Insider on Design roles @ Next plc – the design dept 2010

Design Roles with Next Plc: what you may need to know

I have had a number of meetings with NEXT plc over the years as they searched for an upholstery and furniture designer. The latest was with design manager Suzie Gibson which started with a long haul phone interview while I was on site in China.

Preparing for this type of senior role interview is a time consuming affair, preparing mood boards and portfolio.  My main concern was being asked something that had me stumped… so I had a list at hand and went over all my career details in respect… I thought out the most demanding case scenario: lots of probing questions and angles.

Suzi called nearly an hour late going on midnight my time downtown Canton!

The conversation was nothing like what I had expected… chatty and relaxed. It went around the mouses a bit and we set up the face to face at HO Leicester.

Arriving I was taken off through the sprawling NEXT campus and set up in a box office… no frills at NEXT.

Again late, Suzi arrived and we started going over my portfolio.

Out came her pad, hmmm.. been here before.

S:  So what kind of fabrics are you seeing?

NG:  Linens, naturals…

S:  I’ve got someone who I really want to move over to another role that will open this role…

NG:  Is the role definite then?

S: err um yeh well … yes

Long pause…

There was scant talk about upholstery – yet this role was for that area.

What was going on here was Suzi was interested not in me but in what I knew and had in my mood boards.

S:  What colours are you seeing for 2011

N:  Naturals, copper, silver will be a contrast to shades of teal

S:  Where did you get that information from?

N:  It’s what I do… the market place, my vendors.

By the end of our interview she had seen my entire portfolio and walked away with key trend.

I dug about at what the role JD consisted of and she struggled.

Feed back came 2 weeks later:

Hi Nick,

Finally! here is your feedback from Next

Suzie very much enjoyed meeting you, she felt you both had a good rapport in the interview. Suzie commented that you a very experienced home designer of home accessories and adept at putting ranges together.  Her concerns were a lack of recent retailer experience and she was concerned at your upholstery experience. Suzie would be very happy for you to work on any up coming home accessories freelance projects for them.

As you are aware Next are revamping the home Design department and their could possibly be some freelance working in the offing. they will keep me posted

Kind regards

Designing for retail is what I have been doing for 15 years.

When interviewing for a retail design role the chances are you will be place around the key candidate… if the role exists at all.

Think carefully about what you are prepared to show, or rather lose.


  • Base yr portfolio around their style.  Move on one or two things they are carrying.
  • Show concept not finished Skus.
  • Don’t include, ironically, yr best work!
  • Include work prepared on the smart side, for the interview.

The whole process can add up in expenses too, so be absolutely sure you are going after something other than a trend gaze.

Good luck!



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