As far as Interaction Design goes, Liz Danzico has just about done it all, from managing information architecture at Razorfish and Barnes & Noble; to serving in directorial and editorial roles at Boxes and Arrows, Happy Cog Studios, Rosenfeld Media and the AIGA; to teaching at Columbia, FIT and the New School. Her most recent position has her incorporating all of these roles and more, as head of the School of Visual Art's MFA program in Interaction Design, where she is called on to not just develop curricula and review student and professional portfolios, but teach the topic as well.
As someone deeply familiar with both the educational and hiring side of the rapidly expanding IxD field, Liz proves a remarkable resource for learning about what makes for good design training, a good design team, and a good design hire; which is why we're honored to have her on the panel of the upcoming Coroflot Creative Confab in New York City. A couple of questions about initial contact and portfolio review are here to get you started, but expect considerably deeper discussion on these and other topics of design employment on the 15th.
1. You've mentioned before that the portfolio is just one part of a larger story that a creative professional needs to tell. What is the element of that story that is most often missing, or not up to snuff, in applicants you've reviewed?
A portfolio of work is a curated experience. It's an applicant's chance to shape the way that I'm viewing his or her approach, methods, process, and best thinking; but oftentimes, a portfolio only contains final pieces, as applicants are overly concerned about presenting perfection. Polish doesn't communicate process though, and therefore I'm left with only part of the story. Messy problems -- and how applicants work through them -- can show a great deal more in a portfolio than one finished, airtight solution. It's then the applicant's job to curate those into an experience for the portfolio viewer.
2. When someone emails you a first contact, expressing interest in a professional or academic position, what qualities are you looking for in that email?
It's very simple:
1) Respect for instructions. Did the applicant follow directions? Initial queries often come with specific requests (e.g., "please use XX in the subject line"), and it's important that they be honored. Ignoring this sort of thing can indicate a problem dealing with instructions further down the line.
2) Knowledge of email etiquette. Did the applicant write a respectful, appropriate email, in terms of length, correct salutations, spacing between paragraphs, and appropriate signature files? If not, this may be an early indication that he or she lacks seminal communication skills critical to getting a job done. I might disqualify a person solely on the basis of a few such exchanges.
3) Ability to be brief. Was the applicant clear and succinct, and was the email of appropriate length for the question at hand? Email, particularly a first query, should never exceed more than a paragraph or two in my opinion. If it does, this suggests an extraordinarily expository person, and sometimes that's not what we're looking for.
Danzico, along with three other top-of-their-field designers and recruiters, will be pulling from her broad array of design, educational and hiring experiences during her hour on the Confab panel. The event also offers the chance to meet and trade notes with some of the best design firms and creative professionals in the Tri-State area. See the Confab page over on Coroflot for more details, and registration information.
Coroflot's Creative Employment Confab
May 15th, 2-5 pm
Art Directors Club
106 W 29th St. @ 6th Avenue, New York City