What Do You Look For In a Designer? Karson Shadley, Creative Director at Astro
If there is anyone who is qualified to answer questions for this column, it's Karson Shadley. With 15 years of consulting experience and 10 years teaching as an adjunct professor at CCA, the award-winning product designer has dedicated himself to a life of design and mentorship. For the last 5 years Shadley has worked as the Creative Director at Astro. The San Francisco firm has been spearheading design of brands, products and experiences - sometimes all at once - for over two decades. Their highly creative approach to every single thing they do has landed them major clients like Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nike and Pepsi, among others. Shadley, of course, is right in the middle of it all. Between his work at Astro and his many years teaching design, we knew he was an ideal person to ask about what he looks for when hiring new talent.
What do you look for when hiring a designer?
We first look for a strong core skillset combined with thoughtful storytelling and clear understanding of how to communicate an idea. Then we dive deeper and look for unique perspectives and a personality that will complement the current line-up of designers in our studio. The best is when designers show their side projects that reveal more about their passions and interests.
Is there a particular "tell" that signals a good or bad fit?
There are times when it is clear that a designer would fit well at Astro. They tend to have an easy smile and a balance of confidence and calm with very little ego.
What is your best interview "horror story"?
I can't recall a specific horror story but one time a guy came in for an interview and turned it into a sales pitch for a rubber belt. I bought three. One in each color.
What is the single most valuable piece of advice you could give to those on the hunt?
Don't be afraid to reach out to designers you admire. Be personable and understand that it can take time to find the right fit. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts and a few different jobs before you find the place that's right for you.
Do you have any specific advice for recent graduates, or people just starting straight out from school?
Set your goals high and go after them but balance that with the knowledge that the competition is steep and it may take time. Craft your portfolio in a way that shows what excites you and don't pretend to know everything. Update or redo projects that need love. Never stop refining your portfolio.
Regarding creative employment, what do you know now that you wished you knew then?
Even though our jobs are pretty great, it's not all fun and games. Design is hard work and there will be times when feelings of frustration and anxiety run high, there will be a lot of late nights and most of your designs will never see the light of day. But it's hard to beat the feeling when you bust your butt with your team and create something you can be proud to put out into the world.
Want to know more about Karson Shadley and Astro? Visit Astro Studios!