"Playing the game" in the design world.

I’m looking for some input from people more experienced than I.

I’m graduating this spring and I’ve noticed some things during my job search. I’m set on work for at least the coming 5 or 6 months so I’m not bitter or anything, but I’ve made some observations about my classmates and its kind of disheartening.

Some of my most talented classmates haven’t even gotten 2nd interviews, callbacks, offers, or anything meaningful from their job search. Yet, there are a specific couple of people graduating with me who are generally accepted among my design class as being among the lower ranks as far as ability and talent… and they have job offers rolling in continuously. Not just random jobs either, big names, big corporations, giving them paid round trips (in this economy no less) just for face-to-face interviews. They’re the kind of people who could talk their way into Fort Knox, real players with the opposite sex, the life of every party, and it seems that is their greatest skill.

Is this really the way you get jobs in this field or is this just a freak occurrence? Should I start working more on my personal skills, or should I keep sketching and doing form exercises?

Hey Spizzy,

You already gave your answer yourself.

Industrial Design is a lot about communication and good common sense.

These “naturals” might not be the ones who worked hardest or sketched best, but they might be the ones,
who bring in the dough even during hard times. It would be in your best interest to alter your own point of
view and stop the envy.

Soft skills are skills, nevertheless.

yours mo-i

want to negotiate a deal on that new car purchase? Talking.
want to get into that wild party without passes? Talking.
want to romantically woo that guy/girl? Talking.

it opens doors and windows left and right.

you must learn to Confidently, Intelligently, Openly, and Comfortably speak to people if you want to be a successful Industrial Designer. companies don’t want to hire secret quiet guy in the corner, they want team players, people who they wouldn’t mind seeing and speaking with 8 hours a day for months/years on end. perhaps even someone who they can joke with, grab lunch with, but most importantly, who can deliver high quality results. Think about TO getting kicked off of the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys. he’s the best, but his attitude/communication is ridiculous. same with this scenario; excellent designer, poor communicator will hurt you in the end. Industrial Design requires you to communicate with many many different people- it is essential, such as… marketing departments, sales, manufacturing, factories, CEOs, engineers, other designers, the HR department, even the receptionist. my suggestion to anyone who feels this way- take your school’s public speaking course, or take an advanced course if its offered. if not- take one at a community college, or join a local meet group (not a cult) that requires you to speak to others often. and yes, it does help with members of the opposite sex as well.
learn to talk with others, and to do it confidently.

All good points, I guess companies wouldn’t interview people if they didn’t care about their personal skills.

Its not that I’m introverted person, like I said I’m doing fine for myself. I’m not envious of these people as I have my opportunities and I’m proud of the work I’ve done.

I guess I have a better understanding of the value of communication… but I still think its ridiculous that you can get hired on that alone as a designer. That’s for salesmen.

That’s for salesmen.

Ever try to convince one of your classmates, or instructor, that your solution for a particular aspect of a project should be incorporated?

I think you may come to realize that we are all salesmen, all of the time. And not just when we are looking for a job. … … .

Some of the worlds most talented people are also the least productive.

True, what else have they got to fall back on, consider having your knowledge as a designer and their ability to communicate that knowledge. That is professional.

someone told me once that a design interview is just to see how you would fit in the team as a person, because you wouldn’t be at the interview if they didn’t think you could do the work. This might be for someone with a little more experience than a fresh grad, but I think it’s good advice nevertheless and changed my priorities when I interview…

Points well taken. There is truth in all of your statements


Haha, if they did read it then it would stop. This is yet another reason to work on your social skills, not only to communicate yourself, but to be able to recognize when someone’s bullshitting you.

It seems like if you can find passion in what your talking about and somehow truely believe what your talking about, it comes across as honest and persuasive (even if your full of it)… I’ve noticed this in a lot of bullshitters


I think the thing to remember is that the smooth talkers who land the job but have low design skills, they might not KEEP the job. A lot of people get vetted out, and I don’t want a “toxic” energy grabbing “talker” on my team who can’t produce. I also don’t want someone who just stays in their cube all day, and makes fantastic drawings of things we won’t make.

The most successful designers have a the balance dialed in. They can turn up the gift of gab when needed, and shut up and get it done when needed. They know when to be stubborn, and when to collaborate. It takes time to ride that balance, but start feeling your way to it now. Learn from the “talkers” what you can, and learn from the “doers” as well. Put it together and you can be dangerous.

I have seen people with little talent get offers like the following:
-house mortgage paid, employee bonuses, free cars for the year, money for incidentals

I have seen people get hired from the buddy system, witnessed people doing other people’s sketches and putting someone else’s name on it. Now those same people are managers in the bizz. If you ask them for a demo you are shocked at how terrible they draw if they even draw at all.

The best design schools have the football team mentality: The coach will have 3 star players and year after year he will promote them ahead of everyone else. The rest of the students are just fillers in the crowd.

Those star students usually have the worse attitude. As professionals they are arrogant, sinister, and have chips on their shoulder. You can usually spot them out of a crowd. Just look for the one’s wearing mostly black shirts and pants.

i agree good communication is a great asset for a designer.

i have a speech impediment, so it can be difficult for me to communicate at times. i have a habit of choosing my words carefully when i speak and do not like to prattle. that said, i also do not like to be interepted when i speak because it interupts my speech “flow”. i learned to be very quick at forming articulate sentences in my head that get to the point, or answer the questions succinctly and effectively.

despite the impediment, and good communication being necessary, i think it is most important to speak confidently.

i find that clients or people who hear me speak forget about the impediment very quickly after i begin because of the manner i answer questions or describe a product. when you can keep someone’s interest bcause of the design AND speak on a level of vocabulary or content that captivates, people move past the deficientcies.

This turned into a really interesting thread, thanks for the input!

I saw this in the last Time magazine and it made me think of this thread… an article called “why bosses tend to be blowhards” - think “Michael Scott”

Social psychologists know that one way to be viewed as a leader in any group is simply to act like one. Speak up, speak well and offer lots of ideas, and before long, people will begin doing what you say. This works well when leaders know what they’re talking about, but what if they don’t? If someone acts like a boss but thinks like a boob, is that still enough to stay on top?


Social scientists agree that personality makes a difference in the jobs you get…

Don’t hate. Create. I like wearing black.

You mean like these guys?


Did you ever think that those guys wear black because maybe they are spending more time on their design work, and less time on their wardrobe decisions (certainly the case for Jobs, jeez) I think it is less of a statement, and more of a “this is easy” kind of thing… but hey, I mostly wear Navy. It’s the new black.