Insights on Landing Your First Job
Entering the world of design can be an exhilarating journey, and landing your first job in this creative domain marks the beginning of a thrilling career. As a design enthusiast, your first job offers a chance to channel your artistic vision into tangible projects and collaborate with like-minded professionals. Embrace the challenges, fuel your passion, and embark on a path of growth and self-discovery as you carve your niche in the fascinating realm of design.
As design studios begin to recruit new talent, what are the key qualities or skills you are seeking in this year’s design graduates?
Aashish Solanki. Curiosity & drive to learn are extremely important traits. As a design studio, we are looking for candidates who have the never-ending zeal to pick up challenges, new skills and the right attitude to live through these challenges. We are a studio who value the right attitude above their skills and if they are ready to learn, grow and produce results then we are happy to help them achieve their career goals. They need to be proficient in understanding design trends, ease of using the design tools that are applicable for their individual roles and own their work responsibly.
Itu and Lisa. As in 1996, so in 2023.
• Portfolio. We look for a spark somewhere in the portfolio — of originality, craft or something else, even in one project. Sloppy spelling, incomplete work is a big turn off.
• Openness, curiosity and honesty. Openness means showing a willingness to see things differently from one’s own POV. Curiosity Is self-explanatory. These two answer the question: what will this person be like to work with? Can they grow? Potential, not the present is the decider. About Honesty. It becomes more important in this age where seamless copying is a temptation. Students should realise that employers have been around the block too. Portfolios catch the eye, but sincerity, the capacity to be reflective about one ’s weaknesses; to express genuine doubts wins our hearts.
Lokesh Karekar. Firstly, thinking and visualising power, then basic design/ Illustration skills and finally, the ability to w work on realistic timelines.
Pravin Shah. We are seeking minds that are open to failures, are curious, willing to experiment and learn. And to top it all, we want them to be patient as learning is a process, and likewise, we also want them to have a sense of urgency to learn.
Are there any specific areas of specialisation or design disciplines you are particularly interested in hiring for this year?
Aashish Solanki. We are looking for User Experience and Visual Designers who are interested in solving our clients’ problems and giving them breakthrough solution. Motion, UX writing and generative AI design is also something that we are keen on.
Itu and Lisa. Our discipline, graphic design and all that comes within it.
Lokesh Karekar. Pure design with understanding of typography.
Pravin Shah. We usually seek candidates with a strong portfolio and understanding towards brand identity, graphic design, packaging and motion. Exposure in UI is always an added advantage but having said that we don’t look for generalist, we love specialists.
In addition to technical skills, what soft skills or attributes are you looking for in design graduates to ensure a good cultural fit within teams?
Aashish Solanki. Our team is our pride and we believe in our people to do their best. We give them complete responsibility and accountability for what they need to deliver as creative individuals need the freedom to explore and implement their ideas.
We have a very strong set of values which we need each of our team members to follow. This is the list, if the prospective designers identify with them then they can definitely fit into our culture:
• Pursuit of Craftsmanship
• Value Centric
Itu and Lisa. A genuine, not surface, interest in something outside design. Music, books, current affairs (do glance at the news when you arrive for the interview) or cinema. Many times our interviews have ended up being extended chats about interests beyond design. Second, being a good colleague but also tough when needed.
Lokesh Karekar. A willingness to learn, Interest in craft in design and Super flexible in terms of style and approach.
Pravin Shah. Skillset is definitely non-negotiable as finesse is part of our job but more than the job, grads have to understand their ROLE. By role, I mean design is a responsibility to build clients brand and that is related to business growth for clients.
Few fundamentals we expect from newbies:
• Ownership with a 'Never say No attitude'
• It’s never your problem. It’s our problem.
• Freedom is the first step and with it comes more
• Ego is a no go
• Agility is an act of expertise
Above all good design comes from good people and a happy vibe creates a happy tribe.
