Graduated from design school? Where to Next?

Congratulations, if you have just completed your design studies. You are finally qualified to begin your journey into the working world of design. Now that you have graduated, where do you intend to pursue your design career?
More often than not, fresh design graduates find themselves relentlessly applying for different design jobs, but not knowing what type of design career they truly want to pursue. I still remember the days when I first graduated, many of my friends have found jobs earlier than me. I used to envy them, and wonder why I wasn’t the lucky one to get the job. Well, fret not; the truth of the matter is not always about how fast you find a job, but rather about finding the most suitable job for you. In fact, some of my friends who first obtain a job have left their positions soon after, realizing that what they initially got hold of isn’t truly what they desire.
So here are a few design career tips that I hope can enlighten you in your search for your dream design job…

lg design team
LG’s first in-house design research center, established in 2002.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the NATURE OF THE DESIGN COMPANY you are applying for – design consultancy, in-house design department, or free-lance design. In a design consultancy, designers are exposed to doing a wide range of design genres, depending on the projects the clients give. So, designers of such fields are usually well trained in handling different types of design, from doing electronics design to doing furniture. But one thing to note is that such design analysis is usually not very in-depth. For in-house design departments, however, the management team usually directs the design assignments. Usually the range of products designed is more focused and in-depth in analysis. Beside these two, there are also companies that hire designers on a free-lance basis when they have design projects at hand. This provides designers the working flexibility to work at their own individual time and space.
Different types of design processes adapted from Design Secrets 1 and 2: Products (IDSA).
Next, it is always advisable to understand the kind of design that the company SPECIALIZES in doing – Engineering design, Lifestyle design, Research design. Companies driven by engineering factors tend to put major emphasis on the actual production and design functionality. So designers who work there tend to be more practical and realistic in the way they think and create designs. Designers, who work in lifestyle design companies, on the other hand, tend to emphasize more on the aesthetics than the functionality of the concepts. Not to forget, they are also research-design companies that focus on design innovation and creative thinking to strategize design values.
Time-line of Frog Design’s works from 1969 – 2007.
Lastly, make effort to know the HISTORY of the design company you want to apply to. That will not only help you to fare better in the interview, but also give you a better understanding of the design environment you are working for. Below is a common list of questions that can start you finding out more about the history of the company:
1. What is the company’s design philosophy?
2. When did the company start operating?
3. Who are the clients that the design company deals with?
4. What is the strength of the design team?
5. What are some of the future projects that the company will be doing?
Therefore, when looking for a future design job, do set some expectations to what kind of design job you want to go for. Realistically think about what you can achieve with your design capabilities before you commit to a design company before hand. That way, you can focus better in finding the most suitable job, which can further enhance your design abilities.

This article has been contributed by guest writer PY.
Working in deep undercover for one of Asia’s more reputable ID firms, PY’s daily industrial design experiences and observations contributes to her posts. Also consummate traveler, she has undergone many design adventures on various continents. These valuable experiences teaches her precious skills in jungle designer survival, an appreciation towards the unique values of Asian design and how to kill or reject a man in 101 ways.
Other than industrial design, she also enjoys dabbling in other kinds of design related activities such as writing for Dutch design blog Studio 469 and churning out groovy T-shirt designs for the cool and funky. Always willing to try out new things, PY does not believe that the sky is the limit as she will be joining Richard Branson in space soon.

  • py

    May 29, 2007 at 10:13 pm Reply

    Hi Asgeir and Mac,
    Thank you for your suggestions about doing internships. It is a very good idea.
    There are many established design firms that do not hire foreign graduates as permanent staff first. But when they are keen to hire them, they will usually ask them to do internships or contract work first to see if they fit the companies. So if you have this opportunity, just go for it, or like what Asgeir say, do it for them free. Internships is often a humbling but great experience to begin learning about real design.
    Recently,I have also writen an article on Studio 469 tips about “Preparing a Design interview”. (link: So do read about it, to prepare yourself for design internships.
    I read both your blogs, and look forward to reading them more. Thanks so much Mac for recommending this article on your blog,too.I’m so happy to know how this has benefit you. Can’t wait to hear about some of your experiences on your blog.

  • Design Translator

    May 28, 2007 at 2:53 pm Reply

    I think internships are a good way to test the water to see if you would like to work in a consultancy or in-house team or as a free lancer. Ultimatly i agree, the person needs to fit the job and the job the person.
    Btw Good Luck Mac!

  • Asgeir Hoem

    May 28, 2007 at 6:04 am Reply

    This is an interesting topic. What Mac mentions about internships is true, but it also seems hard to find something that suits. I still have a couple of years to go, but I can imagine the design studios I’m interested in will be packed pretty quickly.
    Paul Arden suggests doing free work, if that’s what it takes. Show up at the studio of your choice and ask if they need something done for free. I guess it is all about the references.

  • Mac Oosthuizen

    May 28, 2007 at 4:51 am Reply

    Some great tips. Just want to chime in with some pre-graduation thoughts. Try to get a placement/internship at a design firm before you finish. A lot of courses do include this now as part of their teaching but even if it doesn’t, it’s not hard putting together a CV and portfolio and trying.
    I’m heading to Hong Kong soon for an internship with Mattel which will hopefully get me some experience in a lot of what you talked about. Time for me to go answer those questions for myself!

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