Published at the beginning of the summer—just in time for freshly minted design grads to take note but relevant for just about any designer these days—Breaking In: Product Design (Tuk Tuk Press, 2014) by Amina Horozic offers dozens of insights into today’s highly competitive job market. Featuring interviews with over 100 designers from across the industry and around the globe, the book is a valuable resource for anyone looking to get their foot in the door at design-led companies big and small (see the full list of interviewees and companies here). We turned the tables on Horozic, who revealed a bit of her own background and process in a Q&A
Core77: This the second book in the ‘Breaking In’ series; how did it come about? Were you familiar with the first book in the series Breaking In: Advertising by William Burks Spencer, or had you been working on this project independently?
No, I was not familiar with the first book at all. I had just wrapped up my MBA in Design Strategy at California College of the Arts, and was working as an industrial designer at frog when my colleague Catherine Sun sent me an e-mail, saying, “You’d be perfect for this.” Essentially, she forwarded me the publisher’s e-mail asking if anyone knew of any industrial designers interested in writing a similar book about how to break into the field. Recalling firsthand the amount of time it took me to craft a portfolio and cater it to appropriate employer and industry—I’m a classically trained car designer who “jumped ship” into consulting world—I jumped at the chance to discover what everyone is looking for.
The rest is history. I simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to try and talk to all of these industrial design gurus; a lot of them were my personal heroes.
How did you find the interviewees? What was the criteria for them? Did you know some of them before you took on the book? I imagine the project picked up its own momentum through word of mouth as well…
The only criteria from the publisher was that they had to be management level or up, essentially designers who are making hiring decisions—which eliminated about 90% of my personal network at the time as we were all in our mid-to-late 20s, and still in the trenches. For context, I started this book back in 2011, so my background as it stands today was not that wide or rich. And I had to interview a minimum of 100 designers.
Of course, I leveraged people I had known at Chrysler and at frog, alongside Career Services at my alma mater College for Creative Studies—but honestly, a lot of it was my own legwork. I wrote down all of the car companies, all of the consulting agencies, all of the revered products that came out—essentially, people and places one would want to work for or with—and then I searched for the contacts online and through my network. I was actually quite surprised by how many replied back with interest, they loved the idea of the book!
Basically, I was determined to cover all of the branches of our field: automotive design, product design, furniture design, soft goods, consultancies and solo practices. As Kickstarter was getting traction, I made sure to include at least one success story from there. I also wanted to include some young guns, who started their own firms straight out of college. I wanted to show aspiring designers that there are many ways to “break in.” I was also adamant to have a global representation, to show that opportunities abound everywhere. The book literally has a designer from each continent, aside from Antarctica. I also included educators to get an academic perspective for comparison. Finally, as a woman, I was adamant to include women in industrial design leadership positions, as well—something that was sadly notoriously difficult to find.
Somehow the big question is always: so what “big names” are in the book? The thing is, for every Yves and Ralph and Jony, there are tons of design leaders (and designers) out there whose work has revolutionized our everyday lives, but who remain relatively anonymous. I truly hope that with this book—and the accompanying Breaking In blog where we feature their work and bios—the design community learns more about who is behind the products we use, and admire, every day.