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15 graphic design interview tips

The following graphic design interview tips were written by Lee Newham of Good People, former design director at London-based Davies Hall.

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15 graphic design interview tips

  1. When you arrive in the interview give us your business card. It should be well designed, memorable, simple and hopefully have a great idea. It should be unique and you should be branded.
  2. Have 8–12 pieces of work in your folio. Put the best pieces at the front and back.
  3. Have at least six questions ready to ask (if you have less, you’ll find they will be answered in the course of the interview).
  4. Take a pad and pen, take it out at the beginning of the interview. You don’t have to take notes, but it looks as if you are organised.
  5. Talk about your work before you show it, but don’t talk too much. This should be one short sentence to engage the interviewer with you. We will be looking at you as you speak. Then show us your work.
  6. Have samples and mock ups.
  7. Bring sketches. We are as interested in how you got to the final solution as the solution itself. You can show other concepts.
  8. Have a copy of your CV (resumé) at the back of the portfolio. Offer it even if we already have it.
  9. On your CV don’t tell people about exam results or part-time jobs that have nothing to do with your chosen career. It pisses us off.
  10. Don’t talk about holiday or money in a first interview.
  11. Give a firm handshake.
  12. Tell us you really want the job (believe it or not, hardly anyone does this).
  13. Ask for our business card(s).
  14. When you get back home, send an email thanking us for the interview.
  15. Make sure your branding is consistent on your business card, CV and email signature.
  16. One for luck: Remember, 80% of design students are crap. We see lots of CVs (95% of which are crap). If you can get into the top 20% you will get a job.

Update: 08 June 2010
Lee left a comment to expand upon his last tip. You can read it here.

Further resources:

Image via Thinkstock

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141 comments about “15 graphic design interview tips”

  1. Can i ask what makes 80% of design students are crap?

    Also, is it bad to go into an interview with an ego?

  2. Timely. I should be having some interviews very soon and a couple of those tips are not things I have thought about! Thanks David.

  3. 80% of design students are crap.

    Eeek. I’ve never given my business card out straight away, I have always left it at the end, i would think it looks to eager the other way.

    In one interview I actually had to take a personality test which was interesting. Thanks for the list Lee and David for publishing it, some good ideas in there.

    I also write a post about How To Get Your First Job on JCD which would also be of help.

  4. Excellent article. I love articles that I truly learn something from and that I can apply in the real world. I am a design student myself, and they don’t teach us these tips.

    Thanks for all the articles you provide us with.

  5. Interesting tips. Thanks Lee and David for sharing it.

    I’ve read a few books in the last couple of weeks about “how to be a graphic designer” and it’s interesting to see the different opinions.

  6. I wonder what makes a good CV? Obviously it’s got to be different to the typical BL & WH right? Personally I’d see it as an opportunity to be creative and showcase my skills but you have to be careful not to go over the top. It’s a fine line! The whole point is to communicate information about yourself and not go go over board with the graphics. That’s what the portfolio is for, right?

  7. Valerie, the 80% seems quite a generalisation. Lee has a lot of design experience, and I’d be interested to know his answer. Can you give an example of what you mean by entering an interview with an ego?

    Steve, what jobs are you aiming for? Best of luck with the upcoming interviews.

    Jacob, I’d give my card at the end, or whenever I received one. An interview is different from a chance meeting, where you’re more likely to hand a card over straight away. But seeming eager isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    Andrew, I’d have loved these when I was in college. Some design courses really let students down.

    Szabi, you’re welcome. I’ve not read that book, but have meant to for some time.

    Richard, there’s definitely a fine line, and I’ve seen Lee comment on CVs in the past. I’ll see if I can dig up his comments on the graphic design forum.

  8. “We see lots of CVs (95% of which are crap)”

    I can see where this comment comes from. I once worked at a graphic design company in Leeds who received loads of CV’s, mostly from graduates. Most were mediocre, but some were dire – one bloke sent in a CV with yellow text printed on white paper! And supposedly, he just completed a degree…I’ll always remember that one…

  9. Its true, 80% of design students are crap. I’m back to school after working in the industry for a few years, & the majority of students really don’t have a grasp on the amount of work required infront of the computer and away from it. It seems everyone wants to make pretty pictures, instead of orgainizing information or conveying concepts, products, or ideas. Basicly, knowing photoshop… doesn’t make you a graphic designer.

  10. thanks so much for posting this! and thanks for the link to that forum. I have business cards but didn’t make a habit of giving it to them after the interview…even though they gave me theirs…I will do that next time – I didn’t do it because all my contact info is already on my resume.

  11. Hi David, liked the article but one thing ercked me. Writing an e-mail when you get home thanking for the interview. This may make you look more desperate. Maybe in small towns this would be a nice gesture, I just feel in big cities where there are a great amount of opportunities – the person looking for job can be in the drivers seat as well. (if his portfolio is up to par [all things equal] )

  12. Sorry but that comment about 80% of students being crap is bullshit and a huge insult to those of us who teach. Maybe he’s only attracting the crap ones, and all the good ones are going elsewhere…

    Utter, utter bollocks.

    Apart from that, a good list. It doesn’t excuse the crappy over-generalisation though.

  13. Andrew: funnily enough we don’t award degrees for making CVs. They learn that in school, not at university and the day I find myself teaching undergrads to design personal stationery is the day I wonder what we think degrees are for. You’ll be asking why we don’t teach them to tie their own shoelaces next.

    But having said that, it is a worldwide phenomenon: designers can’t do their own stuff. Like builders’ houses always have half-finished extensions or incomplete roofs. The best thing any designer could do is commission another designer to do their CV, and return the favour. Overnight you’d see a huge improvement.

  14. Regarding #6, one of the best questions I’ve found to ask from an interviewee’s standpoint is:

    “What are you looking for in the ideal candidate?”

    I’ve found many employers will gladly tell you what their ‘wishlist’ is, and you can see how good of a mutual fit you and the organization will be, and tailor your answers as such.

    The tip on bringing a notepad to the interview is great as well – those notes help make for a detailed, personalized thank-you note or followup email afterwards.

  15. 80% figure is cruel. I have interviewed over 20+ years and come to the conclusion that some colleges are really good and some sadly poor. Eventually you start to think “is it worth seeing them, if they are from….” I give them a chance but sadly it often reaffirms my opinion that some colleges are really letting their students down. Other produce students that you now will have interesting work in their portfolio.

    I am not sure about some of the other advice on offer, ie giving your business card as soon as you meet. Think I would give them a card when they gave theirs, or at the end. If you only presenting 8 pieces of work, they should all be good. A great ideas book would impress me.

    I once interviewed a student who said he was a wolf, and howled to prove it. The only person I thought would never get a job in design.

  16. Jonathan,

    I realize that degrees aren’t just handed out. I am working extremely hard in school to become a great designer. I was simply stating that in school, not all teachers talk about “real world” experiences and how to approach them, although some do. Luckily I have been able to gain real world experiences while still in school, but I can’t say that for every student. I am very appreciative of David and all the other graphic design resources on the internet, Jacob Cass also being one of them. I believe their posts are just as important in the learning process as school itself.

  17. I have business cards and make a habit of giving it out. When I receive feedback, most of the time, my card has been past on to a fresh prospect. That is a plus!

