An open letter to interaction design applicants: it's not us, it's you.

To all the interaction design applicants, there may be ambiguity on how we define the role of interaction designers. We hope this post may shed some light on what we are looking for.

Digital design is evolving

There's not much interest in designing a tree of static web pages anymore. We're being called upon to design sophisticated digital experiences across multiple devices and contexts. Interaction design is no longer primarily about information science: it's visual design + information design + motion design + pattern recognition + systems thinking.

This kind of work requires a rare individual.

The bare minimum
To be considered, you need to unquestionably prove three things. You must have visual design chops, experience designing great applications and emotional awareness.

Visual design chops

  • Our interaction designers must be sophisticated visual communicators. It is not enough to roughly position boxes and arrows.
  • You must be able to draw, diagram and explain things visually.
  • You need to understand layout, color and type.
  • You need to be able to convey sophisticated concepts with precision and nuance.

Love of useful things

  • The focus of our practice is the design of functional experiences. We are less concerned with the creation of marketing and campaign concepts.
  • You need to demonstrate experience designing innovative and refined functional interactions.

Emotional awareness

  • Our work is not much concerned on click efficiency. Humans are emotional beings and digital experiences designed for humans must be emotionally sophisticated.
  • You need to design with the emotional context and objectives in mind.

For us to be serious about you

To belong here you must go above and beyond. You must be relentlessly collaborative and possess design superpowers.

Collaborative core

  • Like most creative types, we have a healthy ego. We have a point of view. However, we care more about getting to a great idea than getting credit for it.
  • We work quickly in teams. We generate, discuss, review ideas and challenge each other in the pursuit of the very best solutions.
  • You need to be able to express your ideas and engage with the ideas of others.
  • If you get offended when someone questions your work, this isn't the place for you.

Superpowers

  • Every interaction designer at Odopod must have a superpower.
  • Some are very accomplished visual designers. Others are Flash prototypers. Some are icon illustrators. Others are hand-drawn illustrators. Some can prototype in code. Some are After Effects mavens.
  • It doesn't matter what your superpower is. But collecting a cadre of elite design superheroes gives us broad and diverse perspectives to tackle the range of complex design problems our clients look for us to solve.

The world of digital design is evolving quickly. Our clients expect and demand the very best design work. To do that work and stay relevant, we need to our team to meet very specific criteria. I hope this post has helped illuminate what those standards are.


(UPDATE)

Whew....It WAS our intent to stir the pot, get some reaction and try to explain how the practice of interaction design has evolved.

The people here at Odopod take tremendous pride in collaborating, doing the very best work and letting the work speak for itself. To those I have offended, I apologize and have edited the post. The tone, intentionally provocative, was meant to start conversations -- which I think we've managed -- but not to offend.

We are proud of our work. We hold ourselves to incredibly high standards, but we do not intend to be mean-spirited to others.

What this post is about is what kind of skills are necessary to succeed in this industry - not just at Odopod. There has been ambiguity and confusion about what an Information Architect (IA) is versus an Interaction Designer versus a User Experience Designer. Some consider these interchangeable roles. We do not.

At one time, simply being able to organize pages and specify page content -- traditional IA activities -- was all that was needed to complete a successful web project. They are still essential. But today's digital experiences require so much more. If you want to participate in these kinds of design projects, you will need to have more sophisticated skills. The ones listed in this post are our requirements, but I suspect any top-flight design team would require the same.

I apologize for any offense. It was not my intent. But let's keep talking about digital design and the talented people who will evolve and define the practice of Interaction Design.

Comments

  • Clay Parker Jones says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I f*cking love this.

  • Ian Fitzpatrick says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    what Clay said. Well-played.

  • Aterix says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Bold and well said.

  • D. Signer says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I hear what you're saying, but I bet many of those this is directed towards might miss this post. I'm sure you guys are always very busy, but why not set yourselves apart from the rest and make a policy of offering even the tiniest amount of constructive criticism to all applicants? At the minimum try and find one aspect of their application to compliment and mention one area where they could stand to improve. They might even take your advice to heart, sharpen their skills and come back a year later with some work that really knocks your socks off. Most peoples' skills improve with time, and somebody who doesn't impress you now could very well be somebody you want to absolutely want in your corner once they have more experience. If they don't even get an email saying "Hey, thanks for getting in touch." the chances of this ever happening are probably about zero. If you are really, really serious about wanting to help, why not block off a day and host an open house? Encourage people to bring their portfolios and allow them to sit down with one of your designers for a few minutes and get some constructive criticism. A little goodwill goes a long, long way.

