Even if he didn't hold such an enviable title -- Design Director of the New York Times website -- Khoi Vinh has the sort of background and experience that makes him a natural choice for the upcoming Creative Confab panel discussion. He's been implementing impeccable web design for over a decade. His personal site, Subtraction.com, is among the web's most thoughtful and widely-read blogs on user experience and sensitive website design. Before moving to NYTimes.com, he co-founded the groundbreaking studio Behavior LLC, and is heavily credited with bringing grid systems to website design in a useful, meaningful way.
More significantly for this Friday's panel discussion, he's done a lot of hiring over the years, including the majority of the current 12-person design department he currently runs at the Times, and has some very clear ideas about what constitutes a good hire, and how to find them. We managed to get answers to a couple of questions on this topic from him earlier today -- for the rest, come catch the panel at the Art Directors Club this Friday.
1. There's an impression that the best designers still have plenty of work, even in an economic downturn. Is this more a matter of employers' reluctance to risk hiring younger, unknown designers, or just an indication of the rarity of exceptional talent?
I can't speak for other employers, but I've recently hired at least a few young people right out of school. So I really believe the impression you describe is an indication of talent scarcity. It seems that regardless of whether times are good or bad, there just aren't enough people out there with the right mix of skills, smarts and good attitudes.
2. Given how well-known the Times brand is, how do you distinguish applicants who are passionate about it from those who are simply excited to work somewhere with a lot of cachet?
It actually doesn't take much digging to find out if a candidate truly knows our product. Just a few questions about some of our columnists, our sections, the way we cover the news, the way we organize our content, etc., and we can usually get a sense of whether the person is a reader/user or not. I should say too that we don't necessarily require a comprehensive knowledge of every corner of NYTimes.com or the newspaper; even someone with only a moderate level of enthusiasm doesn't necessarily get disqualified. What we're looking for is honesty about their level of passion, and some evidence that they can think deeply and intuitively about the challenges at hand.
Vinh, along with three other top-of-their-field designers and recruiters, will be delving into the tricks and trials of creative hiring from both the job-seeker's and talent-seeker's perspective during the Confab event. It 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
Join over 240,000 designers who stay up-to-date with the Core77 newsletter.
Test it out; it only takes a single click to unsubscribe