Trump: False God

Update: A 18" x 24" screenprinted version of this poster is now available at my Etsy shop.

Golden bust of Donald Trump

[Trump rally regulars] describe, in different ways, a euphoric flow of emotions between themselves and the president, a sort of adrenaline-fueled, psychic cleansing that follows 90 minutes of chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded Trump junkies.
“Once you start going, it’s kind of like an addiction, honestly,” said April Owens, a 49-year-old financial manager in Kingsport, Tenn., who has been to 11 rallies. “I love the energy. I wouldn’t stand in line for 26 hours to see any rock band. He’s the only person I would do this for, and I’ll be here as many times as I can.”

— Michael C. Bender, Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2019

Sixteen months before the insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, Donald Trump was already in the midst of touring the southeastern US, holding rallies to support his 2020 re-election bid. During his initial run for the 2016 election, he held 323 rallies, creating a wake of fans who held onto every one of his words, whether by speech, interview, or tweet. Some diehards would even follow him across the country like deadheads following The Grateful Dead, attending dozens of rallies.

There’s no doubt that Trump is charismatic and has mesmerized a particular segment of the American populace. His approval ratings during his presidency never dropped below 34%. They admire his willingness to shake up the system and say what’s on his mind, unafraid of backlash for being politically incorrect. 

But Trump is a media-savvy Svengali who has been cultivating his public persona for decades. He went from being a frequent mention in the New York City tabloids to national notoriety when his reality show, The Apprentice, portrayed him as a take-no-prisoners, self-made billionaire business tycoon. 1  

His charm and ego carried him into the presidency in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College but losing the popular vote by 2.9 million. Once he became the most powerful man on the planet, Trump’s narcissistic tendencies only grew worse. 

At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist who rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Trump reacted by saying there was “blame on both sides,” adding that he believed there were “very fine people on both sides.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan urged Trump to be the country’s moral compass. “You’re the president of the United States. You have a moral leadership obligation to get this right and not declare there is a moral equivalency here.” But Trump fed on the adoration of his fans, saying, “These people love me. These are my people. I can’t backstab the people who support me.”

Donald Trump would shore up that support up to and after the 2020 election. On November 7, 2020, three days after Election Day, Joe Biden was declared the winner by the Associated Press, Fox News, and other major networks. Trump didn’t concede and would launch a campaign calling the election rigged and that he had won, without evidence.

There was no evidence of widespread election fraud. More than 50 lawsuits alleging fraud or irregularities were dismissed by the courts—many of whom were Trump appointees. But Trump, desperate to hold onto his power, fueled by his unbridled narcissism, called on his supporters to “stop the steal” by marching to the Capitol on January 6, 2021, the day the election was to be certified by the United States Congress. On December 19, 2020, “Be there, will be wild!” he tweeted.

On January 6, 2021, a mob of angry Trump supporters descended onto the US Capitol after being riled up by a speech by President Donald Trump. They stormed the building, overwhelming the Capitol Police, injuring many of them, and causing lawmakers to flee for their lives. 

The FBI estimates that as many as 2,000 people were involved in the attack. More than 850 people have been charged so far. Many told authorities that Donald Trump told them to go to Washington, DC that day, march on the Capitol, and disrupt the certification ceremony.

Donald Trump is now the subject of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, and is likely under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

In Bellville, Texas, about an hour northwest of Houston, a shrine to Donald Trump was erected in 2020, months before the November election and the attack on the Capitol in January. A burger joint named Trump Burger sits next to a Cricket Wireless store and across from a triangular dirt lot. Among the open-flame grill and buns branded “TRUMP,” are photos of the smiling former president and T-shirts that say “Jesus is my savior. Donald Trump is my president.” The restaurant’s owner, a second-generation Lebanese-American, loves Trump’s economic policies while he was president. Moreover, he admires Trump’s businessman reputation since he is a business owner himself. Blue “Trump 2024” flags adorn most walls of the restaurant. Even tiny “Trump 2024” flags on toothpicks hold burgers together. 

In her closing statement during the Select Committee’s July 21 hearing, Republican Representative Liz Cheney said, “And every American must consider this. Can a President who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6th ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?”

The followers of Donald Trump see him as a god. They decorate their homes and businesses with his likeness. They wait hours in line and gather to hear his sermons. They heed his every word. But he is a false god. His supporters may not realize or are willfully ignorant of Trump’s narcissism. He has been a menace to American democracy not because of his ideology, for he has none. Instead, he has brought our democratic experiment to the brink because of his lust for approval.

Trump will likely make another run to become president again. To save our country, we cannot allow that to happen, for he is who our Founders warned us about.

