The STRV Design Test Project: Tips & Observations
The STRV Design Team is expanding, and I have the pleasure of evaluating our candidates’ portfolios and test projects. For those curious, I’d like to describe our process and throw in a few notes for the designers who apply. Because for all the ingenious results that come our way, there are bits and pieces that could easily be improved—things that may seem like minor details, but that go a long way.
By the nature of a designer’s role at STRV, I am mainly interested in the designs of digital products and the design process behind them. However, I will never miss a chance to check on digital presentations, redesigns, visual explorations or just stuff made for fun. Especially when I see that a candidate’s expertise aligns with ours, it’s a joy to see additional work—such as illustrations, animations, 3D or even drawings by hand, articles… basically any other form of creative expression.
If a portfolio shows no trace of experience with designing digital products (or at least design concepts), the chances of moving further in the recruitment process are minimal. Luckily, that happens very rarely. The usual progression is a candidate continuing on to the next step.
THE TEST PROJECT
Designers at STRV mostly design whole digital products, from user-flows all the way up to that sweet polish of an animation for pure aesthetic delight. Seeing candidates take on a similar task is the ideal way to really know how they will apply their skills at STRV, and whether they will enjoy working with us.
The test project has a time limit of four days, during which we ask the designer to create a proposal for a fictional client. The client has a very basic idea of a product and is open to see our approach to it. While the functionality is lightly defined, the whole theme is completely up to the designer—even when it comes to the deliverables. The majority of designers who send us the test project tell us that they had fun doing it!
Designer Patrik Fuzesi (left) remembering his test project days, while Marian Fusek (right) remains in serious Head of Design & Engineering mode.
Having now spent years giving feedback on test projects, I’ve decided to point out some frequent mistakes and include a few tips that could help candidates gain our favor. So if you’re a designer considering STRV, please enjoy!
PLAN YOUR TIME
The three most common time-related mistakes I see are: Creating conflict between working hours at your current job and time needed for the test project; Asking for more time near the end of the deadline; Giving one part of the design process too much attention and lacking the time to finish the other.
There’s no need to do the test project right away, to go at it when you’re stuck with a workload at your current job. We can definitely wait a few days to get the best out of you.
I highly advise thinking through the scale of work you want to invest in the project. Too much preparation and intensive deep research might threaten your time to show your potential in the visual part, and vice versa.
HAVE THE CLIENT IN MIND
Every STRV client is approached uniquely. Understanding them and their demands is how we get clarity on what we should present to them. Sometimes they want to see the whole skeleton of the product, sometimes it’s an exact take on a specific user-flow. Be sure to understand the demands of our test project client so you can win him/her over.
DON’T OVERTHINK THE PRODUCT
The test project provides you with a lot of freedom. You can design the solution around a field you love. There’s no need to pick a challenging product, or something that you think we would like. Go for something you enjoy and let us learn about you, your passions and your style.
Designer Josef Sauer refining his style.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT DELIVERABLES
This is where most designers get stuck. Again, it comes down to grasping what the fictional client wants. In our test project scenario, you’re in a position where you’re presenting your approach to him/her for the first time. The client has most likely reached out to multiple agencies. How do you catch his/her attention? Will you run through extensive market research, show every error state, or explain the history of the type-foundry of your chosen font?
No matter which part of the design process you personally prefer, tailoring the solution around the client is the key.
Also, feel free to share your source files with us, for additional insights into your design process.
DEMONSTRATE YOUR SKILLS
From the navigation logic all the way to the point perfect curve in your icon, we rigorously analyze your test project. This way, we can appreciate your understanding of and approach to platform-specific requirements, typography, grid and layout, visual structure, interaction patterns, etc.
NO NEED TO PLAY IT SAFE
While the requirements of the test project are minimal, there’s plenty of room to show off everything you can do. Perhaps you could pick up that tablet and make some nice illustrations, utilize your 3D skill or include a prototype of some sort, if you can. I love to see some design extras from our candidates! These details are what give STRV an edge in the eyes of our clients.
I can’t stress this enough. As a designer, you surely have your unique touch—that twist that shows off your approach, design and style of presentation. Don’t hold back. Let us see it. STRV is not a body shop; we praise ourselves on being a deeply interconnected company, a bunch of good friends with good vibes. We celebrate the qualities of each individual on our team. Which is why I absolutely advise that you design the app to your liking.
Choose a field you personally like. Shoot additional ideas. Don’t hesitate to get a bit funny. Include an Easter egg if you feel it fits.
Marian checking his inbox for your design portfolio.
Right now, this might seem like a lot. But what I expect from you on this test project is the same as what I believe you should expect from STRV: A solution/environment that is not just shiny on the surface, but that is based on a solid foundation of logic and meaningful decisions that lead to making life better—which, we believe, is the ultimate purpose of design.
If you’re about to start working on your test project, hit it with all you’ve got and, hopefully, we’ll meet for the final executive chat and chill.
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