How much value do you place on internships, work experience, or extracurricular involvement when evaluating the potential of design graduates?
Aashish Solanki. It’s definitely valued more as it enhances their portfolio, practical skills, and design industry knowledge. They would have also developed experience in specific tools used in their internship projects and have a deeper understanding of the design process as a whole. Any experience in the real world is 10x the weight of gold.
Itu and Lisa. It’s the quality, not the quantity of experience that is interesting. It could be a short stint in animation, photography or the fine arts or an exposure to anything beyond design—we have people from journalism, tech, and accounting, all contributing usefully. Waiting for a molecular biochemist. When it comes to senior positions, experience in managing the design process and teams gives us more confidence in their abilities.
Lokesh Karekar. It is essential since it gives them an idea how actually things work. Any kind of exposure and experience brings a bit of professionalism in them.
Pravin Shah. We shortlist candidates basis their portfolio and we have star designers who came just out of school and were delivering global projects. Internship surely gives exposure and work experience makes a candidate mature but unless the work is great, none of these will be helpful.
How can design graduates demonstrate their ability to adapt to a fast-paced and ever-changing design industry, and how does this factor into the hiring decisions of design studios?
• A portfolio with good visual flair, visual design language, technical accuracy, functionality, diversity of use cases/domains, visual communication of design, presentation is an important criteria for hiring.
• Staying current with industry trends and emerging technologies by doing relevant courses, certifications, workshops, and internship projects which helped expand their skillset.
• Adaptability to quickly learn and adapt to new software or design tools.
• Presenting case studies or design projects where they faced unexpected challenges or had to pivot their approach will showcase their ability to adapt and find innovative solutions in rapidly changing situations.
Itu and Lisa. As a studio, we look forward to learning from fresh talent. We welcome from them new ideas, trends, tools, tech and all else that’s making noise in the design world. Reviewing portfolios (5 per month on average) keeps us abreast with trends, fads and reality.
But as principals, our job is to reflect on the slow changing, tectonic shifts. To detect and track hype cycles. Go deep into the unchanging—human nature. We ruminate a lot about design’s connections with technology, business, society and culture. We want our designers to do this too, gradually.
Lokesh Karekar. Yes, the speed defiantly becomes a major factor while hiring, especially for illustration-heavy studio like us. We often work with candidate for 1-2 months before confirming them as a permanent employee. Variety and depth in the assignments created in portfolio gives immediate understanding of how the candidate can perform.
Pravin Shah. Fast-paced is the right word, clients come with a deadline and one needs to understand that agility is key to delivery so early on grads should learn about thinking fast, creating roughs and getting ideas approved. On the tech side, there is unprecedented progress every second from generative AI art and motion, it’s not easy for someone to have mastery too soon on all this but awareness is important. So, the time is right that grads are aware of design and technology both as the convergence line is blurring every day.
Are there any specific tools or software proficiency you expect design graduates to have, and how can design graduates ensure they meet these expectations?
Aashish Solanki. Tools are ever-evolving. Your proficiency in couple of them is a must to begin with. Google Docs, Todo Apps, Adobe Suite, Figma etc are a good stack to be expert on.
Itu and Lisa. Nothing extraordinary. A decent familiarity with layout and illustration software, with an understanding of typefaces. In addition, some sort of animation capability helps. Some literate-ness and numerate-ness helps, as does an interest in words.
Lokesh Karekar. Understanding of basic design software is a must. We also look for ability to draw (digitally or actual) and explore the illustrative or design language extensively. Design graduates should include a good variety of assignments in portfolio which demonstrates how versatile or specialised the candidate is. Usually, the graduates are good with technical skills related to software and tools, but many times weak with ideas and innovation while doing the actual work.
Pravin Shah. Tools mastery is must. We come across grads sometimes with not exposed well to the key Adobe suite. Adobe suite and Web design tools mastery is must, and adopting to the new AI stacks could be helpful.