We chat with Peter McClelland of the San Fran DesignStudio office. Peter reminds us just how important design thinking is, what DesignStudio looks for in their ideal intern and why it is important to experiment and shake things up!
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I don’t really have any formal design training — well, at least not from a school. After high school I scavenged for any design work I could get my hands on — from music posters to boring corporate brochures, you name it. My first ‘real’ job, with an actual agency, was redesigning the instructional illustrations for Tampax tampons. Seriously. Fifteen years later, you can see my work in any tampon box. You’re welcome.
What are the three worst jobs you have done leading up to where you are now, and how did you learn from them?
From spending two years rebranding toothpaste, to designing a line of non filtered cigarettes, and of course that whole tampon thing. I’m sure this is cliché, but those are the ones that provided some of my biggest learnings — either from a technical design perspective, the chemistry of the team, or just the general design solution. And I quickly realized, in all three cases, that good design isn’t just aesthetics, it’s ultimately about communicating purpose and function.
Whats your take on internships?
Yeah, we’ve just begun an intern program in our San Francisco studio. Internships are great — as long as they don’t get pigeonholed — but the studio or themselves. Instead of the typical coffee runs and making copies, we look for interns who will equally challenge and encourage us. Sure, we’ll provide exposure into our design process and methods, but we’re looking for the same amount of insight in return. Whether you’re a new intern or industry veteran, realize that you’ve been hired for your design thinking — not just your design.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?
Beyond the straight-up design skills [type, grid, the usual stuff], we look for those who pay equal attention to the approach and purpose of each project. What’s it stand for? What story is it telling? It’s also refreshing to hear from people, especially new grads, on how they see themselves complimenting and inspiring our own team.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Don’t allow yourself to fall in a niche and don’t form patterned behaviors. At least not yet. Try shit. Get your hands dirty through a range of projects, mediums, teams, and execution styles. And don’t disregard the not-so-amazing projects. It’s your reaction and response to those not-so-amazing projects that will strengthen your design thinking.