When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”

— Alexander Hamilton, in a note to George Washington, August 18, 1792

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I collaborated with Roberto Vescovi again, who modeled the Putin bust I used in the “Putin: False” poster. Mr. Vescovi sculpted the Trump bust. The final scene was composed in Cinema 4D and rendered using Redshift. The poster was assembled in Photoshop. 

References

Bender, Michael C. “‘It’s Kind of Like an Addiction’: On the Road With Trump’s Rally Diehards.” Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2019.

“1980s: How Donald Trump Created Donald Trump.” NBC News, July 6, 2016.

Lempinen, Edward. “Despite drift toward authoritarianism, Trump voters stay loyal. Why?.” Berkeley News, December 7, 2020.

McAdams, Dan P. “A Theory for Why Trump’s Base Won’t Budge.” The Atlantic, December 2, 2019. 

“2016 United States presidential election.” Wikipedia, August 6, 2022.

“Timeline of the 2020 United States presidential election (November 2020–January 2021).” Wikipedia, August 2, 2022.

Clark, Doug Bock, Alexandra Berzon, Kirsten Berg. “Building the “Big Lie”: Inside the Creation of Trump’s Stolen Election Myth.” ProPublica, April 26, 2022.

Sherman, Amy. “A timeline of what Trump said before Jan. 6 Capitol riot.” PolitiFact, January 22, 2021.

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1 Never mind that he received a lot of help from his father, bankrupted six of his companies, and didn’t pay small business owners.

Putin: False

Update 3: This poster wins a Gold Award in the Graphis Poster 2024 Awards.

Update 2: A 18" x 24" screen-printed version of this poster is now available at my Etsy shop. It’s four colors: red, blue, black, and gold; and printed on thick 100 lb French Paper Co. cover stock. Proceeds will be donated to help Ukraine.

Update 1: I had copies of the poster printed in Kyiv and posted around the city.

“…I want a man like Putin
One like Putin, full of strength
One like Putin, who won't be a drunk
One like Putin, who wouldn't hurt me
One like Putin, who won't run away!”

— Lyrics from a popular Russian pop song, “One Like Putin,” from 2010.

Vladimir Putin has long been regarded as a divine hero in Russia. Propagandist imagery such as him riding shirtless on horseback, shooting a tiger with a tranquilizing dart to save a group of journalists, racing in an F1 car on a track, or defeating an opponent in martial arts, help cultivate an image of Putin as a strong, masculine savior—the only one who could lead Russia against the West. These and many more staged acts of supposed strength and bravery have turned him into a sex symbol in the country for women and a man’s man for men.

Evoking the biblical story of the Golden Calf, this poster calls out the worship of Vladimir Putin as a false idol or god. He is not the righteous leader many Russians believe him to be. Instead, he is a vengeful, scheming autocrat who assassinates those he perceives have wronged him or Mother Russia. And he wages wars with sovereign nations under the guise of anti-Naziism. 

Golden bust of Vladimir Putin, against a red backdrop, and below with the word FALSE in Russian and English

This cultish infatuation with Putin’s strongman qualities has extended beyond Russia’s borders to inspire the acceptance and admiration of other autocratic leaders, including Viktor Orban of Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, and Benjamin Netanyahu, former prime minister of Israel. But most chilling was the rise of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

The veneration of men as gods is incredibly dangerous to liberal democracies. 

The Putin 3D model was created in collaboration with Roberto Vescovi. The final scene was composed in Cinema 4D and rendered using Redshift. The poster was assembled in Photoshop. 

References

Oliver, John. “Putin.” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, February 19, 2017.

Sperling, Valerie. “Putin's macho personality cult.” (PDF) Communist and Post-Communist Studies, January 11, 2016.

Rachman, Gideon. “The international cult of Vladimir Putin.” Financial Times, January 31, 2022.


Update August 6, 2022: It’s posted in Kyiv.

Last month I reached out to fellow graphic designer Kateryna Korolevtseva who is based in Ukraine. I was searching for a local printer who would print this anti-Putin poster for me in the country. She recommended 24print in Kyiv.

I worked with the wonderful people at 24print, and they printed 30 copies of my poster and sent me some photos…

Protest poster mounted on some fencing
Protest poster affixed to a burned Russian tank
Protest poster affixed to a burned Russian tank
Protest posters and signs mounted on a fence
Protest poster held next to a burned Russian military vehicle
Protest poster mounted on some fencing

Update October 22, 2022: Limited edition screen print

To raise money for the victims of Russia’s inhumane war on Ukraine, I have screen printed a limited edition of this Putin poster. The poster was printed in Los Angeles, California on 100 lb. French Paper Co. cover stock, using four colors. The bust of Putin is printed in metallic gold with black ink for shading. It is a limited edition of 50, with each one hand numbered and signed by me. All proceeds will be donated to GlobalGiving’s Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. The fund is being used to support Ukrainians:

Please support this effort by purchasing a poster from my Etsy shop.

