Portfolio/Job Hunt Advice

Hey everybody,

Here’s my situation. I graduated just last spring with a B.A. in industrial design and have yet to land a full-time position. I relocated to the east coast NJ/NYC hoping a bigger city would provide more opportunity for entry level designers. I originally limited my search to the NJ/NYC area but I have since branched out and started looking everywhere.

I had two internships prior to graduation and have taken 2 internships post graduation so I think experience wise I have slightly more than other recent grads that didn’t find full time employment immediately. Recently the firm I’m currently interning at has been accepting portfolios for their next intern and I think my portfolio stacks up pretty well compared to most of the stuff I’ve seen. I’ve seen portfolios that were better than mine in certain areas and others that were far below so I think I have a decent idea of where I stand? Here is a link to my portfolio


I’ve applied to just about every job posting that I thought I was a fit for and even some I’m not (at least 50). The result so far is 8 interviews. Is that low considering how many jobs I’ve applied to? Two resulted in internships. Three resulted in two phone interviews ( HR & Design Director ) with talks of flying me out for a visit/interview but then I was told the positions were put on hold. Is this code for “we reconsidered and decided you’re not what we’re looking for”?

I was recently contacted by a recruiter but looking at the companies site they don’t seem to have much industrial design work, mostly graphic, web and UI stuff. I read in another post that recruiters aren’t that helpful. I figure it’s a good way to stay active and develop some new skills even if it’s not product design. Does anyone have experience with these type of recruiters? The recruiter made a comment in reference to my resume “saying one thing and my work saying another”. I wish I had asked him what he meant by that?

I try to keep busy and continue fleshing out my portfolio with my own projects but people seem to be less interested in them once they find out there just personal projects and not for clients? I’m also finding that people aren’t as open to showing a wide range of products. They seem to want to see exactly the kinds of products they produce. This is understandable but as a recent grad I don’t have that many projects and the work I’ve done at my internships is subject to NDA and doesn’t consist of entire products from start to finish.

That’s a lot to read but I’m not really sure what I should do next? Any advice, tips, critiques etc would be appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

Hey FJWilder,

I ran through your portfolio twice.

1st time I went though, these were my thoughts:
Pros: Good sketches, good renderings, lots of research, varied projects, clean layout.
Cons: If you are gonna give yourself a tagline, make it unique… “I love design” seems unnecessary and in my opinion it doesn’t help your message, I don’t agree with the quote “Design one thing, able to design everything,” and lastly for a majority of your projects, I’m not really sure how you got to the final design from your research, the connection is a tad weak.
Summary: For each project, if we look at the different parts of the process separately, they all look good. You have good sketches and renderings and lots of research, but I feel they don’t really come together well in your final design.

2nd time I went though, these were my thoughts:
Mens Bag: It feels like you just took knit, bold colors, mixed materials, pattern and just applied them to a “random shape.” That’s not how you use inspiration, but unfortunately thats what your bag feels like. Also the rendering makes it look like a hard case cylindrical bag. For me, I would one, work on the final design a bit more and two, until it’s redesigned, push it back in the portfolio. I don’t think its getting you enough brownie points as your first project. :frowning:
(Above critique can apply to your other projects as well)
Pencil Sharpener: Why is it so GIGANTIC?! It could just be the rendering/perspective, but it looks HUGE! Bigger than that Cintiq 12wx in the background!
Overall: Final designs across all projects do not clearly showcase how it solves a problem or the opportunities you address in your research. Unfortunate because the sketches all look amazing, I want to see how the sketches led you to the final design. I see post it notes and callouts, but what it doesn’t do currently is bridge that gap from research > ideation > final design. It feels like 3 separate entities.
…You have all the pieces, they just aren’t connecting right now.

Just my two cents.

Hi FJWilder, I just looked you up on Linkedin and saw where you are currently interning. I know that your boss is an incredibly nice guy and always eager to help. He has helped me in the past and I know that the other bigger NYC company he used to work at, he was personally responsible for bringing on some of the juniors that work there from previous companies he worked at.

He is very well connected in the NYC area so why not ask if he can help make a referral? I think the portfolio issues are somewhat nit picky but the main issue might be how you are going about looking for a job. Applying to postings can often be hit and miss and it is good that you got your 8 interviews (believe me most people are lucky to get a rejection reply). I think if I were in your shoes look at the companies you want to work for and then ask your boss if he knows someone at the company he wouldn’t mind making a recommendation to.

Most of the time it is often about who you know and you have worked under someone that is a very well respected figure in the NYC design community. Use this incredible advantage in your favour!

Sorry for the double post but just looking at your portfolio again I do see the disconnect between your process and final design. For example the SoundBox project the end result looks very clean and defined with lots of nice curves, however some of the forms you explored don’t match up with lots of straight lines and bulkiness.

I think you have the skills but they just need to be applied more linear. Still talk to your boss as he will open some great doors and hopefully you’ll be able to learn a little bit on the job by applying those great skills.

I read your opening post again just now. I think this line is pretty important:

I’m also finding that people aren’t as open to showing a wide range of products.

I think its important to organize your portfolio to meet the companies needs. For example, if you are applying to a bicycle company and you don’t have a single bicycle project, you probably wouldn’t get hired. Or if you applied to Blizzard but all your drawing style was in Disney. You have a good variation of projects, but I don’t know what your focus is or where your passion lies. To a recruiter, I would be worried because I wouldn’t know how to pitch you to a company.

What makes you, you in the world of design?

Thanks for the advice sketchroll and sketchgrad. I’ve a couple follow up questions

  1. Does disagreeing with the Quote at the beginning of the portfolio affect the way you view the work?

  2. What would you consider proper use of inspiration images?

  3. How should I approach linking the research to the final design? I thought I did this specifically with the wheelchair and gaming device explaining how the designs work. I’m thinking I should literally list the problems from the research alongside the final design so there is no miscommunication.

  4. Is there anything on my resume that jumps out? Layout, wording etc

Thanks again.

I try show the projects that I think most apply to the job posting I’m submitting my work to but with a limited number of projects it can be a bit hard to give every company or firm exactly what they’re looking for. I’m really into softgoods and footwear but so far all of my experience has been at consultancies/firms that mostly do hardgoods. I’m not opposed to designing hardgoods and at this point would just like to get my foot in the door. My internship ends this month and I plan on taking your advice and asking for a sit down to review my work and get feedback on areas of improvement.