Explore the Shoapbox

Hey guys and gals!

I’m Jon Shoap, but you can just call me Jon. I’m a recent grad from Philadelphia University; like most grads, I’m in the process of looking for a job/figuring out where to smear my industrial design BS. I’m still beefing up my portfolio site, but I’d really like to get some critique from you folks about whether I’m heading in a useful direction, or going too far off the rails (i.e. coming across as legitimately insane, as opposed to tastefully quirky). I realize my “style” (or lack thereof) isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I’d truly appreciate any feedback you might have - ideally without the phrase “visual diabetes”, but if you can’t avoid saying that, I’ll get over it someday.

Without further ado, I humbly extend you all an invitation to open the Shoapbox: CLICK ME!

And by the way, you look really good today. I mean, you usually look good, but today you look GOOD.

Thank you all, I am forever in your collective debt.

Yours truly,

Jon Shoap


Im gonna wait and see how others respond to your post before i say too much. But from my perspective it doesn’t seem to be putting the best foot forward…

Well that is something. Not sure how to respond either. From what I can see the work looks quite weak. But the website is something. Just my two cents I would say you missed the mark. But I am hesitant to say its bad or good. The right use of the elements might lead to a very interesting site right now it is not that and what you have to do to get it there I am not sure. It is outside of my comfort level for a product designer portfolio site. That is not to say that it is bad just not what I would want in a designer. It is usually in your best interest to make your work easy to find. Currently I had to click on a few things to find it and once I did I was disappointed. That is why I said it has missed the mark. If you are going to do something like this I would make sure you have a amazing work up other wise it comes off as a cover for bad work. I hope some others chime in because this will be interesting to hear other opinions.

I’d start over here from the website to the way you worded this post. You don’t get a chance to get a do over in an interview or a portfolio submission, you can get a redo on here though.

What you need more of: focus on developing and showing core design skills.
What you need less of: don’t try so hard to be “clever”. My team would cringe at having to be around the kind of overly boisterous Michael Scott personality your post and website give off.

I looked at your site on mobile BTW. It was hard to get to projects on the phone. You never know how someone will be viewing. Right now I’d say that your portfolio is a job prevention tool. Design it to get you a job. Make everything you do work for you. Not against you.

It did get us to comment. So you have no where to go but up from here.

Jon you have a very distinct style. Both writing and website presence. It’s very out of the norm of what people usually see. Not a bad thing, just be aware that it does pigeon hole you a bit in terms of jobs. (But my guess is if they cant accept that style of presentation then your prob not a good cultural fit)

My question is what type of job are you trying to get? As it sits right now its almost too quirky for even most Toy jobs. I’m sot sure where else you’d even fit right now.

If I base your work off your Behance. Which has your content in a much more digestable format. https://www.behance.net/JShoap My immediate feedback is. Too much graphics (and poor graphics at that) and not enough ID work. Over half your visual imagery is color and not even content. Not a good thing. It feels like your trying to drown out the actual design work with graphics. This is some thing id expect from a recent student, but as a Grad, you should be having the work stand out on its own.

I looked up some presentations for Fred and Friends, which a bit more quirky in terms of ID product, But you can see that the quirkiness comes through in the design itself not the presentation.

That to me is the ultimate is disconnect, and your biggest weakness. Your site shows you as one type of designer, and your work itself as another. How does the visual style of Armr headphones tie into your personal brand? Are you trying to make fun and quirky product or serious aggressive gaming gear? On the knife block your graphics and text are super cartoony. But what does it have to do with a self sharpening knife block? Your forcing your style onto the presentation, when the product doesn’t need it. If I hired you to make a water bottle for outdoor people and put together a presentation for an outdoor client could you do it?

Well, there’s no time like the present to get honesty, I’m frankly appalled that your professors let you get this far without telling you this.

Right off the bat, starting with an off the cuff reference to homosexuality on a public forum is a terrible display of judgement. People who hire you want to make sure you are someone who makes good decisions. You failed to demonstrate that.

Your portfolio site as yo said best I would describe as “Cringe worthy”. It comes off as someone once telling you “the best way to get a job is to get noticed!” - and that in the design field is not the full statement. In design “the best way to get a job is to get noticed…for having fantastic designs and skills!”

The comic book style of your portfolio would be great, if you were a top notch illustrator who wanted to go into a field that demanded storyboarding or illustration. But it comes off as joking, and the majority of content I have to sift through to see your work is Michael Scott or infomercial dialog like “But wait theres more!”.