  18. i must agree with Lee Newham about that 80 % of design students are crap. I study in an institute with people who are not even concerned about their projects of graphic design. they seem to put them off for the last week or even last day.Maybe, people think graphic design is easiest and fastest to study, and you can earn money by fixing some photos and things like that. I’ll follow these tips and send them to some friends. Thanks David and Lee.

  19. This post came 3 weeks to late, lucky i did a few of the things and landed the job anyway :)

    Nice post david

  20. Andrew, he was probably thinking, “This’ll set me apart”. Sadly, for the wrong reasons.

    Adam, when I began studying graphic design, I had little grasp of what was required. Most of what I’ve learnt has come outside college or uni, and what you learn from practice sticks much better than theory — especially when you makes mistakes.

    tif, I’ve been visiting that forum for a couple of years, and there are some very knowledgeable members. MySpace gets its fair share of criticism, which I can understand given the amount of spam, but Lee does a good job of keeping the graphic design group on-topic.

    Joe, you’re right. The interviewee can be in the driving seat, but it’s more politeness than desperation to send a thank you email.

    Jonathan, glad you found agreement. I actually think it’d be a worthwhile exercise for a student to work on their own stationery. I found it more difficult creating my own than that of clients, but I disagree that designers can’t design their own personal work. It may take longer, or more effort, but that’s not to say it isn’t good.

    Gio, great question. I never used that, but definitely would have.

    Chris, thanks for your interviewer insight. I liked your wolf case study, and wonder where he is/what he’s doing today?

    James, congratulations. I viewed your portfolio on my laptop, but couldn’t view the full playing card without scrolling. It’s a novel idea, and I hope your job works out great.

  21. Great tips David.

  22. What jobs are you aiming for? Best of luck with the upcoming interviews.

    Well I was looking to move to London, but most go through agencies who won’t look at you twice if you don’t have Sony, Nintendo or other big names in your portfolio. I know how big money projects work, but they don’t care. I should have an interview coming up at a studio in Cambridge though, so we’ll see how that goes.

    Thanks for the luck!

  23. I visited Cambridge a couple of months ago. Beautiful city. I hope you ace the interview.

  24. Some solid advice that not only design-students should consider, but all designers applying for a position.

  25. Lol, love number 16.

    I do think graphic design courses are failing a lot of students, how can you come to the end of 3yrs of something that you have presumably ‘qualified in’ and be crap.

    That’s just not fair…their job as a university if they have given you the qualification is to ensure you earn it, and that is by becoming ‘not crap’ during your time on the course.

  26. Amanda, it’s a common misconception but degrees aren’t “qualifications” to practice (i.e. they’re not training programmes). Foundation degrees and HNDs are more so, but a degree by definition is not intended to pronounce someone “qualified” to do anything. (I’m talking about the UK here)

    Let me explain:

    Qualification to practice usually occurs either on a vocational programme for non-graduate occupations (i.e. Foundation degrees) or on a postgraduate programme for graduate roles (i.e. a Masters, an MPhil or a PhD, or a specific industry-based qualification).

    For example, you could do a three year degree in biology or medicine – it would not qualify you to be a doctor or a nurse. You would need to study for a postgraduate certificate to practice, same with law and architecture.
    However if you wanted to be a paramedic, or a court reported (I think I have the term right) you would not need a degree, instead you would do a Foundation degree.

    Another example might be better: a school teacher will do a general degree, say in maths, then a postgraduate certificate (PGCE) that qualifies them to teach. A teaching assistant, on the other hand, may do a Foundation Degree – it’s not a graduate role (although there’s nothing to stop a graduate doing it, and many do.).

    A degree is a general “qualification”, an education that equips the graduate with a range of skills that can be applied in a range of graduate-level roles (often termed a “liberal” qualification. It isn’t supposed to be tied to one area. Indeed, if a graphics degree only equipped someone with the skills to be a graphic designer and nothing else, it would be failing them. Given that there are 8,000+ graphics students in the UK at the moment, the likelihood of becoming a designer is quite low, so offering courses that only qualify you to be one would be a bit silly.

    So it is entirely reasonable to come to the end of a design degree and be a “crap” designer, but that person might go on to be a great teacher, a journalist, a manager, or anything. (To give an example, I met a physics graduate yesterday who trades on the Asian stockmarket – their physics degree opened up all sorts of opportunities, not just being a scientist! Design degrees should do the same)

    Anyone who wants to be a designer should really be looking to FdAs, HNDs or the new “Creative Apprenticeships” (on-the-job training). Degrees are really for people who want to keep their options open, or are interested in strategic level jobs, and who are interested in academic study of the discipline – perhaps using research to identify new ways of design, or to solve tricky social problems (see designagainstcrime.com for an example of this sort of thing. It’s pushing the boundaries rather than fitting to a specification laid down by industry). They may also (and often do) become designers. ;-)

    See The Design Council’s ‘Blueprint’ for more on apprenticeships and the definition of ‘higher level skills’ – e.g. understanding of global markets, business strategy, ethics and so on – which degrees are supposed to develop; and see http://www.qaa.ac.uk for definitions of different qualifications in the UK, and the national guidelines (“benchmark statements”) on what a design degree should cover.

  27. Great article!
    Although I’m 16, I have a lot of experience of (web)design, blogging and meetings and I think these tips are extremely useful for me!
    I’m going to implement them in my way of contact with clients and in interviews!

    Furthermore, I’d like to say that I’ve seen many blogs about (web)design and that sort of things, but I’ve rarely seen a blog with such a good content, resources and tips, you’re my bookmark and feed in Firefox immediately!
    Thanks so much, David!
    Nout van Deijck

  28. You’re very welcome, Nout.

    Great choice of magazine style theme, by the way, and good luck with your future interviews.

  29. What I really appreciate, is that the tips are not only useful for interviews but also for meetings with clients.

  30. I took a class in business communication last semester and interviews were a very hot topic. It seems that everyone has this misconception that you should tell everything about yourself to those you want to be hired by. Another misconception is that you should be selling yourself as your first priority.

    While those two concepts are good, they should be done in moderation. This is addressed in a few of Lee’s points. I especially like 1,2,10, and 14. Sending a thank you is hardly done by anyone, and it helps keep you in their minds.

  31. This is a great set of tips. I’d say that some seem a little over the top though, such as handing out the business card first thing.

    Point 2 is one that I hadn’t thought about, even though it’s fairly obvious. I’d put all of my best work at the front and let it get worse as it goes on. Of course thinking about it now that’s probably not a good idea!

    Point 5 is one that I’ve always tried to achieve, but I always get the feeling that the people who I’m talking about my work to are impatient and simply want to see the goods. Perhaps it’s nerves, but I always feel that they don’t appreciate an introduction to it as much as perhaps they should.

  32. Matthew, a little extra courtesy can definitely show you in a good light.

    Neil, point 2 makes a lot of sense, because your best work captures attention from the beginning, but you don’t want to end on a low note.

    Thanks guys.

  33. Good suggestions. However, I really *dislike* biz cards or letterhead where students have ‘branded’ themselves. I would trade a classically typeset CV for a million custom logos featuring the applicant’s 2 initials merged into a wacky glyph at the top. Show me you can organize information and layout a beautiful typographic page. Logo is not needed.

  34. Hello Doug,

    I enjoyed your recent let the (logo) games begin article. Thanks for taking the time. I notice from your bio that you also enjoy watching the English Premiership. Just a few days until the big kick-off!

