Passion, dedication and drivel

With degree show fever about to grip the nation, and the furious typing that will no doubt accompany every graduating designer’s application process, I thought I might be a little less serious in my blog posting. Each and every year, we – and I’m sure every other company that gets listed in Google when someone types in ‘product design’ – get inundated with a barrage of sycophantic pleasantries from countless ‘aspiring’ designers looking to find a job.

In the main, most of these are well intentioned, well crafted, well delivered and well received. Young designers looking for jobs need to hear feedback, be it good OR bad. Not simply a vast wall of silence, which is more often the case. I can feel myself meandering off into another rant, but I’ll curtail it…I’m trying to be a little less ‘ranty’ and a little more light hearted!

One such element of these application letters and CV’s which both tickles me and seems to be increasing in emphasis, year on year, is the ‘personal statement’.

I’m not sure if the higher education system is encouraging students to write ever more flamboyant statements, or if its simply a by-product of information being more easily accessible and students needing to be ever more daring in order to stand out. Either way, I find it amusing to read these personal statements, and imagine the possible realities behind each of the phrases, sentences and buzzwords they have decided to use.

As a result, I thought I’d offer you all my own personal, internal ‘babelfish’ for these statements, and – if you are a young graduate designer currently attempting to write one – how your statement might be interpreted if you happen to send it to someone as warped as me!

So here goes…

“I am an enthusiastic designer”
“I’m not all that good at sketching, but I’ll fill a Letraset pad with absolute drivel, faster than you can drink a cup of tea, and I’ll agree with everything you say. In fact, can I get you a cup of tea?”

“I have a good eye for detail”
“I spent bloody ages modelling up the battery cover on my final year product, and have loads of renderings showing closeups to avoid you noticing that I didn’t actually have a good, long hard think about the underlying reason for the actual product itself.”

“It gave me opportunities to expand my horizons”
I didn’t actually do all that well in my modules, but I’ve been on quite a few holidays and my girlfriend is from Switzerland.”

“It stems from my love of problem solving”
“I had some LEGO when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I can remember how to wire a plug. Oh, and I can assemble an IKEA futon without losing any digits.”

“I have a passion for branding”
“I’m a bit shit at product design, despite having done a 4 year course, but I’m quite handy with Illustrator and I’ve done a logo for my Mum’s friend’s interior decoration business.”

“I see myself as determined and passionate”
“I won’t listen to a thing you tell me as I’m the fuckin’ bomb. You hear me? I have my own Wacom Cintiq. I expect to be given my own projects from the get-go and I expect you all to fall to your knees when I enter the room.”

“I love to collaborate and work in teams”
“All my course modules are essentially the fruits of someone else’s labours. I reluctantly worked with others but couldn’t opt out as it would prove that I didn’t actually contribute in any way at all.”

“I’m keen to address issues related to the circular economy”
“I’ve read this phrase somewhere, along with ‘the internet of things’ and figure that I’d better bung it in somewhere so it at least looks like I am up with the lingo. I don’t actually have the first clue WTF I’m talking about. Please don’t ask me about it.”

“I am driven and conscientious”
“Firstly, I had to look up how to spell conscientious. Secondly, I will basically linger in the studio until the last person forces me out of the building, and I’ll constantly take notes in every meeting I attend, despite not having a clue what I’m taking notes about.”

“I design for real world needs”
“Again, I don’t actually know what this means. It sounded good when I copied from the internet. I think it means that I have to consider the needs of those poor, unfortunate people who have to actually work for a living.”

“I understand the unspoken needs of the user”
“I haven’t asked anyone their opinion. I just made up some research after I’d designed my major project and made it fit. I’m actually rather proud of how many ‘unspoken’ needs I’ve managed to address in my project…don’t you agree?”

“I am an innovator”
“No one understood my major project at all. In essence, my appalling degree grade reflects the ignorance of the education system and the fact that they never appreciated true ground breaking innovation. It had nothing to do with my lazy disposition and tendency to smoke weed.”

“I want the opportunity to learn and grow”
“I know jackshit, and seriously need someone to tell me how to do this design stuff. If I can get a job in a big enough company, I can pretty much blend into the background, go for a pint with everyone, every night after work and hope that no-one realises that I can’t even tie my own shoelaces.”

“Understanding the importance of aesthetics”
“I can draw pretty things but please don’t ask me how it’s made. I won’t have a clue.”

“I have a keen interest in all things design”
“I trawl the internet too much and have a Pinterest account filled with Dieter Rams and Apple products. I have read the first half of Steve Jobs’ autobiography and I own an iPhone 5C. I should really get out more and talk to real people.”

“I can balance form and function”
“My work is neither aesthetic, nor functional, but at least they are both in balance.”

“I relish the challenges ahead of me”
“I’m scared shitless. After 17 years in education, I don’t really want to enter the ‘real world’. Maybe I should go on and do a Masters?”

You’ll be pleased to know that each and every phrase was taken from a genuine personal statement, and I’m sure you will recognise each and every one of them. It just demonstrates that no matter how well written and captivating your statement may be, there is nothing better than making personal contact with people and being determined. I’m constantly amazed by how many graduates expect to get a job simply by peppering the ‘usual suspects’ of the design consultancy world with a CV+portfolio+covering letter and sitting back to wait for a reply. Having worked in a variety of agencies, both big and small, I can attest to the fact that, whilst all are well intentioned and will try to give every email the attention it deserves, the reality is that time is like gold dust. You don’t even have to be the most talented candidate on paper. Just the best ‘fit’….and ‘fit’ is subjective.

Anyway, I have merely exposed the tip of the ‘personal statement’ iceberg. I would love everyone to add their versions and interpretations in the comments section, if only to bring a little light relief to a Friday afternoon! What with my earlier blog post about the key skills expectant in a graduate product designer (see here), I feel I may well put off anyone every applying to work at Square Banana again. Hey ho.

One thought on “Passion, dedication and drivel

  1. Reminds me of being a recent post graduate, fresh out of university with a newly minted Masters in Engineering Product Design. Got into the interview schedule for Rolls Royce accelerated graduate program, did all the pscho metric tests, the mechanical theory tests, the presentation and group work role play for a day – still remoaning the fact that I’d, just that week before, shaved off my dreadlocks.

    Didn’t get onto the program, phoned for feedback (something that should be mandatory for hiring and interviews, even if you fail them) and they came back with “Your presentation skills are good, you’re comfortable with assuming leadership in a group situation – but your mechanical engineering skills are woeful.”

    Harsh, but entirely fair.


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