Portfolio Design Wisdom Alum Derek Chan's Shares Career Advice from Tenure at R/GA and Instagram

by Olivia G. October 18, 2019

Since leaving the walls of the Interaction Design studio in 2011, Derek has proceeded to fill impressive design roles as an Associate Creative Director at R/GA and, most recently, as a Product Designer at Instagram. In these positions, Derek has reviewed many portfolios of prospective candidates. Throughout the lecture he shared insights from a designer’s perspective, while also illustrating the viewpoint of a potential hiring manager. 

Woman works on her portfolio.

After hearing from Derek, second-year student Kenrick Ramsay said, “I felt clear on concepts of what’s necessary to get you in the door, like talking to the right people and improving the quality of your portfolio over quantity.”

Beginning with portfolio basics, Derek pointed out a necessary reminder that the candidate has about five minutes or less to gain interest from the person perusing their portfolio. To make the best first impression, Derek advised to always focus on quality over quantity and selectively curate the projects we show based on the job we are seeking. In these precious five minutes, a hiring manager might not have enough time to thoroughly read through a case study or full documentation. That being stated, we must still consider the story each piece might demonstrate, namely set the context with research and data, show visuals and prototypes, and articulate the outcome of the work by exhibiting impactful results or describing personal growth.

First-year student Liz Wang found value in Derek’s imperatives for presenting work in an interview. “It was very helpful hearing his perspective on making a presentation instead of just showing your portfolio, and having two solid projects ready to present,” Liz shared with me. 

In Derek’s final notes, he left students with three big takeaways, namely: 

  1. Focus on craft
  2. Use a simple narrative to talk about work
  3. Make a presentation to show thoughtfulness and consideration when interviewing

I’m confident that with Derek’s wisdom, we are all destined for success. We hope to continue to learn from the experiences of the amazing Interaction Design alumni in our network.

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