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Design Career Fair: A Bridge to Work

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Submitted on April 11, 2017 - 2:05pm

In 2014, the Division of Design began hosting the Design Career Fair in response to growing demand from employers who increasingly wanted to invest in designers and design thinking to drive innovation in their organizations.

At each annual iteration of the Design Career Fair since, we have seen our students enthusiastically recruited by firms who value the level of education provided by the Division of Design; this was no different at our recent 2017 event. The Division seeks to produce graduates who have equal skills in visual form-making as well as critical thinking, with a  curriculum that enables cross-disciplinary collaboration within the three majors: Industrial Design, Visual Communication Design, and Interaction Design. Design students are also encouraged to study and collaborate with students from other programs at UW.

The companies who have attended the annual Design Career Fair over the past four years range from established firms of the Pacific Northwest (such as Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Amazon, and Zillow) to international creative consultancies (such as Lippincott, Frog, Digital Kitchen, and IDEO). Many firms travel from outside Seattle to recruit UW designers — for example, Facebook, AirBnB, Google, Honeywell, IBM, Intuit, Palantir, Wealthfront, and Yahoo. Specialized design consultancies have also been well represented; Cognition, Hornall Anderson, Schema, Tactile, and Tectonic have hosted a table every year. View the full list of this year’s participants.

The format of the Design Career Fair is unique in avoiding the long lines endemic to the typical job fair event. Instead, Design faculty have developed a “best-match” process where students sign up in advance to see participating firms in short, 10-minute appointments. The companies can also invite specific students to see them during an open, non-appointment time. Employers contact selected students by reviewing the Design Career Fair resume book in advance of the event.

As a result of the Design Career Fair, many students have found internships that turn into full-time employment after graduation. Rajan Makker, graduating senior from Interaction Design, said: “As a result of the Design Career Fair last year, I was offered a summer internship at Schema Design. I'm incredibly grateful that I was able to get such a valuable experience — and now, after graduation, I will be continuing with Schema as a full-time designer.”

Many of the representatives who attend the Design Career Fair are alums who value their Division of Design education and want to recruit more UW designers to contribute to their places of work. This networking aspect is vital to the continued success of the Career Fair. As noted by Cameron Coupe, Visual Communication Design junior, “The Design Career Fair facilitated connections with companies and UW alumni that would otherwise be very difficult to construct on my own. At the Career Fair, I was able to show my work to design professionals in a format that was far more personal than the typical online job-application. I was also able to get more of a feeling for a company’s culture and personality.” Similarly, Chloe Yeo, Visual Communication Design junior remarked, “I was able to speak frankly with alum about how the Division of Design helped shape their own career path. Their experiences encouraged me to pursue opportunities I would have otherwise overlooked.”

The 10-minute “speed interview” format is also efficient for employers on the other side of the table. As described by Design alum Mark Pearson, Senior Manager of UX Design at Amazon, “We had face time with so many talented and enthusiastic students! This was much more efficient that combing through online profiles. The resume book that we received before the event was equally useful — it enabled our team to come prepared to engage with specific individuals.”

Beyond the opportunity to meet potential employers, Design students also value the UW Design Career Fair as a learning opportunity. Tate Strickland, who will receive his Master of Design degree in June, said: “Being forced to describe my thesis in 10 minutes was actually quite helpful. In putting together my slides, my thesis evolved from a verbal word cloud to a coherent narrative. This organization will help me prepare my thesis defense — and will be valuable in future job interviews.”

Valuable insight collected from yearly attendees continues to assist Division of Design faculty in improving the format of the Career Fair to create an ideal experience for students and visiting employers alike. The Division of Design looks forward to hosting the next Design Career Fair in March/April of 2018 . If you and/or your firm are interested in participating, please contact Academic Adviser Liz Copland.

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