Woman holding up a protest poster. Poster is an image of an angry Putin, with the word FALSE below in Russian and English.

Update July 14, 2023: Gold Award Winner

I am incredibly honored to have my “Putin: False” poster recognized as a Gold winner in the Graphis Poster 2024 Awards. This was a passion project after the invasion of Ukraine, and I am glad to have helped even just a little.

Visualizing Minority Rule in the United States

The leaked draft of the majority opinion of Supreme Court justices seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey created a political firestorm in Washington, DC, and across the country. But, leak aside, the ruling—should it become final—is shocking. First, it reverses a 49-year precedent about the federal right to abortion. And according to legal experts, the reasoning that author Justice Samuel Alito uses could undo rights such as same-sex marriage, the right to contraception, and interracial marriage.

In a report about the leak, NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson says the leak is ”…going to spark this bigger debate that we’ve been having about whether the United States is turning into a minority rule country. A majority of the justices on the court were appointed by presidents who didn’t get a majority of the popular vote. And in some cases, the conservative justices were confirmed by senators representing a minority of voters.”

On the surface, I knew she was correct, but I wanted to dive into the numbers and see for myself. Once I did, I wanted to create a visual to show it.

This data visualization is meant to show the cumulative power Republicans have been able to wield as it relates to the seating of Supreme Court justices. I’ve correlated two different but related sets of data into one view: the popular vote counts for every president who nominated a justice to the current court, and the populations represented by the senators who confirmed these justices. 

In our representative government, each state gets two senators. Both represent the total residents in their state. And as we know, the populations of all 50 states vary a lot. The senators of Wyoming, the least populous state in the Union, represent 289,000* residents each. In comparison, the senators of California represent 19.6 million* residents each, over 6,780% more! In other words, each resident of Wyoming gets an outsized voice in the US Senate.

Chart showing the nine current Supreme Court justices, with column graphs displaying the popular vote for each nominating president and the population represented by their senate confirmation votes

Methodology

I started by gathering all my data from primary sources and placed them into a spreadsheet:

To determine the representative power for each senator’s vote, I multiplied their state’s population by 0.5 for each “Yea.” If a senator did not vote or voted “Present,” 100% of the state’s votes would be determined by the other senator because the state’s residents still needed to be represented.

Then I charted the numbers onto two sets of column graphs for every current justice of the Supreme Court.

Opinion

In a democracy, citizens need to feel that their voices are being heard, and that their votes matter. But it is disheartening when the candidate you voted for doesn’t win, even when they received a majority of the votes. And when there is an issue such as abortion rights that 70% of the country supports, and yet a minority of people can block that issue, it further proves to many that our democracy is broken and no longer works for the people. 

(View the raw data here.)

US Census Bureau population estimate as of July 2021

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Update: May 8, 2022

It was pointed out to me that George W. Bush won the popular vote in 2004, which preceded his nominations of Roberts and Alito the the Supreme Court. Indeed he did. It was my oversight because Bush did lose the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000 by 543,895, and that fact just stuck. But in Bush’s re-election bid, he beat John Kerry by three million votes. By the way, Mara Liasson makes the same mistake in the quote above. I have since corrected and updated my graphic. Apologies.

I Read the Newspaper Today, Oh Boy!

I can’t remember the last time I picked up a newspaper. At least ten years, maybe even twenty. But this morning, as I walked into my hotel restaurant for breakfast, they had one copy of today’s San Francisco Chronicle left. And I grabbed it.

I used to read the Chronicle all the time. Whether I bought it for a quarter from one of the hundreds of yellow and blue machines that dotted every corner in downtown San Francisco, from a newsstand sold by someone wearing fingerless gloves but whose fingertips were black with ink, or from somewhere within ten feet of my front door depending on the paperboy’s aim that morning.

I rarely read each story in every edition of the Chronicle. Instead, I had some favorite sections. I’d usually read the main stories in the A section and then US news. The B section was world news, which I often skipped. Usually, a few stories in the C section, Business, piqued my interest. And I always read through the Datebook, the paper’s entertainment and lifestyle area.

Reading a newspaper encourages discovery. In the Datebook section, I stumbled into the Comics & Puzzles spread. The signature green-tinted Sporting Green section is pictured behind.
Way before streaming, TV schedules were printed in newspapers and in TV Guide. I guess the Chronicle still does.

