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100 Questions for the Young Creative

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We spent a year listening to creatives across the design industry, and generated a list of 100 questions we wished we'd known at the beginning of our career. Designed both for self reflection and to cut through hiring-process gloss, they start out innocently enough but quickly cut to the chase.

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100 Questions for the Young Creative

  1. 1. 100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Qs to ask yourself. Qs to ask your next employer. Released under a Non-Commercial Creative Common License. STUDIO D
  2. 2. Last year the authors spoke with creatives across the design spectrum in order to better understand the dynamics of our industry and the kind of studio we wanted to create. We spoke with freelancers, agencies large and small, corporate design teams and consultants, veterans and students. As part of this process we generated an in-house list of over 100 questions that we wished we’d thought to ask earlier in our careers. We followed this up with a workshop at the IxDA Interaction Conference to refine the question list for any creative that is considering a career change.
  3. 3. Designed both for self reflection and to cut through hiring-process gloss, they start out innocently enough but quickly cut to the chase.
  4. 4. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE 1. Who are you, and what are you bringing to the table? 2. Why do you want to work at ______? 3. What does the company stand for? 4. Who’s really in charge, and how is the business run? 5. Why are people joining or leaving? 6. What kind of work do they (and will you) do? 7. What is the company culture? 8. What are you worth? Wild Card Questions
  5. 5. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  6. 6. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Who are you? What do you bring to the table? 1
  7. 7. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Some have a clear understanding of their personal goals, the “design” industry, and their value within it, others use the job-seeking process to figure it out. Who are you? What do you bring to the table? What do you consider to be your greatest strengths? How do you define yourself? VD? IxD? ID? DR? … How comfortable are you with that definition? What processes and ways of working do you bring to the table? Are you willing to compromise on process and working style? What do you stand for? What type of work do you want to do? Why do you want to do that type of work? Do you only want to do that type of work? What do you expect to get from your work? From your job? From your employer, specifically? Who do you want to work with? Why? Do you have your own source of “fire,” or do you expect your employer to provide it / create it for you? Where do you find inspiration? Do you want to be the sole creative in an organisation (“the expert”), or be surrounded by other creatives? Do you want to be an authority in the room, or are you there to listen and learn?
  8. 8. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  9. 9. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE 2Why do you want to work at ______?
  10. 10. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE What motivates you? Where is a mismatch likely to occur between expectations, the company, and the role? For example there can be considerable distortions between what companies do, and what they say they do. Why do you want to work at ______? What do you expect to get from working there? How important is it to be surrounded by people you respect and admire? Who do you respect and admire? What do you expect of them? How important is the diversity of work? What does diversity mean to you? What attracts you to the company? Why is that attractive to you? Are you attracted by the prospect of working on social impact projects? How do you define “social impact?” How do they define “social impact?” Are you attracted by the opportunity to travel? What do you believe this job will be like relative to your other jobs? What makes you think that?
  11. 11. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  12. 12. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE 3 What does the company stand for?
  13. 13. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE How does the company want you to see them? Are they honest about the realities of their business? On what things will they not compromise? Reflecting on these things is key - discerning what you believe to be truth versus marketing and hype. What does the company stand for? What are their corporate values? On what are these values based? How are they articulated? Do employees believe the values are reflected in day-to- day decision making? Are these values reflected in the clients it takes on? Do the values align with what you believe? What/who are they influencing? What is the future of the company? What is their vision for 3, 5 or 15 years? What is their utopian and dystopian version of this vision? What does design mean to them? What do designers do there? How is design measured? Valued inside the company? What does design mean to non-designers in the organisation? How much of the current design practice can be replaced by algorithms and still be innovative?
  14. 14. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE What does the company stand for? How do they deal with failure? What choices have they had to make to stay true to their values? What type of work does the company say “no” to? What do they say “yes” to? Is impact measured at the user/customer level? If so, how? Is the company innovative or reactive? How does the company describe their business? How do they interact with competitors? Where do they find inspiration? What industry do you think they’re in? What industry do they think they’re in? What projects does the organisation talk about? Why might they talk about certain work and not other work? Is what they talk about motivated by confidentiality agreements or the desire to curate their image? What would motivate a company not to talk about certain work? What is the organisation known for?