Your resume (which is also hidden below more awkward content) has the infamous “skill sliders” which say you are a master of sketching and MS office. When I look at your sketches, they come off as what I would expect from a second year student, which leads me to believe that if you aren’t humble enough to realize you have a huge amount of improvement to do, you also would not be a good hire for a Jr. Design position.

Unless you are going for a very specific opportunity in the snarky Spencer’s Gift’s kitsch industry, I would seriously reconsider your presentation and overall approach to dealing with adults.

The things I care about when looking for a new hire:

-Skills and thought process - how well can you sketch, how many ideas can you come up with (and show me via sketches) to solve a problem, and how do you decide what concepts to move forward with. How you translate that into a 3D model is important, but less so depending on the industry you are looking to enter. Sketching however is ubiquitous across all design professions.

-Communication - your portfolio and resume are the first chances I get to see how you communicate, and in general I care very little about your resume other than where you went to school, if/when you graduate, your tool set (I don’t care about skill level, that will be immediately obvious in your portfolio if you are a master of CAD or have never opened Solidworks) and any relevant work experience. When you bog me down with nonsense I can say “wow if I hired this guy, he would sit around all day throwing nerf balls at the ceiling and trying to stir up conversations about Game of Thrones before he got to the actual design work”. If you are not a graphic designer, don’t be. Look at people with successful portfolios on Coroflot/Behance and copy their style. I would rather see a clean grid of great design work with ZERO text than I would a diatribe with Alex Trebek hiding in it.

-Attitude - see my previous comment regarding “Sketch Master” - if you can’t be honest and humble and say “yes I’m working on improving my sketching by sketching 3 hours a day because I realize my old projects were weak, but here’s a link to my Sketchblog” I would say “well those old sketches were crap, but I won’t hold you accountable for work done 2 years ago if your thought process was solid and you’re consistently looking to improve”. What you’ve done is the opposite of that and it comes off as extremely cocky.

Ultimately I care least about your personality. Are you a quiet shy person, are you a loud boisterous prankster? If you do great work this is the easiest thing to look past. I work with plenty of horrible, arrogant and inappropriate people who’ve stuck around because they do great work.

I would take the advice above, and think very carefully about how you can first work on improving your body of work and skills. Compare yourself to other new grads on Coroflot and honestly ask yourself if you think you could go head to head with them in a stack of portfolios. Until you feel comfortable with that you need to work on improving your skills. Once you feel comfortable with your work, put it in a simple and straight forward presentation. Save the sly jokes for after you land the job and have actually established a relationship with the people around you.

I have to agree with this and was actually looking forward to a post about gender roles and sexuality (not sex) as we seldom discuss this here.
But then I was disappointed with what I found and frankly quite offended by you blatantly click baiting.

Not going to pile on what has already been said but suffice to say, I would agree with the general sentiment: lots of smoke, very little fire.

On a positive note, I will say that you do generate a lot of discussion and that if you funnel your energy, which you seem to have in spades, into the the right channels, you probably to have the potential to get to a good place.

The interesting thing will be to see where he goes from here. Will he adjust? Will he dig in? Will he delete the original post?

have to agree with this and was actually looking forward to a post about gender roles and sexuality (not sex) as we seldom discuss this here.
But then I was disappointed with what I found and frankly quite offended by you blatantly click baiting.

Not going to pile on what has already been said but suffice to say, I would agree with the general sentiment: lots of smoke, very little fire.

The interesting thing will be to see where he goes from here. Will he adjust? Will he dig in? Will he delete the original post?

So after a night of thinking i am going to have to go with my original emotional reaction and say the post greatly disturbed me and offended me and although i found the presentation of the website interesting I went to purely to see if things got worse…

a few points

  1. as a designer what do you truly want to do? I see more passion in your graphic style then in your product development skill

  2. as someone who highers when a resume comes across my table i will do a internet foot print check - Facebook, Blogs, Forums, LinkedIn to get a understanding of WHO this person is outside of trying to apply for a job. And not only based on my personal belief in how one should conduct oneself but also in the companies policies that i work for would immediately red flag you as a no hire through out our entire company - which is actually about 20 different companies through out the states…

  3. We hire based on virtue and talent and have a belief that talent can be learned but we do not have time to teach virtue and your post could be interpreted by many as offensive and hints at potential great issues

  4. you can delete the post or not but be fully aware that it is never truly gone and in today’s world it is something that is far more widely viewed then a conversation verbally.

  5. You are young and exploring who you are and what makes you, and i would never say conform to the expectations of others but i would say be aware of how your interactions with create a perception of who you are and if it is the one you want.

As stated i will be interested to see your path forward.

