Although we're a health nonprofit, design is a big part of what we do here at Health for America. Along with everyone else in the lean startup and design thinking world, "user experience design" (UXD) is one of our buzzwords: improving people's interactions with a product or process by making it easier to use. Last week at SXSW Interactive, the HFA team explored how to apply the UXD process to a number of tools, including wearables, prototypes, patient interactions, and even the job search process.
I attended a session called "Your Portfolio is Garbage, Make it Better" with Vimeo's Director of Design, Justin Dickinson, and the UX Director at Wondersauce, Michael Yap. What it boils down to, as Dickinson and Yap both expressed, is that the design process is messy and portfolios conveniently ignore the mess.
How do you apply user experience design when you are the product?
Dickinson and Yap provided the hiring managers' perspective, and the main takeaways were:
The resume is dead. “Of all the collateral I get about someone, the resume is the least important and least exciting," said Dickinson. “I’m way more interested in the cover letter.”
Writing skills are important, even if you're not applying to be a writer. "As hiring managers, we ask, 'Is the designer a good writer?' I use that to determine the tightness of someone's mind," said Yap.
They need to know the depth of your work ethic. “As a designer, you should be giving something back that’s better than what was asked… you’re not just executing and moving down the to-do list," said Dickinson.
Emotional intelligence is required. Argue like you’re right, listen like you’re wrong.
They need to know what motivates you. “To be honest, we seek out intrinsically motivated folks," said Yap. If you are only motivated by money, status, and power, it's clear you won't contribute as much to the work community.
Criticism should be inward-focused in an interview. If you need to express dissatisfaction during the job-seeking process, it should be aimed at yourself, not blaming those you've worked with in the past.
Designers need to exhibit leadership to be successful. For Yap and Dickinson, leadership means holistic thinking, an ability to work with little direction, and authenticity. "I look for a person who has no separation between her work self and her professional self. She is just a design being," said Yap.
Give credit where credit is due. Be generous. If you're truly talented and confident, then you're willing to share all the knowledge you've accrued.
Show, don't tell. If you don't have relevant experience to share in your portfolio, figure out a different way to show that you have competency in that field. For example, think about three things that annoy you, and then go through the design process of how to fix them. Show your work. "We’ll view it as important because it’s insight into your process," said Yap. "It's speculative design," said Dickinson. "It’s good UX practice."
“Are you the rare unicorn who can do all the prototyping and all the copy? That’s what we’re looking for.” @jmdickinson of @Vimeo #SXSW
— Kat Clark (@heykatclark) March 15, 2015
"The resume is dead." @jmdickinson @michaelryap Design portfolio session at #SXSW. pic.twitter.com/aVDAOAJ5fQ