You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

Approaching the Challenge

Once you have an understanding of the interaction model, the process itself can unfold as predictably as the traditional double diamond design model that’s so often taught in school. Since you’ll be pressed for time, you’ll need to make the call on what steps to accelerate, where to skip, and where to dive into the details.

Figure: The Double Diamond Design Model

The double diamond design model

The double diamond design model. Source: Dan Nessler

For those not familiar with the double diamond model, it’s a simplified model of the design process that’s essentially boiled down to four steps:

  1. Understanding the problem. Challenging existing assumptions, asking questions, clarifying.

  2. Defining the problem. Reframing the existing brief based on answers from the previous steps.

  3. Exploring solutions. Brainstorming multiple divergent solutions to avoid local maximum, not judging ideas, and keeping things as open as possible.

  4. Converging on a solution. Picking a particular solution to go after and spending time fleshing it out.

Like all models, it’s not perfect. It doesn’t account for all the nuances of the design process, but that’s OK because the whiteboard interview isn’t about going through nuanced details like visual design and such. Instead, this exercise is more about getting a glimpse into your design approach, specifically how you think through complex interaction design challenges.

storyDuring one of my interviews, the candidate kept drawing and redrawing a border of a window, emphasizing that they’re particular about how things look, thinking about 1px borders and shadows. While detail is important to design, the reality is that there’s no way to adequately convey this detail, nor is it required for a whiteboard challenge. Show your visual skills in your portfolio or in the design exercise.

Managing the Whiteboard Space

Just like when you’re presenting your portfolio, you also want to position yourself in a good spot for a whiteboard. This means having enough space for you to write while having your interviewers clearly see what you’re doing. You should also keep track of time, ideally with a timer on your watch.

The surface area of your whiteboard should be proportional to the amount of time you’ll spend on it.

Figure: Managing Space and Time

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