Tips on how to showcase projects for a successful interview

Designer at desk with nearby art artifacts
Designer at desk with nearby art artifacts
Illustration by Peter Tarka

Every company I’ve ever applied to as a product designer has required a portfolio presentation interview. It’s a great way for employers to learn more about who you are and what projects you’ve worked on. It’s also a chance for you to discuss how you collaborate with others to solve problems, showcase what you’re capable of producing, and exhibit your skillset to your new potential team.

I’d recommend preparing a slide-deck for the presentation as they’re the best storytelling tool in my opinion. Below are my tips for success for a successful portfolio review:

1. Start by introducing yourself.

A great way to set the tone for the presentation is to kick-off the first few slides by sharing your background. This portion shouldn’t last more than 1–2 minutes as it’s a way for your presenters to quickly learn who you are. …


Introducing transparency into MongoDB’s team and culture

MongoDB’s career page featuring our “Meet the Team” blog post
MongoDB’s career page featuring our “Meet the Team” blog post
Our product design piece featured on our company blog!

Diving into a company’s blog is one of the best ways I learn about an organization. It offers a glimpse into who I could be potentially working with, the projects I could take ownership of, and what the culture is like. In a sense, my first impression can be formed prior to meeting anyone from the teams.

With these thoughts in mind, I conceived the idea of creating a blog post series to highlight our designers at MongoDB. I was certain it’d be a great avenue to educate candidates on who we are, what we do, and what we find important. …


A closer look at the artist’s thought-provoking projects within the environmental context

Artist standing in a gradient mist
Artist standing in a gradient mist
Image credit: CNN News

As creatives, it’s undeniable that we propagate ourselves into our work. Our backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs help shape our decisions regarding the projects we take on and the messages we amplify. There’s no doubt that with the presence of an audience comes great responsibility — especially in leveraging mediums to stir conversations we find important.

In the case of Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist known for his installation pieces, art is seen as a platform to share ideas and inspire change. …


Applied user strategies in becoming a unicorn company

Collage of Glossier products and models
Collage of Glossier products and models
Image source: Get the Gloss

If you aren’t living under a rock, chances are you may have heard of, seen, or purchased a product from Glossier in recent years.

That’s because this beauty brand has taken millennial consumer markets by storm, climbing into unicorn territory ($1.2 billion valuation) in a matter of six years. Today, the company sports over two million Instagram followers, $100+ million in annual revenue from its line of thirty-six products, and an impressive cult following since its mere inception in 2014.

Collage of Glossier models
Collage of Glossier models
Image source: Transparency Global

You might wonder — why is Glossier so popular?


Key components and lasting influence of a memorable brand

Apple branding
Apple branding
Iconic Apple branding from their current homepage

In its simplest form, branding is the practice of influencing and controlling a set of associations with a company to help the business’s performance. Done successfully, an organization’s identity will be tied to select attributes—promoting its image or popularity.

While absolute control over a brand is not possible, it can be influenced through deliberate design, advertising, and marketing. By these means, companies can clearly communicate the principles they stand for to target audiences. Considering the power of this practice, it’s crucial that an organization masters the pillars of creating a strong brand to get ahead.

What is strong branding?

A strong brand adds value to your product.

It differentiates you from competitors by helping you achieve recognition and clarifies expectations for customers. The key is in highlighting the contrast between what you can offer and what already exists in the market. …


Examples of brands that have mastered the art of storytelling in color palettes

Models in pastel silk gowns in front of a courtyard
Models in pastel silk gowns in front of a courtyard
Taken by Greg Swales

The application of fashion as a form of aesthetic expression is a notion familiar to many. Every day, we curate ourselves with inspiration from rising trends, a perception of our personal preferences, and regards to practicality in the context of our environments.

This relationship we form between body and material in response to time and place juxtaposes many different factors — undoubtedly, color as one of the most prominent elements. …


How to conduct usability studies to create well-designed products

3D illustration of a user interface and its components
3D illustration of a user interface and its components
Illustration by Peter Tarka

As product designers, harnessing skills in user research is crucial to our roles (if not already a requirement sought from most companies nowadays). Being able to effectively detect users’ pain points to then devise core insights lends itself to well-designed applications. In all, learning how to conduct user testing ultimately helps in creating the best user experiences.

First, what does it mean for a design to be usable?

“It means that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can figure out how to accomplish something without it being more trouble than its worth.” —Steve Krug from Don’t Make Me Think

The answer to a design problem often depends on the context. However, it can be agreed that a well-integrated design is one that fills a need and is carefully thought out, well-executed, and tested.


The minds behind this contemporary minimalist artistry and where we see its influence

Staircase illuminated by a glowing blue light
Staircase illuminated by a glowing blue light
Apani, 2011, by James Turrell, from the series Ganzfeld. © James Turrell. Photography: Florian Holzherr from wallpaper.com

Ever since minimalism momentously gained popularity in the 1960’s, the “Light and Space” movement has naturally acquired prominence for its stunning juxtaposition in geometric abstraction, luminescence, and space. Artwork from this distinctive style is notable for its use of glass, neon, and cutting-edge fabrication to showcase transparency, reflection, and eye-trickery in mind-bending expanses. In looking to its artists who embrace the personal, theatrical experience of the viewer and their related work, we can best understand “Light and Space” in its stand-alone artistry.

Larry Bell

The world’s first introduction toLight and Space” was at the 1971 UCLA Art Gallery exhibition titled “Transparency, Reflection, Light, Space.” There, Larry Bell—an American contemporary artist and sculptor—debuted glass boxes and large-scaled illusionistic sculptures that caught notable attention of eyes on the West Coast. …


A first-hand, updated account of the industry and role in 2020

Picture of a desk with artistic props
Picture of a desk with artistic props
Illustration by Peter Tarka

In the mentoring calls I conduct with students, the two most frequently brought up questions are — what is product design and what does the role of a product designer entail?

I’m here to debunk the mysterious aura behind the field and shed light on the role. While my day-to-day as a designer shifts based on numerous factors, most of what I do falls under a rhythmic routine that floats between different responsibilities. The information I share below stems from my former design internships and full-time roles.

What is product design?

Product design is the all-encompassing process of creative problem-solving. It’s the thoughtful, intentional application of design knowledge to craft functional, intuitive user experiences.


What it was and how its principles are seen in today’s era

Photo of the Bauhaus building
Photo of the Bauhaus building
Image from Curbed

There are very few movements in history that carry the distinctive ethos of progressiveness the Bauhaus holds in the artistic realm. Massively ahead of its time, this school of thought tackled existing converging relationships between art, society, and technology to pave impressive waves of innovation. Its teachings defined a new bar of excellence and can be exhibited in iconic digital and physical spaces today.

More than a century since its inception, it’s still considered the most influential school of our time despite the fourteen years of its existence. …

About

Michelle Chiu

Product designer at MongoDB (130K+ views). Prev. Apple, Microsoft, BuzzFeed, DoorDash, Frog Design, & Wish. Follow my newsletter: michelle-chiu.com/newsletter.

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