Recently, global design and strategy firm frog hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) centered on product design and spoke openly about tips and tricks that all aspiring designers should be thinking about when they approach a new project. Held by Inbal Etgar, a creative director out of San Francisco, and Francois Nguyen, a creative director out of New York, the conversation explored the skills that would make a designer successful and the design traps he/she should avoid.
Read on for highlights and products that speak to frog’s core values and creative beliefs.
What questions should you ask yourself before bringing a design to your team?
- Have I seen this solution/design before? Is this new?
- Am I solving the problem elegantly?
- Is this design manufacturable?
- Is this design iconic and own able? Can the client build brand recognition with this design?
- Am I pushing the limits of design and manufacturing? If so, is it within my client’s capabilities to execute on successfully?
- How well does this solution play with existing design the client already has and/or other initiatives?
Skills you need to be a successful designer
- Hard skills are table stakes: 3D CAD, sketching, rendering, 3D modeling, sensitivity to form development. This is so a junior designer can be utilized immediately.
- Have passion. If you are not obsessively passionate about design you can’t complete, especially in today’s market. Passion will drive the late hours, extra iterations, demand for the better and relentless pursuit of the ideal vision.
- Understanding and sensitivity to the nuances of design – what solutions are appropriate and, how to wield form, material and color choices with sophistication and taste. It’s one thing to be able to communicate your idea with sketches, but you also must be able to communicate its intention in a compelling way.
- There is talk about IQ and EQ in the workplace – but what about “DQ” (D for design)? It’s imperative to have an innate awareness and understanding about what solutions work for a particular problem in the domain of the physical.
Top 5 Design Traps to Avoid
- Do your homework. What is out there? How does your portfolio compare to other top portfolios for designers at your level? Be honest and objective. I also see a lot of design concepts for things that already exist. Do a competitive audit, know whats out there, don’t work in a silo and feel a ground-breaking pioneer of the greatest invention ever. Relax, the wheel has already been invented and Scott Baio was not better than sliced bread.
- Slick drawings and renderings do not equal good design. Don’t get confused. We want to see solid logic, considered research, and valuable insights and thoughtful storytelling. Let’s not forget beauty. Is the form or object beautiful and desirable? Remember, if he’s handsome, it’s romantic, if he’s ugly, it’s stalking. Bottom line, no one cares about a storer the rest of the design details if the product has not seduced with its beauty.
- Edit. Edit. Edit. Don’t show 10 renderings of the same thing from slightly different angles. That shows me your inability to structure / prioritize information. Remember creative writing classes where the teacher asked you to cut your paper to half the number of sheets? Yes, editing is hard work but it results in distilling down to the essence of what you are trying to say.
- Show process. I don’t want to see slick glossies only, I need to understand how you got there so I know it wasn’t beginner’s luck or that your friend in the industry did it for you.
- What do you think about all the time? Where do your other interests lie? Who are you as a person? What are your point-of-views on design and life? These things inform your design decisions and contributions as a team member.
- Final advice, be relentless with your passion and honesty with your work. Be committed to the best solution, not the one you fall in love with. Look outside your discipline. Enjoy your life, there is no such thing as a “design emergency”.
To see more projects by frog, visit their website.