Well…I’m not quite sure where to begin, so I’ll start with an apology to anyone I may have offended with that initial joke - it was never my intention to hurt or belittle anyone. Having had a gay roommate for several years (one who was overtly comfortable with his sexuality and incessantly cracking jokes about it), I’m afraid my perspective on the problems facing the LGBTQ community may have become slightly warped - though I know that’s no excuse for my lack of censorship. So if I did actually hurt anyone’s feelings through my carelessness, I am truly and deeply sorry.

Secondly, I want to thank you all for the insight and feedback you’ve given me. I did not expect that so many people would feel strongly enough about my work to even reply, and I really do appreciate the comments you’ve left. While they were a bit tough to read at times, a swift kick in the ass is probably just what I need at this point. And many of the points that have been brought up have been lying somewhere in the back of my mind already; I suppose I just needed to hear them from someone else before deciding where to go from here.

Now that being said, if you’ll humor me, I’d love to respond to and bring up a few points:

At first, I read this and thought, “yeah, I mean…that goes without saying, right?” and then realized that clearly it does not, or I wouldn’t be reading it right now. I realize I have a tendency to get a bit carried away with making my presentations…ahh…unique? fun? nauseating? Probably a bit of all of the above, and perhaps that’s actually not for the best. There were several comments throughout all your responses that cited similar reactions - to paraphrase, that maybe I need to channel my energy more into showing the process, as opposed to the aesthetic “click-baiting” I often find myself coming back to. You might find this hard to believe, but in reality, I’m actually a very quiet and low-key guy (too much so for my own taste). As I sat thinking about that last night, I came to the realization that perhaps my innate urge to present my work in a loud and vibrant way (regardless of how it came across, that was my intent) could be boiled down to three things, which I’ll call Thing A, Thing B, and Thing C. They may or may not be rational things.

Thing A is that I feel the need to (over)compensate for my quiet demeanor in the real world. Namely due to the aforementioned paradigm that getting noticed = getting hired. Probably. Thing B is that I have been a proverbial Pavlovian dog in terms of my presentations throughout my college experience. The more they stood out, the more people enjoyed them; given that one of my favorite things to do is remind people to enjoy themselves, I took that and ran with it. However, I am starting to see that taking something (like my style, or scissors) and running with it for as long as possible, as fast as possible, isn’t always the best plan. And Thing C is that I have been shamefully negligent about focusing on my audience (as mentioned by yo, Cyberdemon, and Sain). I can only say that I may have gotten too used to Thing B, and in my quest to make those 5-hour design crits more bearable, I jumped to a dangerous conclusion. Namely, that my job hunt/the “real world” would be much of the same - that the audience would be 4 hours deep into a set of minimalistic and tasteful slideshows and bored out of their skulls. What they want, what they really need, is a presentation that will burn itself into their retinas and haunt their dreams for the next week, right? Now as I was typing that, I began to notice how absurd it must seem from the outside. But wake-up calls typically come in the midst of strange dreams, yeah?

So another question posed by a few of you was where I want to be, what I want to do. And to that, I say…I’m still working on that. I honestly don’t expect to know yet, which is as frustrating as it is exciting. I have been leaning towards toys and playthings for some time, but I also find myself interested in more “serious” directions such as exploring the frontiers of space & the oceans, renewable energy, and oddly enough, sensory deprivation tanks or other tools for the exploration of consciousness. In order to avoid burning those bridges before I even reach them, I’m thinking it would be prudent to take all your advice to heart here and stop pouring gasoline on them.

Thank you all again, I’ve been putting off this reality check for far too long already, and I really appreciate you all taking the time to help me find a foothold here. I’ll take some time to digest everything and rethink my outlook. I can’t say where exactly I’ll go from here, but you’ve given me a lot to work with. Hopefully I’ll return soon with something a bit less “cringe-worthy” - but only time shall tell.

Yours truly,


Glad you took it to heart.

Keep in mind in the real world, there are rarely ever 4 hours crits of anything. At best you’ll maybe get 60 minutes of peoples time, and in an interview you need to be prepared to present your entire body of work, personality, and skill sets in 30 minutes.

Focus on improving your skills in a way that pushes you towards what you think you would like to do. Also ask yourself if there are areas you want to work in, what does an ID person do in those fields. For example, “Renewable energy” is very broad. Do you want to design circuit box panels for solar farms?

If you want to design toys then show how your sense of play impacts your designs, and do side projects which show how your skills of sculpting, sketching, color and graphics are top notch. Orient your portfolio in a way that your “Side projects” are just as well designed and considered as your academic projects. I don’t need two sections to show what you did for credit and what you did for fun if there are examples of good design that can be found in both that will resonate with your target audience.