  • Jeff Toll says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Love all of this. Tough.

  • Noah Gonzales says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I agree with D. Signer. On a different note, we all know Odopod does great work. There's no need for such tough talk. Post those minimum requirements on your Jobs page and chill out a little.

  • Lawrence says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Nice.

  • Ryan says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Maybe its more accurate to say that the reason an applicant is not hired is that they don't meet your high standards. The reason they don't hear back from you is that you lack professional courtesy.

  • Patch says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    D.Signer—It takes a lot of time and resources to weed out wrong candidates and find the best ones for consideration. It's not Odopod's responsibility to give feedback to applicants. The gift of feedback is for the ones who actually get hired. It's the responsibility of the applicant to understand the requirements, and show why they deserve the job. Applicants needing feedback might consider going back to school or joining a linkedin group. Over time their job finding skills will improve. Odopod--Thanks for the clarity and honesty.

  • Oswaldo says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I have to say that this article is not very professional. We know that Odopod has great work and that you guys are looking for the best people in the industry but it does not mean that you have to be arrogant about it. Personally I think that an article like this makes Odopod look bad and is not really that informative. We already knew that Odopod wants the best, people that think outside of the box, that work well with a team, and that have at least one skill that they are really good at. @signer I see what you are saying, but I think that most companies do not reply to applicants that don't "fit" what they are looking for because sometimes there is way to many applications to respond to, specially if it is a smaller studio. Time = money :p

  • Austin says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    @Ryan, Sorry, no. The interaction design community is being flooded with those who've taken course work in user studies, and whiteboarding, but who have yet to embrace the fundaments of design. These people are contributing noise, not good design, and it's not reasonable for one person to reply to all those non-starters individually and personally. And form letters truly. suck. Sure, its nice to hear back — but hearing back with a lie (like most places) that says "Thanks for applying, but we don't have a position that fits your skill set right now" doesn't help anything, and most people (especially those without design knowledge) would take offense to a critique of the applicants skill. If you've applied, haven't heard a response and *truly* want to work at odopod (its not just one of a thirty places to you) then send 'em a followup e-mail or a hand-written card. Chances are, someone will get back to you. A nice solution might be an auto-reply that says simply "We've received your application! Thanks! If we feel you're a fit, we'll get back to you in about a week." As a former 'pod person, I can say with certainty that the people who work at odopod are nice, friendly, courteous and professional.

  • Steven H says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I agree with Odopod's decision on the grounds of a strict Interaction Design position. My gut tells me is that traditional IA guys are applying to Odopod thinking that ID is the same thing when it clearly isn't. There is a place for IA and a place for ID. Depends on the work, the use, the goal and the scope of the project. Odopod does work that needs IDs, IBM does work that need's IAs. Different strokes for difference folks. I think there needs to be clarification of the terms IA/ID/UX/UXD. It's even more confusing to some people then the Project Manager / Producer titles.

  • Designer says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Clearly, you're the one lacking emotional awareness here. This is irksome on so many levels. It's quite the antithesis of the purpose of design in my opinion. It's about making life experiences, both big and small, better for everyone - including your own job applicants. And this is especially insensitive and ignorant given the current economic situation. So instead of talking down to a designer searching for an opportunity to gain experience, maybe you should try a more positive, constructive approach and let them know what they could do better in order to grow. A lot of people have potential that they will never get to explore if they are treated this way by every potential employer.

  • SC says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    "Maybe its more accurate to say that the reason an applicant is not hired is that they don't meet your high standards. The reason they don't hear back from you is that you lack professional courtesy." ^ My hunch is that they're too busy making awesome things to the thousands of applications they get every day from unsuited designers. Although a more tactful title may have been "How to hire well."

  • Jacquie Moss says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I just want to respond to a few of your comments as the person in charge of recruiting for Odopod. 1) We aren't criticizing people who don't fit this description. We just want to explain what we want for our studio. 2) We don't have time to respond to everyone, and as much as we wish that we could individualize our feedback, it's not possible. This is an attempt to explain why you may not have heard from us if you are an IA / ID / UX (whatever you classify yourself as) who has applied. It may give you a chance to change how you present yourself. We get a lot of applicants, and we only have a few minutes to look at each portfolio. That means that it needs to do quite a bit of work, very quickly to distinguish your talents. 3) We are a small studio. Every hire makes a big difference. We want to be honest and straight with you. That's an important part of emotional awareness --trusting that our audience can handle it.

