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December 4, 2018
146: Design challenges, is it spec work?

Design challenges can prove a controversial topic, specifically the kind you might complete as part of a job application. Some people think they have merit while others think they tread a fine line between free labour and giving prospective candidates the opportunity to show their skills. We get to the heart of the matter in this week's episode of Design Life, sharing our personal experience and some news about the podcast!

key takeaways

Being asked to complete a design challenge usually happens towards the end of the interview process, but there’s no harm in double checking! Ask if you are through to the final stage, the company’s answer will inform your decision about whether to complete the design challenge or not. Be cautious if you are asked to complete a design challenge that the company could benefit from. For example, anything that is part of a current project or has the company’s logo front and centre might set some alarm bells ringing.

A design challenge gives you the opportunity to evaluate the company, as much as it gives the company the chance to evaluate you. Take note of the communication style, do they respond promptly? Does the brief contain all the information you need, is it well written? These are indicators of how it would be to work in this company and with this team.

A member of the Design Life community asked about which fidelity a design challenge should be. The company usually gives this information in the brief. If they don’t,  consider the role you are applying for and how best each fidelity might display the strengths that you have.
When you present your design, clarify why you have chosen that level of fidelity. If you would develop the design IRL, mention this too.

Take time to study the brief carefully. Consider how wide or how narrow you want or need to go to meet the brief. Consider the message it might send if you don’t focus on the specific problem at hand. Your first reaction might be to use every skill in your toolbox to solve a vast range of problems within the one design, but if you don’t solve the problem specified, it might raise red flags. Don’t lose sight of the focus of the brief.

show timestamps

07.08 – Design Challenges
10.25 – Femke’s take home assignments
12.40 – Spec work
16.39 – Brainstorming sessions
18.31 – Our advice
21.40 – A question from our community
26.33 – Allocating time to spec work
27.58 – How best to show your work
32.20 – Resources worth mentioning
35.25 – Do design challenges have a bad reputation?
36.26 – Podcast news

show links