  35. In response to the idea that designers shouldn’t do their own stationary, I wholeheartedly disagree. Personal branding and stationary are two of the hardest projects I’ve ever had. It brought great insight to being on the client’s end as well because I KNOW what I want to communicate about myself and still had trouble. How must a client feel when trying to tell me what they want and I’m not getting their vision? Learned a great deal of patience from that one :)

    Oh, and if a student’s logo consists of “the applicant’s 2 initials merged into a wacky glyph at the top” then they haven’t put the effort into it to count. I think a student/designer’s brand is much more important than their logo anyway, and agree that a resume with good typography is most important.

    To go a little off-topic, typography is something I feel students don’t get enough of, and speak from personal experience. Doing my own resume last semester was an eye-opener to just how much i didn’t know. And looking at other student’s resumes and portfolios at regional review last semester was a reminder that #16 is very accurate. Well, I wouldn’t say 80%, that’s kind of steep, but the VAST majority of undergraduate students are not qualified for a job when they graduate.

    I will be graduating in the fall from Nicholls State University and I can say without a doubt in my mind that I am in the top 20% of students in my area. And I thank goodness for my instructors because it’s mostly their doing.

  36. Christy,

    Thanks for leaving your take. My personal branding project was also one of the hardest I’ve done. I agree again how students don’t receive enough lessons about typography, at least I didn’t in my student days.

    I hope your graduation goes well and you get the marks you deserve.

  37. First off, I must say this blog is pretty brilliant.

    I am likely one of those ‘crap’ designers – I haven’t even got a design degree. I’ve been extremely fortunate, learned from some amazing people and resources, and have somehow landed a ‘dream’ job.

    As for interviewing, I definitely broke the rules after learning them. I don’t have a business card, admit all my weaknesses, and am visibly nervous during interviews. My handshake’s pretty weak too.

    What I have done is let people know when I honestly believed in their company and work, hand delivering letters to each person who impressed me during the interview (no job = lots of time and I like writing letters anyway).

    I’m not saying I know best, but I got a handful of trials and offers and am now working on a project and salary far above my qualifications, to be honest. (sorry for the long post)

  38. Greetings,
    I’m a student trying to get into graphic design and I haven’t had any interviews for any jobs in this field yet. None the less wouldn’t going into a interview eager mean you want the job? Rather than going in being emotionless? Kinda like you don’t care? Just a thought, oh and i thought the interviewer would be interested in knowing other work experience out side of the applying field? Well, none the less, great article :) Thanks for sharing with us :)

  39. David,

    I was quite like your description during my first interviews. Very unprepared, nervous etc. etc. As with most things, practice makes better, and they don’t bother me now. That said, it’s at least four years since my last one (a benefit of self-employment).

    Randy,

    I think it’s fine to draw upon experience in other jobs, as long as you say how it can help in the role you’re applying for. Good luck with your studies.

  40. Greetings,
    I’m a graphic designer from Indonesia, i’ve been designing for 12 years now…my latest position is an art director, I just found your website… such an interesting conversation you made with other designers, the articles about 15 graphics design interview tips open my perspective about every interview i’ve been trough these past 5 years….i’ve done every point of your tips except the first tips and the 14th and i’ve heard lot’s of “over qualified” answers from most of the company….that’s make me put away some of my experience and portfolios…but still the same answers come along the way…the last one happened 2 days ago…i wonder what do you think about this “over qualified” situation of mine….

  41. I a someone who just graduated I can believe the 80% of the design resumes are crap. I started doing design work, self tought, at home when I started high school. By the time I was in college my design work was surpassed 95% of the students at my school, with the exception of those that did free hand work(I don’t like to draw, lol). Honestly most people get in to and do because they just think its something easy to go to school for.

  42. Quite honestly graphic design is perhaps a more difficult career than people realize. Here in the US, it can be difficult to find work if you suck (which is the situation everywhere really, I’m sure).

    I had a friend graduate from a local uni, and he hasn’t been able to find work for over three years. Frankly, he really sucks as a designer. He’s had a few things that he’s done for a few clients that have looked nice, but he did this project for a local restaurant (http://flickr.com/photos/11321810@N00/339303034/) that looked like I had done it in high school. First, he used Lucida Handwriting that comes stock with every PC and Mac I’ve ever owned. Second, he turned the tracking up to about 500 points, which is NOT something you do with a script font. Finally it looks like he found some stock clip art to use for the branding of this place.

    Design is about 80% type, at least from what I’ve seen and read around the blogosphere. And as far as I’ve researched, typography is minimized in design schools. Most designers just don’t have a firm grasp of type and its proper uses. So many type designers probably sit back and wonder what the designer was thinking about while using the typeface they spent so much time and love making perfect.

    Anyway enough of my soapbox. I have more things to say about type—including one of my classmates using Tahoma for something he was going to print—but I can get into that on another rant. Keep these articles coming David; I learn much every time I visit.

  43. Henrietta,

    Perhaps if you keep hearing that you’re over-qualified, now is the time to become self-employed? Whatever you choose, all the very best with it.

    Nathan,

    Good of you to point out the importance of typography in design, and thanks for the encouragement. :)

  44. It was a good point about having at least 6 questions to ask. I know somebody who recently went to an interview and prepared three questions and they were answered during the interview so that generated an uncomfortable silence at the end of the interview when it was question time!

  45. I am currently in my final year of high school and I am going to study graphic design next year. I’ve found this site very helpful, especially this section. I just hope that I am eventually part of that 20%, I’m a major perfectionist though so I know that I wont sleep until I reach the top. Anyway, thank you for putting the effort into creating all of these tips, it is greatly appreciated.

  46. Bronte,

    All the very best with your future graphic design studies. It’s my pleasure to present Lee’s interview tips here.

  47. Ah David. Never educate a mug. Design and creativity ….. well, its very subjective. Artistic egos often come in the way of objectivity.
    Thanks for the article though. I wish you and your fans a great New Year.
    As Malin our head designer always says..
    Brilliant design is a little like obscenity; you can’t define it but you know it when you see it.”
    Cheers. The Baldchemist

  48. Ray,

    Not sure what you mean about mug education, but you’re right about subjectivity, and I wish you a great new year too.

  49. I too am a graphic design student, and will be hopefully preparing for interviews soon, and found the article helpful. One thing that has come up in interviews before, at least for me, is “Tell me about yourself,” to which I am never quite sure how to respond. I feel it is unnecessary to talk about the fact that I am studying graphic design, but inappropriate to talk about my personal life.

    I would agree that design programs do not teach enough typography, but at the same time, a lot of knowledge can be gained from those who know better. I think those who go out of their way to learn more than is simply handed to them make up that twenty percent that aren’t crap.

  50. Hi Allison,

    It can be appropriate to mention your personal life, as long as it relates to the job for which you’re applying. As an example, I’ve enjoyed my fair share of travelling, and instead of saying I like white sand beaches, I could say I’ve been taking an interest in graphic design from other cultures.

    Good luck with your upcoming intereviews.

  51. As someone who finds the interview process a hugely horrific experience, I find tip no. 16 strangely reassuring. Although I was successful at University, as soon as I graduated I had a huge problem with a loss of self confidence in myself and in my work…..and for some reason, I assumed that everyone else was better than me and having more success than me and this effected my performance when talking about my work – I often found myself coming across as rather ‘apologetic’ about my work.