  15. 15. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE What does the company stand for? Is a company that is most famous for its work 100 years ago still relevant today? How about 30 years ago? 20 years ago? 10? 5? 3? A year ago? Two projects ago?
  16. 16. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  17. 17. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE 4Who’s really in charge, and how is the business run?
  18. 18. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Easily overlooked, and the most difficult to understand without a candid conversation with somebody on the inside: what is the actual business of the organisation you hope to join? Knowing what and who ultimately drive decision-making will determine how your career there looks and feels. Who’s really in charge, and how is the business run? How are decisions made? Who is involved in making them? What information is used in making them? What influences do employees have on the direction of the company? How is the organisation divided? How do things evolve as the company grows/shrinks/changes Is scaling (up or down) done strategically, or reactively? How are leaders brought into the company? Who is responsible for decisions in the design process and when? Is there trust in the organisation, amongst employees? What defines trust to them, to you? Who owns the company? What are the corporate values of the parent company? How tolerant/supportive of creativity is the parent company? Is/are the company founder/s still actively engaged in running the company? If not still in charge, how relevant is/are the founder/s in today’s business environment? How do lines of funding flow to specific projects? (Follow the money, to better understand the motivation of the work) What are the company’s KPIs? Are any of them non-monetary How are projects billed? How are the resourced?
  19. 19. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Who’s really in charge, and how is the business run? Who has hands-on leadership in the company? CEO, CCO, President, ... How are they motivated? How are they measured? Who do they report to? the board, leadership in the parent company, … What is their background? What do they, as individuals, stand for? What is their career trajectory? Are they committed to the role or just passing through? Does any of the creative leadership have meaningful power? How does the money flow? How much revenue goes to the parent company? How much revenue goes to the ex founder/s? How much revenue goes to executives? How much revenue goes to _________? How much revenue is left for those starting out in their career? If the current owner of the company is looking to sell, in what time-frame is that likely to occur? What strategy will they pursue to sell the company? Who is likely to buy the company? Will the buyer want to keep all the studios? Are they profitable? What is their potential? Does the buyer have different values than those held by the company? What happens to creative talent under new ownership? What happened at Fjord, Fuse Projects, Adaptive Path, frog, …? What is offered to whom, to retain talent in the event of a sale? What were you offered? What does it mean if you weren’t offered anything? Does the company have a stock plan?
  20. 20. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  21. 21. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE 5 Why are people joining or leaving?
  22. 22. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE The flow of talent, who is coming and going, how they are brought in, and how they depart says a lot about an organisation. As a rule of thumb, you can learn more from people leaving, than joining. Why are people joining or leaving? Is the organisation growing or shrinking? What kind of people are they hiring? What kind of people are they firing? What kind of people are leaving? Does there seem to be an inordinate amount of talent leaving or joining the company? Why are others joining? Why are others leaving? How long do employees stay? Why? How does the company message hiring internally? How about firing? How does the company message hiring externally? How about firing? Where do people who leave go? 2 to 3 years later? Does the company maintain an alumni network? How does on-boarding happen? (how intentional, new project, new client, new employee)
  23. 23. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Why are people joining or leaving? Has talent you admire recently joined the company? Has talent you admire recently left the company? Why did they leave? How do you know who has recently left? What can you learn from those who have recently left? How does talent drain impact the culture of the organisation? Impact the ability to attract good client work? Impact the ability to deliver good client work? Impact the company brand? Impact your ability to learn? When you speak to current employees about whether it is a good place to work, what do they say? How are they motivated? How are they rewarded? How does the company incentivise bringing in new talent? Do these incentives affect the way that current employees talk about work-prospects at the company? Where can you find a balanced view on the company?
  24. 24. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE “The gutter between change- agent, and corporate whore is littered with bonus checks and broken dreams”
  25. 25. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  26. 26. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE 6What kind of work do they (and will you) do?
