Design 'Speed Dating' at the University of Illinois Design Job Fair 2016

John Henken | March 16, 2016

As the saying goes; “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The latter part of that platitude was in strong evidence at the recent annual University of Illinois Design Job Fair held at the Chicago Merchandise Mart which was graciously hosted by the Herman Miller Corporation.

Herman Miller has always had design and process at the forefront of their product development. How apt then that they open their lovely and comfortable showroom annually for this great event! Students and design professionals chattered away enthusiastically amongst the beautiful furniture designs of our predecessors: Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, and contemporary Yves Behar.

It was a day of Design “speed dating” with professionals from an array of design companies reviewing U of I Design student portfolios and coaching them individually in 20 minute intervals. My MG colleague and boss, Rob Majerowski, and I make a point of connecting and coaching young designers whenever we can. This year was my turn and a significant portion of the 13 students I met with recalled Rob’s “fishing” tips from the previous year.

For the “fishing” adage to work, the student needs to want to learn. And boy…do they! These young men and women from across the US and abroad are hungry for practical pointers, appreciative of coaching, and open to criticism. The level of work was very impressive. It is one thing to design well…but designers need to be able to articulate the “hows” and “whys” of their solutions. These young people get it!

I was very impressed by the sophisticated level of visual and verbal communication I saw this year. They are becoming skilled story tellers, and thoughtful, confident, young designers. Their work evidenced a good understanding of Design process: 1. Research 2. Ideation 3. Resolution 4. Implementation 5. Resulting Solution. [We put these steps into practice daily in our own studio.]

They explained their work in simple and easy to understand sections that built a case for why they designed as they had, and what the benefit of their design was to the end user. Equally important; they did so in ways that were compelling and memorable.

Design without process is like fishing without a pole. Occasionally you might catch one…but by and large…you and your client will go hungry. We pride ourselves on our “fishing” skills here at MG. And we’re excited to be able to help teach a new generation of young designers learn how to fish.