Physically, the newspaper is an ephemeral object. Its thin, crispy paper with perforated top and bottom edges dotted with small punched holes from the grabber, and ink that is kissed onto the paper with just enough resolution for the type and photos, but not enough to make them beautiful. There is no binding, no staples or glue to hold pages together—only folding. Each section is folded together, and the first section holds all the sections in a bundle. The newspaper is disposable; its only purpose is to convey the news, the content printed on its surface. It is not a keepsake. The paper stock yellows, and the ink fades relatively quickly, reflecting the freshness of the news within.

Reading a newspaper is an experience. Its sheer size is unwieldy and not exactly the best user experience. But there is something about spreading your arms wide to unfold it, hearing the crinkling of the paper, getting a whiff of the ink, and feeling the dryness of the stock between your fingers. This tactile experience engages more than just your eyes.

And maybe that is why I was hit with such a wave of nostalgia this morning when I picked up the Chronicle. I remembered Sunday mornings in a North Beach cafe, sipping a cappuccino and nibbling on a scone. Italian music was in the air mixed with the gurgles of the espresso machine and clanks of saucers and spoons. All while reading the newspaper for hours.

The Apple Design Process

I recently came across Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by former software engineer Ken Kocienda. It was in one of my social media feeds, and since I’m interested in Apple, the creative process, and having been at Apple at that time, I was curious.

I began reading the book Saturday evening and finished it Tuesday morning. It was an easy read, as I was already familiar with many of the players mentioned and nearly all the technologies and concepts. But, I’d done something I hadn’t done in a long time—I devoured the book.

Ultimately this book gave more color and structure to what I’d already known, based on my time at Apple and my own interactions with him. Steve Jobs was the ultimate creative director who could inspire, choose, and direct work. 

Kocienda describes a nondescript conference room called Diplomacy in Infinite Loop 1 (IL1), the first building at Apple’s then main campus. This was the setting for an hours-long meeting where Steve held court with his lieutenants. Their team members would wait nervously outside the room and get called in one by one to show their in-progress work. In Kocienda’s case, he describes a scene where he showed Steve the iPad software keyboard for the first time. He presented one solution that allowed the user to choose from two layouts: more keys but smaller keys or fewer keys but bigger. Steve asked which Kocienda liked better, and he said the bigger keys, and that was decided.

Before reading this book, I had known about these standing meetings. Not the one about software, but I knew about the MarCom meeting. Every Wednesday afternoon, Steve would hold a similar meeting—Phil Schiller would be there too, of course—to review in-progress work from the Marketing & Communications teams. This included stuff from the ad agency and work from the Graphic Design Group, where I was.

My department was in a plain single-story building on Valley Green Drive, a few blocks from the main campus and close to the Apple employee fitness center. The layout inside consisted of one large room where nearly everyone sat. Our workstations were set up on bench-style desks. Picture a six-foot table, with a workstation on the left facing north and another on the right facing south. There were three of these six-foot tables per row and maybe a dozen rows. Tall 48” x 96” Gatorfoam boards lined the perimeter of the open area. On these boards, we pinned printouts of all our work in progress. Packaging concepts, video storyboards, Keynote themes, and messaging headlines were all tacked up. 

There was a handful of offices at one end and two large offices in the back. One was called the Lava Lounge and housed a group of highly-skilled Photoshop and 3D artists. They retouched photos and recreated screenshots and icons at incredibly-high resolutions for use on massive billboards in their dim room, lit only by lava lamps. The other office was for people who were working on super secret projects. Of course, that was badge access only. 

My boss, Hiroki Asai, the executive creative director at the time, sat out in the open area with the rest of us. Every day around 4pm, he would walk around the perimeter of the room and review all the work. He’d offer his critique, which often ended up being, “I think this needs to be more…considered.” (He was always right!) A gaggle of designers, copywriters, and project managers would follow him around and offer their own opinions of the work as well. In other words, as someone who worked in the room, I had to pin up my work by 4pm every day and show some progress to get some feedback. Feedback from Hiroki was essential to moving work forward.

So every Wednesday afternoon, with a bundle of work tucked under his arms, he would exit the side door of the building and race over to IL1 to meet with Steve. I never went with him to those meetings. He usually brought project managers or creative directors. Some of the time, Hiroki would come back dejected after being yelled at by Steve, and some of the time, he’d come back triumphant, having got the seal of approval from him.

I like to tell one story about how our design team created five hundred quarter-scale mockups to get to an approval for the PowerMac G5 box. In the end, the final design was a black box with photos of the computer tower on each side of the box corresponding to the same side of the product. Steve didn’t want to be presented with only one option. He needed many. And then they were refined.

The same happened with the Monsters, Inc. logo when I was at USWeb/CKS. We presented Steve with a thick two-inch binder full of logo ideas. There must have been over a hundred in there.