    ….so it’s good to hear from a professional that not every student that graduates is great and that studios have to wade through a lot of mediocre CVs and portfolios…..if this makes any sense at all?

    P.S. I’m a lot more confident about my work these days and can take rejection a lot better….I know that if someone doesn’t like my work it’s just not what they are looking for….I know it’s not crap.

  52. That makes sense, Rosalind. Don’t worry.

    Glad to hear your confidence levels have improved. Being able to handle rejection is such an important trait for designers. Sometimes, no matter how talented you are, a client just won’t like what you do.

  53. Good advice but,

    ‘80% of design students are crap’

    incorrect.

  54. Generally good advice. I haven’t seen a lot of students’ work recently so I can’t comment on the 80% of them being rubbish. Mind you I had a peak at the P&W site. Ironic to see so much creativity for packaging when 80% of it shoots straight off the isles into the rubbish bin. At least the other 20% wins awards.

    And why a firm handshake? The article doesn’t give us any indication.

    The reason I assume is the common but erroneous notion that a good grip somehow demonstrates robustness of character. I would argue it does not necessarily do so. In fact it could illustrate the contrary. A firm handshake could simply be a consequence of someone reading and believing such advice to be wise counsel. In which case I would have misgivings about the character of the individual having fallen for such a fallacious and superficial branding short cut.

  55. Hi David, I was wondering if you have tips on traditional print portfolios that one should bring to an interview? Anything I should avoid?

    Thanks,
    Angela

  56. Hi Angela, avoid a portfolio that’s too bulky, because space on the interview table could be limited. Avoid including too much work, too. Perhaps eight solid pieces. Do you have an interview coming up?

  57. Thank you for the post David, I just tend to get too nervous when it comes to talking with someone face to face. I am far away from being an excellent speaker. Only hope I have is my portfolio and my appearance, not saying I am attractive but I always happened to give a good first impression. However when I start explaining about my work, I have no idea what I am talking about….I just become panic and my mind goes blank, esp when I receive some unexpected questions which I did not prepare to answer. Do you think practice is only way to overcome this? I wonder if it’s even possible…

  58. You can definitely overcome your nerves, Rose, and yes, practice helps. The interviewers will expect you to be a bit nervous, so if you get stuck with a question, just say so. That’ll help avoid those awkward silences.

  59. A lot of people are getting really offended at the comment about 80% of designers who apply being crap — I will have to agree that 80% is a bit exaggerated but I have found that MOST recent graduates who call themselves designers are people who learned to touch-up photos, or work illustrator and think they’re magically designers! It takes the whole package, great design as well as business sense, I’ve seen applicants at my place of business whose work shows they have no design sense but they know the software! Knowing the software is important but probably least important thing.

    Sorry for the rant, great info/commentary David!

  60. I’m curious to know if you have any advice on what are good questions for the interviewee to ask the potential employers?

    There always comes that moment, at the end, when you get the “do you have any questions for us?” line.

    Appreciate the feedback!
    Thanks

  61. No need to apologise at all, Cynthia.

    Maria, I recommend asking questions that relate specifically to the company and role in question. For instance, if you discover a new project in the works, ask about your involvement.

  62. I’ve found that the hardest thing for me to explain as a new designer looking for an internship or entry-level job is explaining how does my samples work in the real world when I do not have enough experience in product production. It’s easier when you are in school and you are allowed free creativity, but there are a lot of guidelines and restrictions depending on the market or industry that limits what you can do. Believe it or not, I’ve had interviewers for an internship ask me why did I create that shape as a canister for a sauce product because, according to them, the cost of production would be too much. They don’t teach you market guidelines in school. How am I supposed to know that? I can say I didn’t get the job however.

  63. Hi Amelia, I remember when I was back in formal education. There was so much I wasn’t taught — things very relevant to what I do from day-to-day. We’re not the only ones in that situation:

    What graphic design schools are lacking

  64. Hmm, having come back to this and reading the comments I think I had better explain the ‘80% of graphic designers are crap’ comment. Especially as David as put a link to this on a new thread! It needs a bit of perspective.

    OK, here goes:

    There are more students than ever taking up more and more places on design courses.

    There are more design students than there are jobs. Not all of them will get a job. About 20% of design and art college graduates wont find a job within about 5 years of leaving College (depending on year and if there is a recession).

    There are many ‘designers’ who don’t go to university or train for the profession.

    A lot of these design graduates are not very good. I’ve seen a lot of them over the last 18 years. It doesn’t matter whether 60%, 70% or 80% are crap, good, average or whatever (it depends on your definition of good). As an employer I want to employ a good designer. I want the top 20%. Or even one of the inspiring ones who are the top 2%.

    You should be aiming to be as good as you can be. The majority of your competition will have a bad CV, a bad portfolio. Aim to be better. Listen to what your interviewer says, improve your portfolio. It’s not a historical record of your journey through college. It’s a tool to get you a job. Update old jobs if they are letting you down.

    When you get to your interview there are some more tips:

    1. Ask the interviewer for feedback on your portfolio.

    2. These day’s I’d show work on a laptop. It enables you to tailor it for a client. The colours look great. You can use video and animation etc and bring samples for things like brochures etc. Keynote is a brilliant application. Don’t put in fancy fades etc as they can be distracting. Think of your portfolio as a story. Each job a chapter. You are telling this story in words and pictures.

    And finally, this one I picked up recently:

    3. Ask the interviewer ‘if you have any reservations about me or my work, if you have any reasons why you wouldn’t employ me what would they be?’ Then tell them that you would prefer the opportunity to answer any doubts they might have about you because you REALLY want this job.

    It’s better to help someone make up their mind.

    Since David posted this I have left P&W, joined Davies Hall as Design Director and am now starting up on my own. It can be a frustrating business. I was in your situation. It took me 10 months to get my first job. My tip, try to work for as good a company as you can. You will learn a lot in your first job. The money will come later.

    To everyone looking for a job out there, good luck.

  65. You’re leaving Davies Hall, Lee? All the very best with the start-up!

    I’ve updated the post with your design director position, and with a link to your comment, too. Thanks for that.

  66. Hi David… I’m a recent graduate. I’m passionate about design, but I keep getting rejection letters after my interviews. I know Designers are a dime a dozen, and I know I need to step it up, think differently than most new designers in order to get noticed. I’m doing freelance now, but I’ve still been interviewing as much as possible. I always feel amazing after interviews, but in the end I never get it. I’ll follow your tips the next time around for sure. One question I do have, is I’m going to downsize my portfolio soon, its gigantic now… I wanted to get it printed in a 11×17 book format, with a hard cover and all. But I feel this would eliminate places to put samples and mock ups. What do you suggest? Oh, one more thing… I’m starting the process of designing a personalized thank you note… do you think it would be inappropriate to do something silly or quirky? I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’m hoping to interview at ad agencies that have a sense of humor. I was thinking of something like “Thank you for…your time, your patients, your wisdom and gratuity, your comments, your smarts and for this opportunity. I’d especially like to thank you for the nerves and the shakes, stomach pangs, and the sweat stains.” … too much? Cause that’s straight from the heart… your comments will be appreciated! Look at my work on my site too, I want harsh criticism.

  67. Hi Ali, if I was hiring, I would’ve looked at your work before inviting you to an interview (through your online portfolio), so don’t worry so much about downsizing. Include around five strong projects that you can tell a story about. You’ll have space.