  • Adam says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Sounds to me like Jacquie should have written this post then, not Mr. Poon.

  • BF says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I...I...I don't even know what to say...I don't have a comment about the content, but the horrid tone. After 18 years in the industry, this is potentially the most arrogant, blowhardy employment prereq I have ever read. If you or your coworkers believe they have achieved perfection of design, I can't imagine what it is like working with you. I get that you are looking for quality employees, however this is not the way to go about it. You have not met my prereq of humbleness and modesty. Good luck to you.

  • Snob says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    There's no arrogance like agency arrogance.

  • Old Friend says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    This post really makes you guys look tone-deaf. I'm putting it in the same category of the girl on Facebook that friended me out of no where and for no reason and continues to complain about how everybody wants a piece of her.

  • Un- says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    You may or may not like it, but Odopod is known both for its high caliber of talent and for their arrogance. It works for them.. most of the time. If you don't dig it then take your portfolio elsewhere.

  • Leon says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Looks like someone's recently swollen bank accounts got the better of them.

  • Vicki says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Aaaaaaannnnnddddd now we're all talking/tweeting/linking about Odopod. You all do realize this is a stunt... right?

  • Ted says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Jacquie, as an outsider who has never applied to Odopod, I see what you're saying, but there's no way to really put a positive spin on this article: I've come out of reading it with a worse impression of Odopod, and I doubt that was Albert's intention. Maybe it's just the first line, which quite frankly is dripping with arrogance. I read the entire article backwards and it wasn't half as offensive. I understand that replying to every applicant is out of the question, but heaven forbid people actually WANT to work with you. These applicants all have good intentions, believe it or not - maybe we should all try to remember that. I think the point is that everyone understands that you expect the best as is apparent by your high level of work, and this letter was completely unnecessary and paints your company in a bad light. Funnily enough, your jobs listing makes mention of your interaction designers being empathy-driven, and I am not feeling that at all right now.

  • ObviousPun says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Who knew poon could be such a d!ck?

  • Alex Bowles says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    @Designer - you're hilarious. On the bright side, you must be very young. Accordingly, I'll give you a tip: don't ask people to give you something for nothing. It suggests you haven't the slightest clue about business. And make no mistake, Odopod is a business - one where time is money, and money is time. Display a clear appreciation of that, and you'll probably get (a bit) further in your own adventures. Good luck!

  • UXGuy says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I have to say that this post startled me a bit. This tone seems to negate the company's usually professional and tactful means of communication. The content makes sense but the tone and delivery is unprofessional. Bold and true, but unprofessional. As most others mentioned, simply keeping it even a little bit more positive would've helped immensely. I think you guys could've still made a strong point while avoiding the few short phrases about how much the applicants sucked. That's not the Odopod I was familiar with.

  • Gddty says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    What's wrong with this? This would hold up in the NFL! As a former ACD of Odopod, and now with Adobe I agree with the above. IA and interaction design has indeed changed. And, the 'Pod has some high standards and produces some of the dopest design on the web, in a Tesla showroom, on a phone or anywhere. Great read, Albert. No need to apologize.

  • Ummm says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Mebbe Odo should worry less about hiring good designers and more about decent front-end devs. Image based nav? inline styles? jQuery plugins galore linked in the <head>? Great interactive work is more than visuals.

  • Jona says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    I agree with what you're saying, but this post reeks of arrogance and negativity and that will probably make people less likely to take it seriously. I think you could have made your point more effectively if you had a better attitude about it.

  • Albert Poon says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Post certainly got reactions -- which was intended, but mean-spiritedness was unnecessary. It's been amended.

  • Anonymous says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    You know what else has evolved? The way you manage people and integrate their talents into your ecosystem. It's pretty interesting to me that this is coming from a company that has historically burned through remarkably talented people who have gone on to do excellent work elsewhere. I used to think it was because Odopod's standards were high (necessary and not a bad thing) or that its work ethic was too intense for the people who left, but after working with you all on several occasions my opinion changed. I experienced a leadership style from the senior folks that wasn't particularly inclusive, trusting, or nurturing. I experienced big egos from key folks who negatively affected the dynamics of the design teams either through their inability to let go, or through- at the end of the day- their unwillingness to collaborate in a meaningful way. None of this had anything to do with an evolving world, evolving standards of design practice, or a lack of talent -- it had a lot to do with poor situational awareness and a lack of sensitivity in how to manage people effectively. To me, this post is (or was) a perfect example of that.