Steve always expected us to do our due diligence, explore all options, and show our work. Show him that we did the explorations. He was the ultimate creative director.

That’s how Steve Jobs also approached software and hardware design, which is nicely recounted in Kocienda’s book. 

In the book, Kocienda enumerates seven essential elements in Apple’s (product) design process: inspiration, collaboration, craft, diligence, decisiveness, taste, and empathy. I would expand upon that and say the act of exploration is also essential, as it leads to inspiration. In Steve’s youth, he experimented with LSD, became a vegetarian, took classes on calligraphy, and sought spiritual teachers in India. He was exploring to find his path. As with his own life, he used the act of exploration to design everything at Apple, to find the right solutions.

As designers, copywriters, and engineers, we explored all possibilities even when we knew where we would end up, just to see what was out there. Take the five hundred PowerMac G5 boxes to get to a simple black box with photos. Or my 14 rounds of MacBuddy. The concept of exploring and then refining is the definition of “creative selection,” Kocienda’s play on Darwin’s natural selection. But his essential element of diligence best illustrates the obsessive refinement things went through at Apple. Quality isn’t magic. It’s through a lot of perspiration.

How to Put Your Stuff Together and Get a Job as a Product Designer: Part 3

This is the third article in a three-part series offering tips on how to get a job as a product or UX designer. Part 1 covers your resume and LinkedIn profile. Part 2 advises on your portfolio website.

Part 3: Interviewing

If you have stood out enough from the hundreds of resumes and portfolios a hiring manager has looked at, you’ll start the interview process.

From my point of view, as a design hiring manager, it’s all about mitigating risk. How do I know if you will do great work with us? How do I know that you’ll fit in with the team and positively change our dynamic? How do I know that your contributions will help get us to where we need to be?

Ultimately the interview process is very much like dating: we’re figuring out if we’re right for each other, slowly engendering trust, and showing interest—without overdoing it.

The interview process will vary for each company, but in general, it’ll be:

Intro Call

The first step in the interview process will be the introductory call. From the hiring side, this is known as the screening call. Usually, it’s a recruiter, and their job is to screen out applicants who don’t have the right qualifications and then gather a few essential pieces of information.

After the call is scheduled, have a couple of things ready beforehand before getting on the phone. The most important thing to do ahead is to research the company. Use Google, LinkedIn, and all the modern tools at your disposal to learn the basics of the company: what they do, what they sell, who their target users are, who their clients are (if an agency).

Also, have your salary expectations in mind. Most employers will pay market rate salaries similar to other companies of their size. A seed-stage startup will not be able to compensate you as much as Google. Do your research on GlassdoorPayscale, or other sites first. Shoot for maybe a little above average, but certainly, have a minimum in mind depending on your personal circumstance.

During the call, be prepared and be professional. A good recruiter will ask you about your salary expectations and your timeline (in case you’re interviewing elsewhere as well). If you pass the screen, you’ll probably talk to your future boss next.

Follow up with a thank-you email within an hour.

Hiring Manager Interview

Hopefully, your recruiter prepped you well for your first interview with the hiring manager. These interviews can take many forms, but in general, you’ll introduce yourself, talk about your work, and then there will be more of a Q and A.

In these interviews, as a design hiring manager, I’m trying to understand the following:

The biggest mistake I’ve seen candidates make in interviews is not being specific enough. I will usually ask a question like, “Can you walk me through a recent project, focusing on your process and how you worked with others?” The answers I usually get are very high level. As an interviewer, I want to hear details because details demonstrate an excellent grasp of a subject. So if you rattle off the typical design process without going into details, it doesn’t give me confidence that you can do the job.

Be very, very familiar with your case studies. And lean on them as detailed examples. You might be asked to walk through a case study or two. Be able to do talk through each project in about five minutes. Tell stories!

Art Kilinski, Group Creative Director at NVIDIA, says, “Be ready to show your portfolio and be on camera if it’s a remote interview.”

The hiring manager may or may not have looked at your portfolio beforehand. Personally, I would, but sometimes we run out of time. So don’t assume.

After the interview, follow up with a thank-you email within an hour.

Helpful Tips

Panel Interviews

It’s rare these days that you’ll only speak to the hiring manager and get hired. However, if you pass the previous gauntlet of interviews, you will likely meet and be interviewed by your future teammates. The same advice from the section above applies here. Be kind and professional to everyone you meet. They could be your future colleagues, and how you treat them will reflect well or poorly on you.

Remember they are testing to see if you will be a great addition to the team. Do you have the skills to help? Or will you be a drag?

Follow up with thank-you emails within an hour. If you don’t have their emails, ask the recruiter for them.

