Derrick Mitchell

Whether you want to find work at an agency or as an in-house graphic designer for a company, preparing to efficiently and thoughtfully answer popular graphic design interview questions is key to the success of your job hunt. By the time you meet with a hiring manager, you’ve undoubtedly spent countless hours refining your craft and honing your graphic design skills. To ensure that hard work pays off, you want to do whatever it takes to put your best foot forward and confidently market yourself for the position you applied for.

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Last Updated July 2020

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Project-Based Learning For Intermediate Designers: Use Photoshop, Lightroom, and Other Adobe Creative Cloud Programs | By Derrick Mitchell, Jennah Mitchell

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While graphic design is a broad industry, the questions asked of designers and creative professionals at job interviews have a tremendous amount of overlap. Interviewers want to see how you problem solve, how you handle conflict, and how you think through project assignments. They also want to know how your personality, communication style, and overall design aesthetic will fit into their company culture. Each question asked of you is multi-layered and nuanced, and their analysis of your response extends far beyond the face value answer you provide.

Let’s look at some of the most common graphic design interview questions, as well as how to best position yourself to respond to these questions in a memorable way.

1. What does your typical creative process look like?

This question gives interviewers insight into your creative workflow. It also lets them understand your personality and how you may fit (or not fit) within the existing design team. It’s an open-ended question, and you should feel free to answer it honestly while taking into consideration the type of company you are meeting with.

If your creative process involves an hour of meditation followed by four cups of coffee and a leisurely brainstorming walk in the park, then you may not be a good fit for a fast-paced agency. Likewise, if you prefer to dive into designing immediately after being handed a project brief, then you may not be a good fit for a creative company that places a high priority on careful project planning. 

By wrapping your mind around what exactly your creative process looks like, you’ll be well equipped to answer this question and also have insight into potential pitfalls hiding in your workflow.

2. What designers, trends, or brands have most inspired and shaped your graphic design style?

This may seem like a generic, throwaway question at first glance. However, at its core, it is designed to give the interviewers a glimpse into where your design aesthetic may be headed in the future.

If snowboard companies and street artists have shaped your graphic design style, your professional design bent may not be what a corporate company is looking for. If you draw inspiration from myriad areas, including indie brands, vintage classics, and modern trends, then an agency that serves clients in many different industries may be intrigued by your broad design interest. 

Take some time to honestly reflect on what designers or trends have inspired you the most. Be sure to analyze what specifically about these brands piques your interest so that you can offer the interviewer deeper insights into your inspiration and style. 

3. How do you incorporate client or team feedback into your work?

This question is a doozy, and it speaks volumes into how you handle feedback as well as conflict and disappointment. Hearing your design concept is perfect or just what the client wanted is a definite ego boost, but finding out that you missed the mark can be difficult to process. It can be equally difficult to present a concept you love and believe in only to have it get rejected or become heavily modified by the time the project wraps up.

Interviewers ask this question in hopes that you will be honest. If you struggle with criticism or negative feedback, it’s important to find a way to share this in a professional, forward-looking way. You could say, “I value constructive criticism but sometimes find it difficult to adjust design course without understanding why a design was rejected,” for example. If you love everything about a collaborative design process and enjoy incorporating feedback into your work, make sure to mention that as well. At the end of the day, the hiring manager is looking to understand how you process feedback and work through potential disappointment and criticism. They want to know if you invite feedback or shy away from hard conversations. It is important to be tactful yet honest. Share the “why” and not just the “how,” especially if you are someone that struggles with criticism or micromanagement.

4. When it comes to deadlines, how do you rein in your creative process to make sure you hand off project deliverables on time?

Creative personalities may sometime see a workplace stereotype that they’re less concerned with deadlines than they are with the beauty and polish of the deliverables, which can lead to tension within their team. This question is important because it lets the interviewer know how highly you value project timelines and boundaries.

The bottom line is, if you lean more toward being disorganized or if deadlines are not incredibly important to you, it is time to course correct. The only good answer to this question is to say that you intentionally manage your time to make sure that you never miss a deadline. No matter your personality or design process, missing a tight deadline means breaking a promise, and there is never a situation where this is an acceptable way to work. If you cannot say this honestly, then it is time to revamp your time management habits so that you place a high priority on productivity and timeliness.

5. Which portfolio pieces are you most proud of?

If an interviewer asks you this question, you can look at it two ways. First, it is a chance to draw their attention to what you think best represents your skills and design aesthetic. Second, it is a great way to subtly tailor your interview answers to what each specific company is looking for.

If you are interviewing for an in-house graphic design job with a corporation and you have a portfolio filled with a mix of vintage-themed designs and corporate logo work, this is a great opportunity to steer the hiring manager toward the corporate logo portfolio pieces. This interview question lets you guide the conversation, highlighting only pieces you feel are a good fit for the requirements of the position you want to fill. It is completely acceptable to brag a little too; after all, they asked you to the interview because they liked your initial resume, so tooting your own horn by speaking about the pieces you are most proud of is something you can confidently do. Remember: you can always beef up your portfolio to reflect the design you love or to better align with a job you want.

6. In your opinion, what are a few of the most important skills a graphic designer should have?

While there are technically no right or wrong answers to this question, interviewers use it as a chance to analyze your thought process and see how you align with their company priorities and culture. If you have a chance to study the agency or company before you interview, you can often develop a basic understanding of what is important to them — whether that is communication, project volume, design quality, team mentality, or anything in between.

It may be tempting to lead off by listing design-specific skills like hand illustration, Photoshop, or typography, but those skills do technically come with the territory and do not require special mention. This question provides you with a chance to leave the interviewer with a clear understanding of what you value and what you bring to the proverbial table. For example, you could answer this question by saying, “While I think great designers know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator among many other skills, I also think that communication, organization, and a sense of humor are incredibly important to a designer’s success.” Then you can offer some brief insights into why you think those skills or traits are important to further solidify your answer in the hiring manager’s mind.

Wrapping your mind around these popular graphic design interview questions is crucial to acing your interviews and landing work as a graphic designer. If you want to work as a freelancer or small agency owner, you can also benefit from preparing answers to these questions. In prospective client pitches, they will often ask you many of the same things as a hiring manager at a large company or design agency. If you are prepared to meet those inquiries head-on with thoughtful replies, you will come across as being prepared, intelligent, and knowledgeable. Standing out from a sea of other qualified candidates often boils down to whether or not you let your personality shine through during the interview, so don’t be afraid to smile, engage in friendly banter, and share personal stories or anecdote throughout the meeting as well.

Page Last Updated: July 2020

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