While I’m here I’m trying to meet with as many design professionals as possible. I want to absorb as much as possible and to learn how design companies actually work, and also put myself at the front of a large and competitive crowd for future employment opportunities. Especially coming from Australia, if you are a local it is much easier to tee these things up. For the HR person in a company you are applying to, unless you are superstar material, anything from overseas goes into the ‘too much hassle’ basket, also known as the bin.
This has proven harder than I expected, mainly due to the fact that if there hasn’t been an event I can attend/ gatecrash where I can network- there haven’t been and I am horrible at anyway (it is the equivalent of conversational cold-calling), I am eating into peoples work day. People are busy and for someone to arrive on there doorstep, to be accommodated is a big ask. Anyway, I have one definite meeting I’ve organised, three I’m waiting on via the internship organisers, and some potentially really good ones via the boss and his connections.
When I asked the boss about the places he used to work at to organise these meetings, the conversation started to turn to the nature of ID in America and San Francisco in general.
He said that unlike Europe, most ID in America is corporate- the work is performed by the firm and the work is recognised as being from that firm, with the few notable exceptions of people like Karim Rashid and Yves Behar, and certain people within teams such as Jonathan Ive who heads up the Apple in-house design team.
Interestingly he said that this is really due to a PR push by those individuals to market themselves. Culturally in Europe good design work is recognised and the individual is then recognised for doing good design work. In America you need to sell yourself, which he said is harder for designers to do as in his opinion most designers are introverts- he pointed to the rest of the office where everyone was quietly working away (working here I haven’t noticed any dramas or loud talkers or attention seekers. I asked a question on the Core77 forums “How Noisy is your Office?” and was surprised that this is the norm. That is what struck me first about working here and I was surprised that many studios are quiet places).
The boss also said that designers need to make the decision to balance the actual design work with the PR; the PR lifts your profile and gets you work but if too much time is spent on the PR, the quality of their work suffers. The conversation turned to my latest pet peeve – ‘pretty render’ vs. good design. Some of the PR focussed firms do spend too much time on the photorealistic side, which can quickly sell a poor idea to a client because it looks great but in doing so hides bad design and bad ideas, but also there are lots of designers with good ideas that can’t communicate them very well, where the photorealistic renders can support and sell the concept to the client.
As one of lecturers is fond of telling the class “you can’t polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter”.