Your job as a designer is to communicate clearly and effectively with your target audience, and right now your target audience is going to be hiring managers, not your peers. Focus on honing that delivery with the right person in mind and you will get much further.

Jon, the subject heading was indeed a bit cringeworthy. The website was really weird too. I agree with most of the comments made…HOWEVER, please do not let this side of your personality fade too much, and show at least a little bit of it in your presentations. It is very refreshing in an industry full of designers who take themselves way too seriously. Also, you write very well, so I think the idea of integrating this into your portfolio tastefully is a great idea.

Keep in mind the average industrial designer’s personality is restrained, shy, and introverted. They’re the art kids who were picked on in high school. Not all, of course, but that’s just the average designer that I’ve come across. For this reason, you can dial back the ridiculousness factor by like 80% and still REALLY stand out among the ‘designer archetype’.

I agree with everyone’s ideas about your portfolio work itself, though. It needs a lot of help. Just don’t lose all of that unique personality.

Good point John. It is important to show who you are and be memorable, just make sure it is a positive impression. Keep working on it. You’ll get there.

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Hey all,

Thank you for carving a few minutes out of your days to share your thoughts with me - your time and insight are incredibly helpful and valuable to me (and somehow, completely invaluable at the same time). I’m in the process of giving my whole portfolio a bit of a makeover; in retrospect, I see that in my excitement to keep within the comic book style, I ended up cutting out (or at least downplaying) most of the process and decisions that went into the designs. I reckon I got a bit too carried away with the whole idea, to my own detriment. I’ve gone back to square one and am aiming to tailor it towards a more appropriate audience. Sometime in the near future I should have another iteration of the Shoapbox to share with you, which I think will be less cringe-worthy and hopefully more binge-worthy.

That being said, and in keeping with the more recent comments, I expect it will remain slightly uncomfortable - at least in terms of being a bit out of the norm for an ID portfolio (nowhere near the level of ridiculousness present in the beta testing here though). I’m just trying to find that balance between my style and what potential employers are looking for - and it appears the overlap may be a bit smaller than anticipated. Which probably will lead to me sucking it up and toning down the bad jokes and candy coating, and accommodating more actual design (I guess that’s somewhat important after all) than I did on the first go-around. It’s all a process, right?

It certainly does, it almost make two much cents actually. I’ve been trying to explore the “fringes” of ID, if you will, to see if that one perfect niche will just pop out at me. It hasn’t quite happened yet, and I’m not going to rush it - I’m sure it will present itself when the time is right. But a job like the one you posted is definitely something that I could see myself enjoying; maybe not for the long haul, but I’ll never know if it’s the right fit if I don’t try it on. Thanks for sharing it! I find myself a bit overwhelmed sometimes in looking for job posts like that one - there are so many unique little pockets of interesting design that don’t fall into the mainstream that it can be hard to even know where to begin looking.

Thanks again everyone, I’m super grateful to have you all as a resource to consult. You’re the best.

Yours truly,


Yeah, I agree with most above.
The main thing is that you’re trying too hard to be someone here in this professional game, without backing up a lot of things.
Be aware and confident about what you really have, and give a realistic impression of that and what you can mean to people.
You do have something to show and people will always appreciate a good and tasteful sense of humor.
Cutting away nonsense does not mean things get more boring, they get a lot more interesting instead.

Think of the portfolio as a vessel to contain your work… if the vessel is more interesting than the contents then you are doing it wrong. :slight_smile:

I’m a little torn with myself.

At first I immediately thought “o gawd” what is this. But after going through your work, I think it simply came down to, I myself, just isn’t the right audience. And it got me thinking… your style, personality, the way you present your work, everything is actually really consistent. It doesn’t follow any of the common minimal styles I normally see with ID portfolios, but just because its different, is it wrong? I don’t think so. To wrap it up, I think if you applied to toy companies or kid show networks, I think your style would be on the money. Core77 is not the right audience for your type of work, again not because you are doing wrong or its not high quality. I just think you need to show your work to the right people to get the right feedback.

In fact, after I got over the fact that the presentation wasn’t my style, the content was actually really good. For example, your Little Interns project. I thought you communicated an excellent story that was easy to follow along, showed your thought process, your failures, and how you ulitmately got to your final design. There are tons of designers on this forum that have more traditional portfolios that are incapable of telling their own design story as well as you just did with the Little Interns.

Scubaware UX is a little weird. The slideshows would normally be okay but in the USA we read left to right and your Scubaware slides seem to be going the opposite way when you click on the right arrow. I would suggest you either reorder the slides or better yet, get rid of the slideshow all together and make it more like your other products where you have one long vertical list. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the comic book style, but just make it so you can see all the pages listed vertically for easy viewing and navigation.