  • DrewPickard says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Boy, I would love to read the original version of this post . . . Anyone got it cached?

  • Eric Johnson says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Isn't all of this kind of a 'no duh'? Don't all agencies want to hire the best possible talent? Maybe the next post can be about 'creative technologists' and 'digital strategists' and how those pseudo positions comprised of talentless hacks are the real band of our industry.

  • Rick says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Always been a fan of Odopod but this article somewhat turned me off. I get what they're trying to say but it should of been written in a different tone. This doesn't make me to want to work there. Designers coming straight out of school need a positive push and inspiring advice, it takes a lot of hard work and years of experience to be able to work at a company like Odopod. If you're not getting back to your applicants, then state it in the job description "due to a large number of applicants..." whatever. Quality control.

  • Malika says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Rick, I actually disagree with you greatly. Designers leaving school should read this post and feel the urge to want to work even harder. I do agree with the "due to a large number of applicants…" tibet, but i honestly believe everyone should be pushing for the things that were mentioned in this post. Odopod most likely receives a vast amount of applicants and before anyone applies they should know that the bar is high. Rather than feeling hurt or pushed away from this post, the thirst to be the best and work as hard as one possibly can should arise. I love this post, because they're honestly laying out what they're looking for. We don't need to be coddled, we need to know what it takes.

  • Rick says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Malika - I agree, students need tough in order to push themselves harder. However, there''s nothing I hate more than agency arrogance. I find it lame. If you're receiving a very large volume of applicants, then obviously designers WANT to work there, so why not be humble about it?

  • Gwinn says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    Regardless of original tone (which I did not see/read) the message is a valid one. Anyone wanting to truly understand what's needed to excel in this field should read this in the spirit that it's (clearly) intended: these are the expectations, this is what potential employees need to bring to the table. Odopod is not required to be "humble" -- Odopod is, however, required to do outstanding work in order to survive/thrive. This is not a difficult concept.

  • Brant Day says:
    Posted: 09.15.11

    This is right on the money. As someone who is looking for a job in a couple months I don't want to be tugged around. I want to be in or on to the next thing. I know EXACTLY what they are looking for and EXACTLY how to tailor my portfolio to their needs. If that still isn't enough then I got more work to do. They just made it that much easier for us and them to harmonize with a future employee. Its not their job to wipe the tears from under our eyes...they have a need and are trying to fill it. Straight-forward, clear, and honest. Hopefully after reading those requirements they won't need to turn anyone away because only qualified people will apply.

  • daniel says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    Sorry Poon - but this article just makes you sound like an arrogant, self-important, sanctimonious prick. If your the director of 'Interaction Design' I suggest you need to got back to management school 101 and learn a little human decency. You pretty much sum up everything that is wrong about the agency - a especially digital - world and as a design professional I'm ashamed that I have to share an industry with ppl like you.

  • anonymous says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    as someone else aptly noted, this doesn't exactly demonstrate "emotional awareness" --- one of the very qualities you explicitly demand from applicants. i find the claim dubious that this was intended to catalyze discussion about the design discipline. you are the interaction design expert; yet how well designed was *this* interaction? not very, i'll hazard. surely, there are better ways to posit concern over the changing needs of an industry, than by publicly enumerating applicant deficiencies. to wit: if you're getting the wrong applicants, rewrite the job posting.

  • Mike says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    Your "update" is such bull. You got caught being pricks...to come back and say "we meant to be controversial" is to further insult the intelligence of the interactive design community you profess to know so much better than anyone else. Not to mention what has ultimately bit you in the arse is how this has blown up on you through social media. Further proof you're not quite the experts you think you are, even in your own medium.

  • Monique says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    Yess DrewPickard I definitely want to read the nasty version if this is the "toned down" one, wow. Agreed that the frustration of sifting through piles of unsuitable applicants is a familiar one. When it became a problem at my company, however, we would take another look at our advertisement - perhaps rewriting it, adjusting the tone, posting it in different places. Perhaps Odopod could try looking at what THEY could do differently instead of taking out their frustrations on and publicly shaming the applicants who dared to apply.