Design Challenges

I am opposed to speculative work. Even if you’re just out of school, you should not perform work for free. With that said, coding challenges are the norm in the tech industry, and, increasingly, so are design challenges.

A fair design challenge should not take an excessive amount of your time, nor should it be directly related to the company or product itself. In other words, if the company you’re interviewing for wants you to redesign their product’s dashboard over the weekend, that’s not kosher. Run the other way.

Employers will say that the amount of time you put into a take-home assignment like this signals how enthusiastic you are about the position. So, my advice here is to do enough where it’s a reasonable effort and demonstrates your skills. But don’t spend so much time that you are resentful if you aren’t hired.

I’m more of a fan of the live whiteboard challenge. This time-boxed exercise helps me experience what it’s like to collaborate with you. You can show off your strategic thinking skills in a limited time setting. You will need to prep for whiteboard challenges if you have never done them. Have a plan of attack before going in. Maybe even practice a couple of times with a friend first.

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I will admit that the interviewing process is probably the most nerve-wracking. It isn’t easy talking to people you’ve never met and giving them a sense of who you are and how you would work with them as a colleague. It is scary to be vulnerable and put yourself out there to be judged. This process is an artificial construct.

Communicate clearly and genuinely. Be professional, yet yourself. If your work is good and you present yourself well, that should be enough to make a lasting impression with your interviewers so they can see a possible future with you on their team.

Good luck!

How to Put Your Stuff Together and Get a Job as a Product Designer: Part 2

This is the second article in a three-part series offering tips on how to get a job as a product or UX designer. Part 1 covers your resume and LinkedIn profile. Part 3 is about the interviewing process.

Part 2: Your Portfolio

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, portfolios used to be physical cases filled with your work, and you only had one of them. But now that portfolios are online, it’s much easier to get your work out there.

Much like resumes, many designers make the mistake of over-designing their portfolio website, trying to use it as a canvas to show their visual design or interaction chops. Don’t do it.

Keep It Simple

Remember your user, the design hiring manager, is trying to sift through hundreds of portfolios. Each time we open a portfolio site, we need to orient ourselves, find the work section, click into a project and view it. If your site has any friction at all, if it tries to be cute with something or tries to reinvent the wheel in any way, we can get frustrated quickly and move on to the next one. Your site should be about your work first and about you second.

Keep It Focused

A portfolio is not supposed to be an archive. So don’t dump everything you’ve ever designed into it. Instead, curate four to six best case studies you have. Yes, case studies. In the past, showing beautiful images of the final output was sufficient, but because websites can accommodate a lot of content, the case study format tells us hiring managers much more.

Tell Stories

Think of a case study as the story of how you made something. Tell that story, and tell it to someone who’s not familiar with the client, product or service, and you. There are a few templates out there that are good starting points. I like this one by Calvin Pedzai:

  1. Project Title & Subtitle (A headline and subtitle that indicates the name and goal of the project)
  2. Client/Company/Project type
  3. Project date (When did you work on the project)
  4. Your role (What you were responsible for on the project)
  5. Project Summary/About this Project (An overview that summarizes the project, goal and results)
  6. The challenge (What specific problem, user needs, business requirements and/or pain points that the project solves. Were there any technical constraints or business KPIs you had to keep in mind? Who are you users and what are their specific needs)
  7. Solution (What method/process were used to solve specific problem, user needs, business requirements and/or pain points? How did features address the objectives?)
  8. Results (Project success metrics, awards, reflections, project next steps and/or lessons learnt)

While this format was originally intended for UX projects, I think this should also apply to non-product design. Michael Sequiera, as Global Creative Director at Visa, says, “I like to see 2-3 case studies on how they solved the design problem.”

As you write your case study, remember to write it like a story, a narrative, rather than plain and factually. Also, keep in mind the length. Strive to keep the case study short enough to be consumed in about three to five minutes of skimming and reading.

NDAs

Sometimes designers do not show their work on their portfolio websites because of non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, they’ve signed with companies and clients. First of all, we all have signed NDAs, and nearly everything we do for a company is work-for-hire, meaning the other companies own the work. But portfolios are how designers get hired. Design hiring managers will never hire a designer without evaluating past work first. So if you’ve signed an NDA and don’t think you can show these samples on your portfolio site, here are some things to consider:

I have also come across a handful of portfolio websites that do not show any work at all. When I interviewed one of these designers, she said her reason was that the work would be outdated as soon as she posted it. I bought her reasoning mainly because she had worked at a couple of big-name brands and had established herself enough to get away with that. Of course, I would still go through her work as part of the interview process.

