional product design. I know this is going to be tough so my first course of action is getting my portfolio together to post for review here on Core.

Before I finalize it, I wanted to ask: what are the perceived weaknesses a hiring manager might see in someone coming from POP and what would you want to see in a portfolio to put your mind at ease? Are personal and student projects enough?

For example, I have been learning about electronics and am designing a simple household appliance. How far would I take this to show a hiring manager that I can hold my own in product design? Pre-engineering drawings, costing sketches? A working prototype? Should I go as far as getting tooling feedback from manufacturers and quotes? Or is this too much info to show in a portfolio -- are you looking more at the design process?

I want to give myself the best possible chance to make a quick transition but at the same time I don't want to over represent myself as knowing more than I do.

Bonus question: I am currently a mid-level designer. Obviously I will apply anyway (because why not), but is it realistic for me to be applying to mid-level product design jobs, or would I be considered entry level because of a new industry? I'm nervous I'm going to have to start over at an entry level wage which is scary in the NYC area :)

Thanks guys!

Re: P.O.P. to product design

Postby powaz » April 26th, 2016, 11:37 pm

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youyou2 wrote:Bonus question: I am currently a mid-level designer. Obviously I will apply anyway (because why not), but is it realistic for me to be applying to mid-level product design jobs, or would I be considered entry level because of a new industry? I'm nervous I'm going to have to start over at an entry level wage which is scary in the NYC area :)

Thanks guys!



I don't know if you'll ever read this, but since nobody replied, I will. I can't speak from a hiring manager point of view, but from a designer/employee perspective, my advice is to get out of POP sooner than later. It's a very pigeonhole-y sector of design, and unless you really get a kick out of it, or work at a place where they do some neat stuff it can get dismal.

What you present in your portfolio will depend quite a bit on the company/ID job you're applying for (I'd imagine, my portfolio is nothing to email to your friends). My friends tell me that after 5yrs experience (where I'm at), you can apply to Sr Designer roles. That seems a little ridiculous to me, but supposedly it's a thing. I rarely put in for "Sr" positions since I don't feel like I have enough "real" design experience (POP). That being said I see no reason not to apply to "Mid Level" positions. I do use personal projects in my portfolio since it's about all I've got other than student work. I use one or two POP designs occasionally depending on where I'm applying, but mostly steer clear of it since A) most of it's boring and B) well, it's POP.

Also, I'm about as opposite from NYC as it gets, so my anecdotes are likely only minimally applicable to your predicament.

Re: P.O.P. to product design

Postby yo » April 27th, 2016, 1:18 pm

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great advice there Powaz.

Re: P.O.P. to product design

Postby bcpid » July 29th, 2016, 9:33 am


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I'm wondering if I can get some advice from the community on switching industries. I've been graduated 3 years and have been working POP at an agency. I'd like to transition to traditional product design. I know this is going to be tough so my first course of action is getting my portfolio together to post for review here on Core.

Before I finalize it, I wanted to ask: what are the perceived weaknesses a hiring manager might see in someone coming from POP and what would you want to see in a portfolio to put your mind at ease? Are personal and student projects enough?


Having been part of the candidate selection process many times on small teams, there may be a perception that you only know how to arrange a kit of parts in an assembly line design process. So you'll really want to focus on telling the story of design constraints and what you did to fulfill your client's unique needs. If you designed specific components as a result of the client's needs, that's also a plus. Did you work directly with clients, and how did that inform your work? Depending on the kinds of POPs you worked on, there may also be concerns that you don't have experience dealing with end user needs, so highlight any kiosks or UX work that may have been a part of a particular piece. Talk about how you developed or translated the client's design language into your work. Show that in spite of having a tiny sandbox to work within, you were still able to creatively contribute to the outcome. If you can do that, your portfolio will communicate the same things a product portfolio communicates. And as far as coming from POP: everyone will get that you took a job in POP so you could eat, and with only 3 years, you aren't a lifer.

For example, I have been learning about electronics and am designing a simple household appliance. How far would I take this to show a hiring manager that I can hold my own in product design? Pre-engineering drawings, costing sketches? A working prototype? Should I go as far as getting tooling feedback from manufacturers and quotes? Or is this too much info to show in a portfolio -- are you looking more at the design process?


You won't need to know about electronics since you aren't a EE. Most of the things you cite above, you should be able to demonstrate in your professional work. If you feel the need to show you can draw or build things that aren't boxes, go back to your student work if it's any good, or spend time sketching on simple subjects like cars or chairs or shoes or whatever it is that interests you and add that to your portfolio.

I want to give myself the best possible chance to make a quick transition but at the same time I don't want to over represent myself as knowing more than I do.

Bonus question: I am currently a mid-level designer. Obviously I will apply anyway (because why not), but is it realistic for me to be applying to mid-level product design jobs, or would I be considered entry level because of a new industry? I'm nervous I'm going to have to start over at an entry level wage which is scary in the NYC area :)


You only have 3 years under your belt, so you'll be perceived as junior level either way. If you're worried about wages, get out of NYC and head to the Midwest. It's nice, it's laid back, and you'll be able to afford to stop paying rent. Also, if you stay put, start showing your face at PDMA and IDSA events. Get to know all the people that can help you.
Thanks guys![/quote]


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