At the end of this semester, Dan Boyarski, the current head of the School of Design, is stepping down after six years. Dan has an inspired character and has done an excellent job representing the school. His personality and teaching ability helped seal my decision to apply to the interaction design program at Carnegie Mellon. Replacing him will not be easy.

The search for a new head is well underway, and with the looming end to Dan’s reign, the final candidates have been chosen to visit the school and present to the faculty and select students from the undergraduate and graduate programs. I was selected to represent the second-year interaction design graduates, and yesterday sat in on the first presentation. Throughout, I imagined what the presentation would be like if Dan were giving it. Unfortunately, the candidate did not compare.

I cannot name names or locations, and will not directly comment on the particulars of today’s candidate, but will submit some general considerations if you happen to be applying for the position of head of a school of design, or in particular, head of the Carnegie Mellon School of Design.

  • If you don’t seem excited, no one else will be. Leaders must excite and inspire.
  • Your presentation should be kick ass in a very designerly way. At a minimum, no centered text, overuse of italics, or orphans. Legible text and images, even better.
  • Don’t read directly from your slides (I know, this applies to everyone).
  • You should mention user-centered design at least once, perhaps often.
  • Do your homework. Don’t ignore important aspects of the school, like the unique graduate program. Specifically, don’t confuse CPID with information design, and also have something to say about the IxD program.

Of course, these are the bare minimum. I urge any candidate to shoot for blowing us away with your awesomeness.

The remaining presentations will take place over the next few weeks. After each, the attendees complete a survey to help the selection committee make a decision. I commend the committee for including students in the selection process, and feel honored to be taking part.