    The thank-you note is a worth trying, but don’t mention the pangs and stains. No-one wants to work beside a colleague with B.O. and a dodgy stomach.

    And let’s hope the agency doesn’t have patients.

    Your portfolio makes it seem as if there’s a team of you working together. When going for an interview, you’ll be asked who the others are, and what will happen to them once you get the job.

    Good luck.

  68. I just got a job in a web design agency, thanks for these tips! :)

  69. These tips are great, most of the things I haven’t really thought about.
    Just a quick question David, I’m having an interview this week for a Graphic Design Internship, the marketing manager said to me there is no need for me to bring anything as he has all my work right there with him (cv, website links & some print works but on pdf file) should I still bring in my printed out portfolio?

  70. Why not, Vanessa? There’s no harm in being extra prepared. Good luck with the interview.

  71. Thanks David!

  72. Hi!
    I have an interview coming up for a marketing position which contains design, writing, and event planning responsibilities. I was wondering how you felt about “leave behinds.” I was thinking about distributing mini-portfolios during my presentation to the hiring committee so they would have something to remember me by and that may help me stand out from the other candidates. Would this come across as being prepared and creative, or would it be tacky and stupid?

    Thanks!

  73. Same answer as before, Nicci — why not? Same good luck wishes, too.

  74. Hi David

    I am currently employed as a graphic designer full time – having gained employment immediately after graduating, yet I have an interview for another more online graphic design position this week.

    I have looked through many sites looking for questions I should ask the interviewer rather than questions they will ask – I have a huge list full of them!
    Could you shed some light on thing I should be asking them?

    I also wondered why you shouldn’t ask about pay?

    Any help asap would be appreciated as my interview is on Friday!

    Thanks :)

  75. Sarah: I don’t think you should ask about pay because the interviewer will think that is all you care about. They will pay you as much as they can. It’s one of those things that can only hurt you. If you get the job, you will know the pay and will have the opportunity to accept or decline the position. Until then, its best to hold your tongue.

  76. thanks Nicci.

    Interview tomorrow, I think I’m as prepared as I can!!

  77. Hi Sarah, I completely agree with Nicci. The salary can be discussed if you’re offered the job, and like Nicci said, you still have the opportunity to decline. Leave money talk until after the interview. Good luck!

  78. Hey David,
    It was an amazing article man, I like it…

  79. Hi David,
    I just read your article and I’m amazed by those tips. I never stop learning from experienced designers.
    My question is quite simple. I’m a product design student graduating this June. I have to look for a job in summer (I’m probably leaving my country). I’ve looked a couple of design studios where I’d really love to work, but they won’t say in their website if they’re hiring or not. How can I transmit this to them? I mean, If i really really want to work for them, no matter the salary, how can this be shown amongst a big amount of CV’s they may have already.
    Thanks very much for your tips, I’ll have them in mind!
    Sebas R.

  80. Hi Sebas, find out who at the studio is responsible for recruitment — sifting through the CVs — then personally address your handwritten letter to them, including your online portfolio address.

  81. Hi David, I am absolutely in love with your site. I’m finisihing up school in May, and being 30, it couldn’t come soon enough. I just got word that I got accepted into the Milton Glaser Summer Program in August at SVA. Would you by any chance have any tips for preparing for such a monumental program? I am quite nervous, even though I hear Milton is a very sweet man.
    Thank you,
    Bryan M.

  82. That’s fantastic, Bryan. Here’s to every success on the summer program. Although I was actually unfamiliar with it (do excuse my ignorance) my advice is to question everything. Question if you think something’s right, or wrong, whether you know it, or don’t, you can never ask enough questions.

    Perhaps you’ve seen these two videos already, but just in case:

    Milton Glaser: Art is Work
    Milton Glaser on the I Love New York logo

  83. Hey David I have an interview today and I’m glad I read this post!!! I’ll let you know when I get the job.

  84. Hi David,
    I’m still in the “learning” phase of becoming a graphic designer (well, I know designers are always in this stage from all that I’ve read) but I mean I’ve taken one online diploma course to teach fundamentals and thinking of taking another one to learn more software/programs/techniques, etc. Now, I’m 41 now at this point, and my whole objective was to be a freelance designer so I could work out of my home. I’ve been in the printing/copying industry and only got the chance to go to school a couple years ago. My question is, (sorry to ramble a bit) but do you think I should still be trying to get more education or just work on increasing my skills on my own through practice, reading design articles, blogs (like your own per say), etc.? And can I send you some brand identity work I’ve done for your critique? I’m always interested in seeing how good my work is at this point and if I have potential. My sincere apologies for making such a long post. :-)

  85. Hello Fred, some will say that the more formal education you have in your locker, the faster you can achieve success as a designer. That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful without education, but rather it’s easier if you have it.

    You’re very welcome to send me a piece of work and I’ll offer my first impression.

  86. Thank you for your input David. Would you mind if I sent a couple? I want your critique for the logos themselves and the business cards I put them on. Your email is on your contact page?

  87. That’s right, Fred. You’ll find my address here.

  88. Hi David, This post is really helpful. At the minute it’s not really needed but I just like to prepare for when I do get invited for an interview… So my problem is getting an interview…

    I graduated in 08 and since have applied for hundreds of jobs with not a lot of luck, in fact I’v only had one interview. I’m starting to think maybe it’s the degree I took that is the problem and people just cant see past it. I always wanted to work within the graphic industry (print) but felt by doing my degree in surface print design (rather than a graphics course) It would help me to find a style that wasn’t so mainstream. I enjoyed everything about the course and still don’t regret being in a female dominated course as I gained a more tactile approach to designing/illustrating and I’v built up a strong portfolio of work that I’m constantly being praised about.

    I can’t really my lack of interviews is due to lack of experience because I’ve devoted plenty of my time for free, working as an intern and working for some of the UK’s leading retail brands which have helped me broaden my skills and built what I believe to be a strong CV. I’m applying for junior vacancies and even more internships but still nothing.

    I know I’m going slightly off course to the initial interview topic, but any advice would be helpful…

    Thank you.

  89. Hi Carl, it’s a tough time for finding jobs, and I’m unsure how helpful I can be. You should know what specific jobs you want to be working on, and if you don’t have enough solid examples of those in your portfolio then have another go at pro bono, specialising in what you enjoy most. Additionally, the It’s Nice That and UK Authentic Jobs lists might help:

    http://www.itsnicethat.com/jobs
    http://uk.authenticjobs.com/

  90. Hi David,
    It’s really good to read your blog.

    I’m trying to nail my first job and get my foot in the door. I graduated at the end of 2010, I have an amazing Folio, and CV that gets me interviews with almost every job I apply for. My problem is I can’t seem to win them over in the interview I give it my best shot and answer every question. My biggest block is that I don’t have years of industry experience and they always ask me how i would coupe in a busy work environment. How do I sell myself better?

    Almost every interview they have asked me what salary i would work for? I’ve been saying 30 or 35 as a base rate. is that too low? also should I be telling them I will be happy to discuss the salary amount at a later date when offered the position?

    I just had a job interview last tuesday with a company I actually really love and the people are great too! I’m going to send them a thank-you letter and hope i get the chance for a second interview. Do you have any tips with writing a thank-you letter?