  • Haley says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    You could be the best agency in the world, but no one wants to work with dicks.

  • Vincent says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    Seems like the tone is the big issue. Why not encourage people to beef up their skillset instead of being condescending? Lotta ego in this post--intended or not.

  • Andrew says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    It's unfortunate that IA has been saddled with the assumption it's only about static web-page organization. Leaders in the field have been doing work and pushing the discipline well past that for over 10 years. Dynamic structures, cross-channel experiences, etc... anything where digital technology allows us to link information requires 21st century IA practice. Just getting that out there ;-)

  • UX'er says:
    Posted: 09.16.11

    You really think you are the beacon of design? UX design especially? I've had personal experience with what you delivered to a client and I must say, it needed help. There was much that was changed when we got a hold of your wireframes. User experience design is changing and there is an expectation for us to know more then just wireframing, I agree with you there. I don't have experience with hiring so I don't know what's out there but one thing I do know is that the UX field is changing so rapidly that it's hard to pinpoint any one thing that will help any one person. If anything I say you need to be flexible. What works for Odopod, may not work for a Sapient, or a Facebook, or a Zynga. You are anything but the end all be all of the design world.

  • Michael says:
    Posted: 09.19.11

    I'm confused - did I get hired or not?

  • Franklin says:
    Posted: 09.19.11

    I ran your post through my bullsheet-o-tron and it broke the meter. Nice one fellas.

  • Franklin says:
    Posted: 09.19.11

    I ran your post through my bullsheet-o-tron and it broke the meter. Nice one fellas.

  • Franklin says:
    Posted: 09.19.11

    I ran your post through my bullshet-o-tron and it broke the meter. Nice one fellas.

  • Adrian says:
    Posted: 09.21.11

    "We are less concerned with the creation of marketing and campaign concepts." What fun would this be if it was a cheap marketing concept!?

  • Nathan says:
    Posted: 09.21.11

    I agree with everything except about visual design. While there isn't a ton of agreement on what "interaction design" is and isn't, this is revisionist. It's NEVER been about visual design as this was a skill long established when interaction design became important. Interaction Design is about just that--the interaction between person and object, person and person, or person and space (engineering is more about object to object and objet to space). Visual Design is a great superpower to have but it won't help you out if you don't know design research or how to "see" the invisible relationship between things. Service design is a close cousin and, in many instances, is essentially the same thing. Many of the very best interaction designers I know, starting with the old guard up until now, can't design screens, logos, or posters even to the level of a newly graduated graphic designer. But, they know the difference between passive, active, and interactive experiences (which Flash, mostly, is not) and they look to real, physical experiences for guidance about what would make a great experience, not other apps or websites.

  • Daniel says:
    Posted: 11.14.11

    Great words, great vision, great goal, great work! I do not see why people take it so personal. You speak with passion, I love it. I am sharing this post with every single person in my team. Thank you!

  • anabolics says:
    Posted: 12.02.11

    Just thought I'd drop you a line to tell you your www.odopod.com really rocks! I have been looking for this sort of information for a long time.. I don't usually reply to posts but I will in this case. WoW terrific great.

  • Scott says:
    Posted: 02.17.12

    Poon Tang.

  • Poon Tang says:
    Posted: 09.02.13

    Written by someone heading UX at a company that can't handle launching a serious mobile app—this article is rubbish. Design agencies are never going to be up to the task of product design. Assembly line studios where visual design and UX are handled by two separate people are dead.

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Director of Interaction Design

  @albertpoon

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Same Team, New Name

It's been thirteen years since we started Odopod.

We've always wanted one thing: to do the best work of our lives. Along the way, we have been joined by an eclectic and exceptionally talented bunch of people who wanted the same thing. Together, we've built a company we love.

Two years ago, Odopod was acquired by Nurun.

The acquisition was a validation of everything we had built. It was also a catalyst for some big changes we wanted to make. We began to tackle bigger, thornier problems and to work all over the world. With Nurun, we've had a series of huge wins and have been producing our best work yet.

That's why we recently decided to retire the Odopod brand, formally adopt Nurun as our name, and take the reins of Nurun's US operations.

We're all still here—same team with the same appetite for great work, only now with different e-mail addresses and more frequent flyer miles. And we're growing, so send your talented friends our way.

Keep an eye out for new work from Nurun. It will be our best yet.

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