Ask Ken: January 2010

Dear Ken,

I’m currently in the market for a job and after a few interviews am a little confused as to what is considered appropriate dress for a graphic design job interview. I know in most other career fields a suit and tie is mandatory but to be honest most of my graphic design friends mostly wear jeans and sneakers to work. Also am I alone in thinking that wearing a suit and tie is a little unnatural and gives the potential employer very little insight into my personality? Any help or insights you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.


Underdressed and Overwhelmed

Underdressed and Overwhelmed,

Call me old fashion but I have always looked at an interview the way a lot of people look at church, “wearing their Sunday best”. An interview is usually the first time you will see your potential new employer and their first chance to look at you, and first impressions are very important. I personally haven’t done a lot of interviewing (from the interviewer side), but the interviewing I have done, I was always more receptive to a candidate that was prompt, polite and well dressed and not necessarily in that order. Dressing up to some people means that you are taking this seriously, that you mean business and it is also an indication that you understand protocol and business.

If you think about graphic design and in general what we do for a living, dressing up for an interview only makes sense. As designers a good part of what we do is “presentation”. When you design an ad, brochure, poster, etc. and you go to the client meeting to present the idea, what do you normally do? You dress up, you get a high quality print out and mount it to black, grey or some other nice presentation board, you might even put it into a dust jacket/cover. An interview is a meeting to “present” you and your work to one of your biggest clients, your new boss. We as designers get graded on presentation all of the way through the process, that is why people hire us, basically it is our job to make them look good, to “present” them well. With that in mind, if we can’t present ourselves well what can they expect when we present them or represent them.

I understand the need to be creative, expressive and rebellious, I can’t think of a creative person that isn’t that way to some degree. I realize that a lot of creative environments have loosened the dress code to make people more comfortable and foster creativity, but in a job market where competition is tight, do you want the deciding factor of your employment to be that you didn’t dress up and the other guy/girl did. I wouldn’t worry about tennis shoes and jeans until after you have gotten the job.


Ken Bullock

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By John Luu
Published January 19, 2010
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