    Deb

  91. Deb,
    I graduated in May of 2010 and I didn’t land my dream job until Jan of 2011. My only advice would be to email the letter as soon as you can, and keep it brief because you don’t want to bother busy professionals. Thank them for their time and let them know you would love join their team and contribute creatively. And maybe let them know they can call you at your cell and give that if they need any additional information.

  92. Hi David–I just have a question for you! I am going to a Web Designer interview next week, and I was wondering if you think it’s okay to show school work as part of my portfolio. I have done contract work but I also have really good school work stuff that I want to show. Thank you!!! Do you think the interviewer would look down at that? Thanks!

  93. Hi Deb, humility goes a long way, and even armed with your amazing portfolio, I’d prefer if you understated your work and let the results speak for themselves. From my experience, £30-£35k would be extremely generous for a graduate position. Perhaps you’re talking in dollars. Your idea to talk about salary only after a job offer is made seems like the best way to go. Thank-you letter tips? Keep it short, addressed specifically to the person(s) who interviewed you. Good luck. I hope you get it.

    Nicci, thanks for offering Deb your advice, too.

    Sara, it depends how long it’s been since you left school. If it was within the past year or so, no problem at all. But if you’ve been in the field for five years plus, showing school work might give the impression that you’ve not developed.

  94. Hey David,

    I recently got an interview with a company, by going through their sales team. I have one issue?
    I dont have any of my work printed…and dont have a printer, so Im at a loss….

    Could you possible rate my online portfolio?
    http://www.burnspike.carbonmade.com

    and my Youtube?

    (search eldiablosic6sic)

    I was wondering how well these will do for my interview…

    I previously worked for an upcoming web design company, and was the lead graphic designer, but Ive never been to college, and I truly understand that I there is some serious work ahead of me, but can you tell me if Im at least heading in the right direction?
    also I came to your site, because I searched “what to bring to a Graphic Design interview” so thanks for your post! Its going to help alot!

  95. Hi Jeffrey, a few tips after quick viewing of your portfolio:

    It’s not obvious what the website is. Perhaps include some introductory text on the homepage.

    Get yourself a custom domain. Then ditch the Yahoo email address for something more professional-looking.

    Imagine your ideal client arrives at your website. Is it tailored for him/her?

    Good luck.

  96. Hi David,

    What a great post! I had my first ever interview 2 weeks ago and I probably managed to do 6 of your 16 tips. Wish I read this earlier!
    I’m anxiously waiting for the chance of a 2nd interview, I’ve sent my thank you note last week and they said they’d be in touch when they can. Would it be incredibly annoying if I chased up on them every week? Or would that show them I REALLY want the job??
    Also I had questions prepared but they didn’t actually give me the opportunity to ask any. Should I have insisted anyway? They seemed to want to keep it short and sweet.
    Thanks!

  97. Hi Serlina, it can be good to ask what decision was made, and if you weren’t hired, maybe they can offer a tip for your next time, something to work on. Rather than chasing-up weekly, ask when they expect to reach a decision, then follow-up a short time afterward.

    It’s odd how you weren’t asked if you have any questions. That’s an opportunity missed by the interviewer, because the questions you ask can tell a lot about your interest in the job.

  98. Thanks for the tips! I graduated last year and volunteered for a year with a non-profit design group in Bangkok, Thailand. I just got back to LA and lots of my fellow classmates are now happily employed, it’s been a little intimidating. After sending my CV to at least 70 firms, I was finally asked in for an interview tomorrow! I’m a little desperate for a job now and don’t want to scare off my potential-future-boss, but everyone’s been offering to hire me on as ‘freelance staff’ in the event they get too much work (including the firm I’m talking with tomorrow). I haven’t had any calls even though I’ve said yes to freelance with several. I would love to find full time employment ultimately, do you have any tips to finding full time work? Or is freelance the future of the graphic design industry you think? *I do hear the market is pretty bad right now.

  99. It’s been years since I graduated from art school. When I now look at the art or design work I created back then, they look pretty bad. If I were an employer, I wouldn’t want to hire someone with such portfolio. I feel very fortunate and am grateful that my first employer liked my work enough to hire me. I still sometimes wonder what they saw in me as a designer because I think my portfolio was pretty “crappy”.

    I’m not completely happy or satisfied with my current portfolio/work, yet. I can always see more room for improvement. I aim to be the best designer/artist I can possibly be…and I keep working on my skills.

    I would love to share my interview experience here. This may be the longest comment I’ve ever left on a blog post.

    I once had an interview for a position I wasn’t 100% qualified for. I actually didn’t even know all the details about the position. One of my former colleagues told me that the company he’s working at was hiring a designer. He forwarded my resume and portfolio to HR and I soon got the first interview.

    After the first interview, I realized that it was my dream job but felt like my portfolio didn’t really have what they were looking for. In fact, although I’d been working as a designer for over 4 years, I didn’t exactly have the work experience that they were looking for. So I created more designs/graphics from scratch that were related to the position I wanted and e-mailed them to the person who interviewed me. I really wanted the job so bad that I was willing to do anything to get the job. I, of course, sent them a thank-you e-mail after the interview.

    I was very excited when I got a call from the company, letting me know that I was one of the few people they chose to proceed to the second phase of the interview process. I was given a project that needed to be completed and submitted within a week. They liked what I’ve done with the project and asked me to come in for second interview with the upper management people.

    Unfortunately, after my second interview, the company decided to pursue other candidates for the position. I was sad that I didn’t get the job. However, at the same time, I had a sense of accomplishment and was happy to know that I made it to second interview although I wasn’t really qualified for the position.

    I believe that these are how I got the second interview even though I wasn’t 100% qualified for the position:

    -I expressed my sincere enthusiasm for the position during the entire interview. I did my best to let them know that I really want the job. I was actually so excited and happy just to have the opportunity that I was smiling big and talking with excitement the whole time.

    -As I mentioned earlier, I created more designs from scratch right after my first interview. The interviewer didn’t even ask for it. I was working full-time as a designer at another company and still found time to “upgrade” my portfolio. I probably spent at least 20 hours on that. When I came home from my full-time job, I would have dinner and start working on my portfolio right away. I would stay up all night and go back to work at 8a.m. the next morning…and repeat.

  100. Nicole, tips for finding full-time work? Don’t wait for a studio to advertise a position. Be proactive. Research companies you want to work in and contact them expressing your interest. Good luck.

    Jessica, good of you to share your story. Love your passion. It did make me question the outcome of the interview process, though. My cynical side wondered if the company was using it as an exercise in receiving free work. Do you know how the process ended?

  101. @David, thank you for the comment.

    I don’t know how the process ended. Hmmmm…I’ve never thought of that until you pointed that out.

    If the company really liked my work, I can see them using the work I submitted as inspiration. However, I don’t think they would use my work as is. (I hope not. I hope the company is moral enough to not even think about using my work.)

    If they use my work, I’m sure I will end up finding it out, though. The industry I’m working in is such a small world.

    From now on, I think I will make sure that I submit my work to potential employers in a format that cannot be used. For example, the project I worked on back then was creating apparel graphics. I should have change all vector art and high-resolution Photoshop graphics to moderate-to-high-resolution .jpgs.

    Thank you so much, David! It seems like I always learn something new every time I come visit your blog.

  102. Definitely best not to supply usable, scalable artwork until an agreement has been made. You’re more than welcome, Jessica.