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and do not take what I wrote above as legal advice. I’m not advising you to break your non-disclosure agreements. If you have any legal doubts, please consult an actual lawyer.)

Other Useful Tips

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Having a well-crafted resume, robust LinkedIn profile, and compelling portfolio website are the bare minimum requirements before you start applying for jobs. But once you have those three basics, start applying for positions you qualify for.

In Part 3 of this series—I promise, it’s the last—I’ll provide some handy tips about the interviewing process.

How to Put Your Stuff Together and Get a Job as a Product Designer: Part 1

This is the first article in a three-part series offering tips on how to get a job as a product or UX designer. Part 2 advises on your portfolio website. Part 3 covers the interviewing process.

Part 1: Your Resume & LinkedIn Profile

(With apologies to Maxine Paetro, whose seminal 1979 book  How to Put Your Book Together and Get a Job in Advertising was highly influential in my early job search process in the mid-1990s.)

I graduated from design school in the spring of 1995. Yahoo! was incorporated just a couple of months before. AOL was still the dominant way everyone connected to the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web was still a baby, with just a tiny fraction of websites available. In other words, my design education was about graphic design—layout, typography, logos, print. Neither digital design nor UX design was taught or barely practiced yet. (The closest thing would be human-computer interaction, more computer science than design.)

The San Francisco graphic design scene back in the early- to mid-1990s was pretty close-knit. Most of the established practitioners in The City taught at the California College of Arts & Crafts (CCAC, but now shortened to California College of the Arts (CCA)), fertile ground for finding interns and junior designers. Regardless, all of us graduating seniors needed to have portfolios. Physical portfolios. Some books—another name for portfolio—were basic: a leather folio with plastic slip pages filled with mocked-up posters, booklets, or photos of projects. Or some designers would custom bind books with special hardware and print their work on fine paper, spending hundreds of dollars. But you had one book. So when applying for jobs, you had to leave your book with the design studio for a few days to a week! Which meant that job hunting was very slow going.

If the creative director at the design studio liked your portfolio—which was very likely passed around the whole studio for the grubby hands of other designers to peruse—you’d go back in for an interview. In the interview, you’d walk through your work and get drilled on the choices you made. Back in my day, that’s how you could land a design job.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m on the hiring side of the table. Of course, I’ve hired designers and built teams before in other positions, but with my near-constant focus on recruiting at the moment—as Convex is scaling—I decided to put down some thoughts about what I think prospective designers should do when applying for jobs.

The basic building blocks are obvious. You will need:

In Part 1 of this three-part series, I’ll cover some foundational ideas, including the resume and LinkedIn profile. In Part 2, I’ll discuss the portfolio website. Finally, in Part 3, I will talk about the interview.

Your User

The mistake most people commit is foundational—they write and design their resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio for themselves. In other words, they’re not approaching these as designers because they’ve forgotten their primary user—the hiring manager.

First of all, design hiring managers are designers. We started as designers and have chosen the path of becoming creative directors, design managers, etc. But we are designers at our core. Which means we’ll look at everything you do through that lens. Do an applicant’s materials solve the core user need? Do those materials look good?

Hiring managers are busy people. As a design leader, I’m balancing brand and marketing projects, working on new product features, participating in 25 meetings per week, managing the people on my team, and looking for new designers to join our endeavor. So my time is valuable to me.

When there’s a job opening, I will need to sift through hundreds of resumes and portfolios. I will glance at a resume or LinkedIn profile for about 5 seconds and check out a portfolio for about 10 seconds before moving on. Unless something catches my attention.

As a hiring manager, I’m looking for a few key things first:

If the answers to those questions match the specific role I have open, I’ll spend more time with the candidate’s resume, profile, and portfolio.

Your Resume

If you’re on the job hunt, you’ll need a resume. Applications will ask you to upload them. Your resume is often a hiring manager’s first impression of your design work. Remember your user: they’re busy and need to sort through dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes. Hiring managers need to be able to scan the information quickly. Your resume is a chance to demonstrate your skills in layout, typography, and, most of all, restraint. Do not fall into the trap of designing a crazy, branded, “memorable” resume. It will have the opposite effect.

Peter Markatos, former Global Design Director at Uber and now Chief Design Officer at Quoori, says, “I think resumes for design jobs are critical. I’ve hired a lot of folks and I’ve NEVER seen a well-designed resume lead to a poor folio. I always see the opposite however. There’s nowhere to hide in a resume. Ground zero for design fluency.”

There are plenty of great resources out there on how to write your resume, so I won’t attempt to sum them up here. But for a design job, this is what matters.

Relevant Sections

Freelancing

Nearly all designers have freelanced at some point or another. There are two ways to show this on your resume. If you worked as a contractor at a company or studio, list that as a position in your Experience section, but indicate you were a contractor. Put freelance projects as bullets under a general freelance role in the Experience section.

