I actually grew up wanting to be a musician and maybe that’s why my favorite app is Spotify. But when it was time for university, I didn’t know what I wanted to study or do with my life. I just knew that I liked Maths and that I wanted to solve problems. So, when people began to whisper into my ears to study Economics, it sounded like a plan. At least until I got into university and fell in love with Graphic Design.
I became some sort of a truant who’d skip classes to spend time watching YouTube videos on typography, color, or just something to do with graphic design. I remember having this friend who was into Graphic Design, although he was more like a brand designer, he would spend time on Photoshop designing logos. I remember being so fascinated by what he did that I started to replicate some of his logo designs on PhotoGrid because he made it seem like Photoshop was difficult.
As time went on, another friend of mine saw my designs and encouraged me to use Photoshop instead because it was better suited for them. I would read and watch videos about Design and then go use his laptop to practice using Photoshop since I didn’t own a laptop at the time. In 2018, I finally got a laptop and was excited to practice all that I was reading. However, my designs came out terrible! No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t get the kind of designs I wanted. It made me realize that reading without adequate practice does not work. I decided to take a break.
By the end of 2018, I decided my break was over. I had heard about Product Design and wanted to try my hands at it with hopes I wouldn’t fail at it like my attempt at Graphic Design.
I started by reaching out to designers on social media, telling them who I was and what I wanted to achieve, and seeking their guidance. I remember the first time I designed a music player and I did these micro-interactions on Adobe XD. I was so excited! It became clear that I was interested in Product Design and I thought the best way to grow and improve would be to get an internship or go to a design school.
I checked out different options for school and even applied to Stuttern. Initially, my parents weren’t supportive of the career move because they considered it a hobby and were not going to commit extra funds for design school. I decided to go the internship route and then put together a portfolio with everything I had done in graphic & UI design and then used that to apply to as many places as I could.
Eventually, I met someone who liked my work. The person referred me to the Zonetech CTO. He gave me a task and then offered me a job after I completed it. I was living in Enugu at the time with my parents. I needed to move to Lagos for the job. Although I had some resistance from my mum, we eventually got on the same page and I left for Lagos.
Zonetech gave me the opportunity to learn that there was more to design beyond micro-interactions and visuals. I had an amazing team Lead who pushed me to improve and even paid for me to take an IDEO design thinking course. I would like to think that this is where my career as a Product Designer began.
I started off earning ₦30,000 as an intern, which I thought was decent. I figured the only way I could increase my earnings was to improve myself. I read a lot, watched so many videos, and reached out to people for guidance where I was stuck or frustrated. I am fortunate that the people I met on this journey were always willing to help and push me because this really made me put in my best.
In 2019, I got a job offer at an agency. Accepting the offer was a difficult decision because I saw the people I was working with as a family. However, the agency was going to give me the opportunity to work on diverse projects. This was the ultimate reason why I chose to leave.
I have this hunger for growth which has pushed me to be a great designer. Growth has always been my main motivation. It is why I have changed jobs even though I have dealt with a lot of rejections in my career. Regardless, I am always looking for new ways to learn & grow.
As a new designer, my challenge was getting learning resources. Now, I think it’s a lot easier for one to get resources. A lot of people are putting out free courses online that one can easily gain from, unlike when I started where all the resources had to be paid for. Then, I had to make do with free trials of courses, I also used LinkedIn Learning, YouTube, and Coursera.
I also learned the hard way how to sell myself and my work. I got a lot of rejections because I didn’t know how to communicate my work & worth. I took the feedback and worked on specifically improving that.
I also had to deal with imposter syndrome, especially in the beginning. I didn’t think I was good enough or that I deserved to be called a product designer. But thankfully, it isn’t as bad now.
I get inspiration from different places when I start working on a new project. I listen to music on Spotify, and look at designs on lapa.ninja, land-book.com, dribbble.com, or mobbin.design. I also get inspiration from reading articles relating to what I want to work on or I might read a chapter of a book or more depending on what I am working on.
I did not associate with a particular community and didn’t have a specific mentor. Throughout my career, I have relied on different people for feedback which has helped me and pushed me to be better. My first team lead at Zonetech was a huge influence; his name is Elijah Kingson.
What has worked for me is reaching out to people over special media when I am stuck on specific things. I am forever grateful for all their help.
I don’t think we are having in-depth conversations about design and how our design processes and decisions have helped make a difference, like increasing the number of sign-ups for example, I also don’t think Designers should learn how to code, although it is fine if they do.
Anyone who wants to be a designer, the person should have basic UI skills, understand the concept of design thinking, and know-how to do some research. On soft skills, they should learn how to communicate their design decisions and how to talk to stakeholders and people in general.
If there was one thing I wish I was told earlier in my career, it would be the value of practice. I hope people put in a lot of practice in doing the work. Reading and consuming information is not enough, one has to practice.
I also wish someone had told me to be more confident in selling myself and my work, to not be too polite or make myself small in the eyes of others. And also, I wished I didn’t put so much pressure on myself and beat myself up when I couldn’t get a hang of some things. I have come to realize that at the time you need a skill, learning it will be much easier.
Other things I think I would advise newbies would be to be hungry for knowledge and to be open & willing to learn. I would tell them to push and not remain comfortable in their comfort zones. I would tell them to not take rejections to heart because rejections are not a definition of your expertise.
Document your process and your wins. On days when you feel like you are not the best at your job, it’s helpful to have things that remind you of how far you have come. It does wonders for your confidence!
Charles is a Markudi-raised Designer and now CEO & co-founder of Spire. He deeply believes technology can elevate human experiences.Read Origin Story ➝