  103. Hi David,

    I am currently an international student studying BA Graphic Communication in England. I will be progressing into my final year this October. I am quite worried about job prospects regarding the restrictions of the UK immigration but I am hoping to get a job in England. I am currently interning at a production company in Hong Kong but feel that I do not fit in with the lifestyle here. I think it will be tough to

    This article has certainly given me greater confidence in preparation for interviews as I am preparing myself to apply for jobs. The earlier the better I think. I was wondering if you can give me your thoughts on my portfolio and my CV?

    Thank-you,

    Kasumi

  104. I was also wondering if you have any suggestions on how to start applying? There are so many design firms, it is hard to know where to start. Shall I start applying to large international firms?

    Your thoughts would be much appreciated.
    Cheers.

  105. Hello Kasumi, with large firms you’re a little more likely to be working on higher-profile projects, albeit with less input. Smaller firms tend to give more responsibility quicker, and you’re more likely to learn about a wider range of skills/disciplines.

    For your portfolio I recommend writing your “about” page in the first person. You do that for your project briefs, so best to keep it consistent.

  106. Very interesting article. The problem is what do you do when they ask you to design something for them ( homepage – website ect, giving you a very bad brief) so they can gauge your skills (this is what they say) even if you have 2 years of agency experience + freelancing, even if they say that they love your work. What do you do then?

    Thanks, I am looking forward for your answer.
    Cheers.

  107. It depends on how far you’re willing to go to get the job, Chris. On one hand (the cynical one), the company might be using the exercise to get free ideas from a group of designers. On the other… actually, if I was hiring, I’d never ask the applicants to create a custom project as part of the interview process. The existing portfolio (and a face-to-face chat or two) should be enough, especially if I “love” the work.

  108. Hi David,
    I just read your article and will definitely keep your tips in mind for my Skype interview coming up in three days.

    I’d like your opinion regarding salary expectations. I was offered an interview and was given a form to fill in before the interview with about 20 typical interview questions. One of these questions asked me for my salary expectations for the position. Being a foreigner (this job is in another country) I did some research but I got a lot of different answers, so I put an amount which seemed reasonable to me (based on cost of living, etc), telling myself that if it was too high it would be brought up during the interview and that we could negotiate about it. Instead, my interview got cancelled because my salary expectations were “too high” for this beginner’s position and the company’s budget. Needless to say I was surprised by this reaction, I didn’t expect them to cancel the interview just because of one answer among 19 others.

    I replied letting them know that my miscalculation was surely due to my inexperience in working in that country. I asked them to reconsider giving me the interview because I really care about the job and the salary is not my priority (which is true). They finally rescheduled an interview saying they were really interested in my profile.

    Question 1: this salary issue is obviously something they’ll remember me by. Should I bring it up first or should I wait for them to ask me about it? If I should be the proactive one, when should this be (in the beginning or towards the end of the interview)? This time I would rather ask them “What kind of salary has been budgeted for this position?” instead of giving them my range, which might be off track again.

    Question 2: in general, what do you think of graphic design jobs in commercial brands? I would think working in a design studio which has a variety of clients (including brands) would give more valuable creative working experience than working in the design team of a specific brand since the work produced in a retail environment might be repetitive. However, experience in a brand allows really allows one to understand branding/marketing strategies which is also useful.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts on these two questions.
    Thanks in advance.

  109. Hello Valeria, I’m also surprised that your interview was cancelled. I’d at least expect a call to discuss it beforehand, especially as they were very interested in your profile. Regardless, my opinion is that you shouldn’t talk about salary in your first interview. Wait until you’re offered the position, or until your potential employer brings it up. Although obviously important, you don’t want money to be the reason for your application.

    You answered your own question #2. Pros and cons. It really depends on what you want.

    I hope your interview goes well.

  110. Thanks for your advice, David. I’ll figure out the pros and cons with the years. In the meantime, I’m going to take my time to discover the rest of your website, it looks like I can already learn quite a few things here. All the best.

  111. Anytime. The latest posts might help:

    What employers look for #1

  112. Hi David,

    I wanted to ask you some advice. I’ll be graduating with my BFA in December this year, and have completed an internship in publishing in 2009 and then this summer 2011 with a design agency. I have since interviewed with other agencies in anticipation of my graduation and I am also working on a freelance project in parallel. Although the people I interviewed with were complimentary of my work, and the way I present, I was offered an internships. I’m hesitating to take another internship, as by then I will have graduated and it will be a 3rd internship. So how many internships are too many? And is it ok to still be doing internship after graduating?

    Thanks again!

  113. Thanks David for your reply. Every agency asks me to design something for them and then they will decide if the will hire me or not. They say they want to see how I think and if my thinking fits with theirs. If they like my work, why they always ask me to design something for them giving me a very poor brief. I love my work but I am getting tired with this situation. If they can’t trust me from the beggining then I can’t work for them. But I don’t know what else to do? Thanks,
    Regards,
    Chris

  114. Hello Genevieve, it’s okay to intern as a post-graduate, but be careful about what you’re being asked to do. It should be a learning experience rather than an employer’s chance at cheap labour. As you’ve interned already, a part-time or very short-term placement might be more beneficial, or if you haven’t already undertaken any, pro bono design helps build your portfolio.

    Chris, likewise, pro bono work is always an option, improving your client experience while building your book.

  115. Thank you David. So far I have been able to find paid freelance projects and have had 4 different clients. Pro bono projects could be a good way to diversify my portfolio, and I will look into that!

    With my 2 internships and different freelance projects, I have 1 year of experience and haven’t yet graduated. By the time I graduate I will have completed another freelance project and will be starting another in January (6 in total + 2 internships). What I was told by some of these agencies I interviewed with, is that they do not hire junior designers right off the bat, that they usually hire them after successful internships. I feel these are good opportunities, and it’s a good way for me to see whether these agencies are a good fit for me as well. I was just getting nervous as to whether it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be doing internships at this point anymore.

    Thank you for sharing your insights.

  116. Seems like you’ll be much better prepared than I was when I graduated. Good on you!

  117. Hi David,

    Thanks for your reply. Sorry it has taken me so long to reply.

    I am in my final year of university and have been blogging about the work that I have been working on throughout this semester.

    Would it be beneficial to include a link of my blog which I use to only address my current work to prospective employers or would it be best to just keep to my portfolio website?

    If you are interested, I would very happy for you to have a look at it:

    http://miyakekasumigraphics.carbonmade.com/

    Many thanks,

    Kasumi

  118. It should be beneficial, Kasumi. Employers will want to know how you communicate verbally as well as visually. The majority of my website is built with blog posts, and I think it helps with client acquisition.

  119. I have been invited to an interview on friday for an assistant (menswear) graphic designer at a top UK men’s & women’s high street fashion store. After reading the interview confirmation it states that the dress code is casual. What is appropriate for casual? I know a lot of creatives strangely find dress code to be quite puzzling subject and question how dressed up do you go…?

    I look forward to hearing your answer.
    Carl.

  120. I’d take that to mean shoes, trousers, shirt, no tie, but as it’s a fashion retailer your best bet is to pay the store a visit (or the office where the designers are based). See what everyone else dresses like. Good luck, Carl.

  121. Thank you for such a fast reply.
    I’ve had an interview with the company in 2010 and the office seems very casual. The head of menswear who interviewed me was very laid back wearing casual jeans, tee and sneakers. I just seem to think that dressing like the rest of the office for my interview would come across as unprofessional of me.

