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.

Putting It Together

The final presentation came down to 40+ slides in four chapters:

  1. Research synthesis. Show already-existing behaviors of people in relation to semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles.

  2. Contextual scenarios. Show storyboards highlighting divergent exploration, ultimately converging on the final segment of the presentation.

  3. Sarah’s story. Illustrates how technology and people’s needs come together and solve a customer’s problem.

The context of tech and research made the audience understand what solutions are possible, and Sarah’s story illustrated a specific use case.

A couple of years ago I went to an AIGA event where I met the fine folks at Ueno. One of the designers mentioned how if a client asks for coffee, don’t just bring excellent coffee but bring chocolate. Understanding the underlying but unspoken need is key. In my case chocolate was a box.

Figure: Physical Prototypes

Sometimes to think outside the box you have to think inside the box.

Sometimes to think outside the box you have to think inside the box.

At the last minute, a few hours before the interview, since I’d already sent the deck for a pre-read, I decided to build a physical prototype of an autonomous vehicle. I spent about an hour cutting up boxes and gluing cardboard together. What if we could have customers co-design the experience by interacting with the physical prototype?


The on-site presentation of this exercise was my third to last interview. I lucked out on the presentation space, as Sarah’s story came to life on a beautiful large display. The box and the rough sketches surprised and delighted the interviewers, as they had never seen anything like it.

This is one way to solve a design exercise but not the only way. I do hope that by showing some of my process behind the work and the deliverables, you can see how I’ve followed (or ignored) the design exercise principles (they’re not set in stone) based on the situation at hand.

The design exercise is an opportunity to leave your personal mark on the work. Take it and have fun with it. Find out what the evaluation criteria will be and use your unique perspective, experience, and knowledge to stand out.

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Design is hard. Finding the right job doesn’t have to be.

You’ve just found the most detailed guide ever written to landing a product design job. Understand what you want, build your portfolio, interview with confidence, and get the job that’s right for you.

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Length: 250 pages
Edition: e1.0.0
Last Updated: 2020-12-09
Language: English
ISBN (print):

Land Your Dream Design Job

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 NashEditor

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