Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Where to wear | Interviews for creative-types [Greatest Hits 2010]

[Greatest Hits 2010: Each day this week, I will be reposting a popular post from the past. This was first published July 14, 2010. See original post and comments here.]

A few weeks back, my friend T posed this question in a comment:
I would love to know what I should wear for graphic design/artist interviews. Entire suits are overkill for us. What do you suggest?

T brings up a good question -- not all business clothes are right for all businesses.  Not all interviews are alike.  We recently hired a new graphic design intern here at work, and let's face it...presentation matters in this situation, especially in such a visual job.

There is a slight caveat here.  While, yes, we don't want people judging us solely based on appearance, it can affect an interview, both positively and negatively.  And that's just the same outfit.  The first thing to ask yourself is: what is my design/creative philosophy?  Are you a minimalist that lets the content and elements speak for themselves?  Do you push the limits of what's acceptable and hope it pays off?  Are you an unabashed girlie girl designer? Are you great at dealing with in-house clients for corporate design work?

A few general rules still apply to job interviews, especially those for in-house design jobs, in which a corporate HR person will probably be involved in the process (their opinion does count in those cases).
  • Keep it covered.  Skirts and dresses should be no shorter than 2 inches above the knee.  Sleeveless looks should still be demure, and keep that neckline in check.
  • If you are currently in a creative job, try something you would wear to the most formal day on your job.  Chances are it's still not a suit.
  • Separates (blazer + pants or skirt that don't match) are your friends. 
  • Depending on your style, use accessories to show your creative bent.

Since creatives are such a diverse bunch, here are some looks I found for each of the different design styles mentioned above.

The Minimalist
Minimal does not equal boring.  The key to a minimalist creative look is fit and cut.  Have fun with proportions.  I love this top with a narrow trouser, white asymmetrical blazer and some architecturally inspired heels. Minimalists can also go with mens-inspired pieces, such as a trousers and a vest (no jacket). 
I had a hard time finding looks at retail sites for this one, but think Jil Sander for inspiration...beautiful cuts and drapes with minimal frill.

The Experimentalist
Mix prints and graphics for an out-of-the-box look.  The blazer adds polish.  I would aim for a slightly longer skirt.

The Girlie Girl
Have some fun with colors and accessories here.  I love the brightness of this look, but might go with a shorter jacket so it doesn't look like you should be taking the coat off when you go indoors.

The Corporate Designer
This is the most similar to the traditional office interview look.  Try mixing a blazer with fun details with trousers or a pencil skirt.  Throw in some playful shoes and accessories.  I like this blazer, too.

Do you have a creative, a traditional, or other kind of job? What did you wear for your interview?


  1. This is a great question and one I love to discuss with others. When I applied for my first job "outside" in corporate America, I wore a very nice pencil skirt, coordinating (not matching jacket) and a nice T/Cami underneath. It was a job for a administrator years ago... and I was overdressed... but I always feel comfortable being overdressed (that is my style today). I use the a couple of strategies - you can't be overdressed and before you leave the house, take off one piece of "bling" (Jewelry, scarf, extra bracelet, etc.). I NEVER wear my hair fancy - it is always plain with no headband, clips, hat, etc. Now, as a sr. manager, I am impressed with someone over dressed....but someone underdressed makes me think they don't care. When applying for a job internally, I dress the office dress code, business casual, but a little nicer than a normal day (no jeans!! - even nice ones!!). So that is my 2 cents.... xoxo


  2. @ sherry - I totally agree--overdressed beats underdressed for an interview any day!

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