FAQ for Juniors

Published July 28, 2019

These questions come up often from junior designers who I meet along the way and I figured it might make sense to keep them here instead of repeatedly typing it out every time.

Take this all with a grain of salt. It is based off my personal experience with hiring Designers, teaching Design, and being one myself for more than ten years. This doesn't necessarily mean I'm right in every situation or context.


What do you look for when hiring?

It depends on the project I’m hiring for (complexity of project), who is already on the team (personality type), and what stage the company is at (can the environment support mentorship).

There is no template here. In a junior, I tend to look for potential, speed of skill acquisition, and curiousity. In a senior, I tend to look for critical thinking ability, experience like whatever project I am interested in matching them to, and strong communication skills.

It should go without saying that’s a spectrum and intermediates are slotted along that spectrum where appropriate.

What should I put in my portfolio?

What resources do you recommend?

What do you want to learn? Part of your job is visual communication, part of it is research, and part of it is communication and facilitation. A junior is unlikely to be great at any of these yet but they should have a basic understanding of the following:

To get yourself some practice:

What else can I learn?

Most Designers specialize in something but similar to artists, they’re not all the same. Try to spend the first part of your career widening your breadth not necessarily in skillset, rather, in knowledge. This gives you the greatest opportunity to be able to identify what you care about.

You can do this through: conferences, checking out different types of design (like architecture), related creative professions (like illustration), going to art galleries, etc. etc. Design is a cultured profession revolving around people. Act accordingly.

What are some red flags during interviews?

There aren’t many. We know you’re nervous, take your time.

Anything else?


1 "Do you think every Designer should learn how to visually design?" I think visual design is not necessary for every job however it's a building block of communication and having poor skills in this area tends to limit your ability to be resourced to a large number of projects.

2 "Helen, why would I learn graphic design history? I want to be a product designer for now!" Building your understanding of art movements and graphic design history will build your visual library and give you some basic tools on how to start visual projects without copying everyone else. I will die on this hill.