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.
Creating Value in an Organization
Beyond understanding your own skills, you need to also think about how your skill sets translate to the needs of an organization. At the end of the day, you’ll be hired to solve another company’s pain point that they are not able to solve themselves. These pain points vary, but there’s some consistency depending on the company’s maturity.
Smaller companies, such as startups for instance, can’t afford to hire many designers, so they typically bring in a senior generalist to start. Typically this designer will have a strong grasp of interaction design and research, and some visual design skills. They’ll help establish a design direction for the company and ship product, while integrating design process into the product development cycle.
Figure: Assessing Design Team Skills
As companies grow, they start to fill out the rest of the pillars based on need.
As the company grows, specialized roles get brought on, such as brand designers, visual designers, researchers, and content strategists. As a team, their diversity and specialized talents allow them to create products that are of high quality.
If the company starts rapidly scaling, typically more and more designers get brought on with similar skill sets. At that point it’s important to hire more people because there’s more work than any one designer could do. Sometimes these roles might get filled by contractors if it’s a temporary project or if recruiting is lagging behind. At other times, if growth is continuous, more full-time employees are brought on. By understanding where the company is in its growth cycle and their current pain points, you can match yourself appropriately.
To do strong design work, you have to be well versed in fundamental skills. It’s a prerequisite for the job. This is the raw ability to take inputs and transform them into something meaningful based on your technical knowledge of tools and concepts.
Craft is your knowledge of the tools, methods, and techniques to get the work done. A good designer has a solid grasp of the fundamentals that are usually studied in school, but not everything will be or is expected to be mastered at an academic setting.
important The most important skill of all? Learn how to acquire new skills or renew existing ones as the design field changes rapidly.
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A guide for product designers, from portfolio to interview to job offer
by Dan Shilov
Design is hard. As designers, we spend considerable effort in honing our craft and staying up to date on the latest design trends. Shouldn’t we apply the same rigor when we’re looking for that dream design job? Land Your Dream Design Job is a comprehensive book about landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company. Learn what skills are expected of designers and how to demonstrate them throughout the job search process. You’ll identify your next opportunity and target your job search process to stand out as a candidate when submitting your portfolio. You’ll find a detailed breakdown of interviews and how to prepare for them: phone screens, portfolio presentations, behavioral, cross-functional, app critiques, whiteboard challenges, and take-home exercises. Lastly, you’ll learn how to do your due diligence, negotiate compensation, and accelerate onboarding to your new role.
Courtney Nash — Editor
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