  27. 27. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Three months into your role, what will you be working on day-to-day? Are you a small cog in a large machine on a set path, or do you shape your, and your team’s destination? What kind of work do they (and will you) do? Is there a process that the company follows? How defined is it? What are the things the company has already decided don't work? What is their definition of collaboration? How are teams put together? Who do designers get to work with? How is it decided what their designers will or will not work on? How much of your work directly affects the organisations goals and mission? How are critiques done? How often? What happens at the start of a project? How are new team members brought onto projects? What does transition/handoff look like at the end of a project? Does each member of the team have the opportunity to lead at some point throughout a project, or is there a clear and defined project lead? Will you get to choose what you work on? What do you know about the organisation's portfolio of recent clients or projects? Which clients or projects does the organisation talk about? What is the ratio of the work that the company talks about versus the work they do? Are you being considered as a hire to work on a particular project or client?
  28. 28. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE What kind of work do they (and will you) do? Are the types of projects you want to work on aligned with the types of projects that best suit the company? Culturally? Financially? What kind of work really pays the bills? What are the values behind the clients or projects the organisation takes on?
  29. 29. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  30. 30. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE 7What is the company culture?
  31. 31. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE These are difficult to put words to, the soft stuff that lies between the work, the money, and the people. How intentional is the company culture? How does it evolve? And how much will you be able to shape it? What is the company culture? Is the culture reflective? What practices are in place to encourage reflection? How is it handled? How does a culture or forgiveness or permission manifest in this company? Are the tensions the design process utilised or ignored? Where does knowledge come from? (teams, expert, research, ...) What does the company tout as integral parts of their “culture?” -Free food? Games? Fun stuff? Are there aspects of their “culture” that seem gimmicky? How much time do people who work together spend with each other outside of work? Are people rolling into work late and checking out of work early? Is the environment conducive to impromptu conversations? What is the workspace like? Is it dynamic? quiet? focussed? professional? Which of these aspects are important to you? Which of these do you prefer to do good work? What is their vacation policy? What are their travel policies?
  32. 32. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  33. 33. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE What are you worth? 8
  34. 34. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Not knowing your value to the company, being under or over compensated, will all lead to complications later on. There’s a significant difference between knowing your value and being driven by financial reward. What are you worth? Is the salary competitive? What is “competitive?” If not, why not? What are other parts of the compensation package? Will you be offered stock options? If not, why not? Who is incentivised if the company is sold? What percentage of your salary will be as a bonus? What is the company's history of paying bonuses? How much revenue are you expected to make for the organisation? Where can you find out about how they determine these rates? What other, non-monetary benefits do you offer the company? How flexible are they on non-monetary benefits (vacation, bonuses, flex time, etc)? How flexible are you on these things? On what will you be evaluated? How often?
  35. 35. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE
  36. 36. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE Wild Card Questions
  37. 37. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE For best results, deliver one of these out of left field. Wild Cards When is the last time you experienced flow in your work? How do you deal with compromises? What are you compromising on? What is an example of how the company trusts you? If your best friend asks you the best thing about your work, what do tell them? Did you have fun today? What do you look forward to when you come in each morning? How is individuality encouraged amongst your team/group? How do you deal with failure? How do you turn conflicts into creative tensions? How do you ensure an ethical approach to your work and its meaning? How do you see yourself shaping and extending the industry? What are your aspirations for this organisation? What challenges have you overcome this year? Do you debrief at the end of a project? How? What happens as a result? Are you working with people you admire? What trait do you most admire in your mentors?
  38. 38. STUDIO D FINAL100 QUESTIONS FOR THE YOUNG CREATIVE What questions would you ask? Contribute questions here.
  39. 39. With thanks to IxDA Workshop Contributors & Co-authors Nick de la Mare Andrea Cruz Aycin Caki Barbara Belsito Bruno Bergher Dario Violi German Leon Jacklynn Pham Jamie Kong Janna DeVylder Jared Zimmerman Jeremy Yuille Julia Nacsa  Kaleem Khan Karla Rosales Kate Vogt Kristine Mudd Marco Righetto Michal Kopec Mun May Tee Raghavendra Kandala Samara Watkiss Sara Cambridge Studio D Jan Chipchase Lauren Serota Amy Huang @studio_d_rad studiodradiodurans.com The Fixer List
  40. 40. STUDIO D

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