    Thank you again for your advice
    Carl.

  122. If you dress like the head of menswear, during the meeting make light of the fact that you were unsure what to wear, but bring-up the 2010 interview. Say something about how the working environment made a lasting impact on you, and because of which you’re very keen to make the most of your second opportunity. Tell them it’s somewhere you’d love to work (many interviewees won’t say this).

  123. Hi David,
    I graduated with my MA degree in December of 2010, and I haven’t been able to get any interviews. While my university taught theories and principles, it was still very much of a workshop-based learning style. I wasn’t reading books, I was actually doing the projects and learning from the experience. I am still looking for a job, but I am just a little lost. Is there anything you can suggest I do that might improve my chances?

    Based on some of the comments, should I go back to some online university to get some kind of specialized degree? Or should I start designing for imaginary brands/companies? What do you think?

  124. I suggest not waiting for companies to advertise job openings (when the competition will be fierce). Instead, research and tailor individual approaches to those firms/studios you want to work with. You might even ask for a week’s work experience to get a foot in the door, to get your name/face known for when a position does open up.

    Rather than designing for imaginary brands, pro bono design is a better option.

  125. Hi David,

    You say not to ask about money in the first interview. I have a problem with this. I have 10+ years as a designer, and have been on my fair share of interviews, only to find out the employer wants to pay $8-14 dollars an hour!! How do you avoid going on these useless interviews, wasting their time and mine. I actually like to ask this question when I make the interview appointment, to make sure we’re both on the same page of what their salary range is. Is this to forward & leaving a bad impression?

    Also, any portfolio tips for how to present packaging? (ex. displays, boxes, etc) along with what goes into the displays. Would showing the artwork laid out with the die line be helpful as well?

    Thank you for your time!

  126. Hi David,

    These are some great tips! On my blog I recently posted some additional ones. Come take a look at:
    http://www.yagmourian.com/gaston/blog/2012/06/preparing-for-a-design-internship-interview/

  127. In that case, Regina, the problem lies with whoever created the job listing. If there’s no mention of a salary range in the advert, and the job pays pittance, it’s not difficult to realise that everyone’s likely to waste their time. So I don’t think there’s any harm in asking about a general range prior to interview.

    As for how to present packaging, here’s a great primer by Jessica Walsh: Photography for designers. Pricey, but you can always scale a few things back until they’re easier to afford.

  128. Hi David,

    I have a second interview tomorrow for a publishing company, and was wondering what would it involve? I’ve never had a second interview, only once to come in again for a test, but that was hardly an interview. Should I expect a skills test of some sort?

    Thanks for any information you can provide.

    Eileen

  129. How’d it go, Eileen? I’m pretty sure my reply is after your interview.

    If not, in my experience a second interview is usually a chance for interviewers to make sure the first impression you gave wasn’t a fluke. Like a safety net. Or it could be that another member in the company wants to meet you, so the first round was a screener. Or, it’s just a way to narrow the field before making a final choice. Either way, always remember, you should be asking yourself if the company is a good place for you to learn and grow. I found that mindset made me more comfortable, less anxious (although it’s been quite a few years).

  130. Hi David – thanks for the posts, some very assuring and helpful stuff.

    I’ve just graduated with a masters degree in architecture, but my real passion is graphic design. I find it hard to know how I may differ from a graphic design student (not knowing many) and how this may be disadvantageous. I guess I worry that there’s a huge scope of knowledge that I could be missing from entering the industry in a non-traditional way, or that simply put, my work isn’t up to the standard expected of a graduate (given I have never been graded in this field). I’m very keen to learn constantly and improve, but is there anything lacking on initial viewing of my portfolio that may worry a potential employer?

    http://www.olivershilling.co.uk

    Any feedback and advice would be brilliant.

    Oliver

  131. david?

  132. Hi Oliver, there are lots of graduates who aren’t great designers, and lots of great designers who don’t have a design degree. So try not to worry. Formal graphic design education to degree level helps you get where you want to be faster than you’d get there otherwise, but it’s not a prerequisite.

    One thing that would improve your portfolio is to include more info about each project, such as why you chose the design direction you did. It’s difficult to judge any design work without knowing something about the brief and how you solved it.

    Try to make your blog look similar to your portfolio. The smoother the transition from one to the other, the more professional you’ll appear online. I hope that’s of some use. Good luck.

  133. Good advice, but I never had a business card and had no problems to get work :) Lucky I guess.

  134. Hey David,

    Im a graphic design student in my final year applying for an industry placement of 4 months. A very good graphic design firm has asked me to come in for an interview tomorrow. My only problem is that in my portfolio I dont really have a defined style which I think they are going to question me about.

    Is it true that every graphic design firm looks for a designer with a singular defined style? What about designers that have experimented with other styles and done a decent job of it?

  135. How did it go, Rupal? Sorry I didn’t reply in time. To answer your question, no, it’s not true that firms look for a singular defined style. They might look for a specific skill or area of expertise, but designers need to adapt their output to fit a wide variety of clients, so variety is good. I hope it worked out well.

  136. Hello sir,
    I am actually an architecture student wanting to pursue graphic design so I am dropping out…. A design school has shown interest to take me up as a research student for 6 months… they have given me a date for interview 20th November… My problem is my cv is full of projects related to graphic and web design and animated presentation…. whereas the design school mainly deals with textiles and Indian crafts… so sir would it affect my selection…. do i need to do something textile related in 6 days … if selected I want to do a research on digital textile printing …

    Also sir,
    I love your websites and blog… after reading your advice on pro bono projects i took up two in school and they worked out very well… thank you so much sir!!!

  137. Hi David,

    Thank you for posting this! I have my first graphic design job interview this week and am extremely nervous about what I will be expected to know. I am eager to learn and get started in the field! I will definitely utilize some of these tips!

  138. Hi David

    I am a Industrial/Product Design graduate, since I graduated I have been in printing environment, I have got 2 years experience in graphics /promotional products /marketing and finishing. however since my internship finished I only found a part time design assistant job, which I can’t say I am really happy.

    I need a full time job and work in a company where I can expand my knowledge.

    At the moment I am re-designing my CV and a cover letter.
    By reading your notes, I understood that I also need a portfolio with at least good 5 projects. However from my work experience my duties were mainly Promotional products/marketing and wedding invitations. Also I only gained knowledge in Quark express, Corel draw ans Photoshop.

    Also I am trying to learn from YouTube tutorials, by using 30 day trials in Indesign and Illustrator CS6

    Is there any tips you could advice , in regards of what I can do to get a good job in his field, expand my knowledge in Adobe suite and portfolio please ??

  139. Hello Yag, pro bono design is a good option, for reasons mentioned in that blog post.

  140. Only because some people wont fit to some employer’s expectations for the position offered does not make them or their work and experience “crap”. Nor students or professionals either. Very discriminatory and egocentric “tip” statement.

  141. Question: Why does it piss you off if people talk about part-time jobs? So what it if it doesn’t have anything to do with design, it may show good teamwork and time management.

    There are also alot of talented design students out there. Sure, there are improvements to be made on some designs, but I wouldnt call them CRAP.

    Very rude.

Anything to add?

Comments may be edited or deleted if I don't like the cut of your jib, but that's quite unlikely.