Other Tips

Joe Stitzlein, who built design teams at Google and Nike and now is ECD at Stitzlein Studio, says, “No one wants your personal photo on a resume. No logos or monograms on a resume. Beautiful typesetting is a must. No typos. Keep it to one page.”

So here are some other quick tips:

Your LinkedIn Profile

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and matches your resume. When I’m reviewing applications, I skip the resume and go straight to the candidate’s LinkedIn profile about half the time. I find it more up-to-date, easier to scan, and just has richer information about the applicant.

Recommendations

Personally, I find recommendations to be powerful. Always be getting recommendations from your teachers, colleagues, and current and former bosses. This is the additional color hiring managers can get from reviewing your LinkedIn profile as opposed to your resume.

Other Essentials

To borrow a culinary term, your resume and LinkedIn profile are the appetizers for the main course—the work. Your work experience, education, and list of skills is a brief introduction to who you are and the type of work you might do. These appetizers should lead into and set up the entree: your portfolio. We will tackle that in Part 2: Your Portfolio.

Art for Biden

Sometimes it takes a small push to get the creative obsessions going. Like the majority of the country, I’ve been appalled at Donald Trump’s presidency. From his administration’s cruel policies to just how awful of a man Trump has shown himself, I have been gritting my teeth for four years, waiting for him to lose his re-election bid. I was profoundly concerned about democracy in the United States and how it was being actively undermined by Trump and his band of far-right Republicans.

When Trump ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, I made a poster and website called “Inside Trump’s Brain.” I knew back then how terrible of a president he would be, but had hoped he’d grow into the office. Boy, was I wrong.

So when Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination, I needed to do all I could to get him elected and make Trump a one-term president.

I donated. I talked to the few I knew who supported Trump. I joined Biden’s texting team. But then my friend Christopher Simmons put out a call to his network for artwork to show support for the Biden & Harris ticket. What began as a one-off for me turned into a series driven by not only the cause, but by a need to just make. I became obsessed with 3D typography and loops. The format on Instagram is about creating bite-sized animations that can catch people’s attention and make them pause their scroll for a few seconds.

Here are the pieces in the order in which they were posted. But do note that the “United We Stand” image came first. It was a collaboration with my very talented sister, Gloria. She provided the paintbrush textures and some color consulting.

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A post shared by Roger Wong (@lunarboy)

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A post shared by Roger Wong (@lunarboy)

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A post shared by Roger Wong (@lunarboy)

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A post shared by Roger Wong (@lunarboy)

I am so glad that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won. Hopefully, I helped a tiny bit.

Agitprop in Times of Uncertainty

This was originally published as an item in Issue 005 of the designspun email newsletter.

Great art can be born out of great unrest. Anti-government, anti-evil propaganda harnesses the frustration and despair people feel in times of crisis. Mark Fox and Angie Wang (aka Design Is Play) are following up their award-winning “Trump 24K Gold-Plated” poster with a new series of anti-Trump agitprop. The pair have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund three posters, “Trump: Lord of the Lies” and a diptych called “White Lies Matter.”

From their Kickstarter page:

We designed Trump: Lord of the Lies to create a succinct mnemonic for Donald Trump’s corruption. Likewise, the White Lies Matter diptych crystallizes Donald Trump’s history of rhetorical flirtations with white supremacists. And after he is voted out of office, this work will add to the body of evidence that many Americans can still tell the difference between what is true, and what is false.

(Side note: I used Design Is Play’s No Trump symbol in my little anti-Trump agitprop, Inside Trump’s Brain, a single-page website to protest then-candidate Trump.)

Protest art is created all around the world. Hong Kong-based designers last year made many compelling posters. Most take the stance of solidarity in the face of an overbearing and overreaching authority. Hence images that reference the Galactic Empire from Star Wars or homages to Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People.

Raw defiance gives way to a more hopeful aesthetic from Shepard Fairey’s We the People series from three years ago. Slogans such as “Defend Dignity” and “We the Resilient have been here before” adorn striking portraits of people of color. I remember seeing so many of these during the Women’s March in Los Angeles.

In The New Yorker, Nell Painter highlights a couple of anti-racist artists from the 1960s, photographer Howard L. Bingham who took many pictures of the Black Panther Party, and Emory Douglas:

More intriguing to me now is the agitprop artwork of Emory Douglas, the B.P.P. Minister of Culture, which was published in the The Black Panther newspaper and plastered around the Bay Area as posters. Week after week, Douglas’s searing wit visualized the urgency for action, such as this image of children carrying photographs, one that shows police victimizing a child…