I really enjoy reading. I read everything, although I am quite drawn to books that help me understand how the human brain works, so I read a lot more on psychology; the brain, nervous system, and emotions. I like to work out too, it helps me relax and relieve stress.
I take my sleep very seriously, and I love to cook. In fact, I share some recipes of food I make on Instagram. I also have and enjoy full blown conversations with myself
Although I didn’t know what design was at the time, I realised that I was very interested in how things looked. They would give us tasks and everyone would be nearly done while I was trying to figure out how to make things nice and aligned. Being someone who loves to pay attention to details, I was very particular about making things look perfect. I think that showed in how I was coding and perhaps ultimately is what tied me to Design.
I went back to school and rounded up my course. Then I returned to the company that organized the classes I attended during my Industrial training days, to learn more on web development. One day, my instructor asked me if I knew about UI/UX. When I replied in the negative, he asked me to read about it. The company were trying to build a product and wanted me to join the team as a designer even though I had no experience with design. I accepted their offer and that was how I began my journey as a designer.
I wasn’t technically hired, you see. What they offered me was the position of Co-Founder. We had 2 Engineers, 1 Full-stack Engineer who had knowledge of design, 1 Backend Engineer and I was to be the Designer. We were all just learning on the job and were to build collaborative software. What we had in mind was something like a Stack Overflow except that we wanted to build a collaborative text editor where if I have a problem and I post about it, somebody can join my code editor and we can have a video call, text or an audio call. Alternatively, they can have access to my computer, we can type the code together. That’s what we wanted to build and we built it.
I was building and learning at the same time. I would design and then code the design. There was a lot of Dribbble, Behance, then the Material Design or Google Design documentation. I tried to imitate what they did.
Now when I think about it, I always laugh at myself because we didn’t know a lot back then. Our goal was to be a tech start-up with an amazing product and all of that but we didn’t have a lot of knowledge about building a start-up or even a company. We didn’t do any legal stuff, we were naïve, hiding our product from engineers, even when we were supposed to be testing the product with engineers and showing them what we were building and getting feedback. We didn’t want them to copy our product. We did go live with our product and even designed a better version; version 1.1
Unfortunately, we couldn’t move forward because there were co-founder issues. So, I left and I moved to another company.
I had initially gotten a job offer while working at the start-up, but I turned it down because I thought that I was building a start-up. The person had reached out to me on LinkedIn, commending my work and offering me a position with his company and I declined the offer.
Leaving the start-up, I spent about two months at home just improving my design skills. Then I started applying for jobs, I even applied to Andela and got an interview but didn’t get the job. I then reached out to the guy from LinkedIn, asking if the position was still open. He hired me.
The job was actually like a frontend design job, I was going to do the same thing I was doing. I was working with extremely competent people; the speed at which they worked, their knowledge and background was on a different level. I struggled to keep up. Eventually, even though my boss liked me a lot and he was always pushing me and motivating me, we both agreed that I still needed some time to learn.
I gave myself like four months and in those four months, I was basically learning. But at that point, I was still not very clear on what path I wanted to go. I knew I enjoyed design, I enjoyed coding but not that much anymore, and I was beginning to like the visual part of Design. I was even thinking of going to design school. There was this School of visual art in Milan or something that I was going to apply to, to learn more about branding – back then, Design meant branding.
I learned to code, I learned to design, I learned about branding and I went back to my boss. I informed him about wanting to go to a design school and how I would have to work in an actual design agency that was actually doing design, and building stuff for clients to stand a chance at getting to the school. I would have to do product stuff, create a portfolio and build experience as opposed to coming back to building apps, writing code again. So, we both agreed that that was the best way to go. Then I joined Cregital.
After joining Cregital, I started hearing about Usable. I’m a very introverted person so even though I wanted community, I still did not join. I went to the event sometimes, and I followed online but I still didn’t put myself out there like that. I was still in my small corner just watching and looking at what people are doing. I am only part of the community because people pushed me into one event or the other, not because I actively volunteered myself.
As for connecting with people, I think that’s something I still struggle with. Joining a Community is always through an outgoing or popular friend, who will kind of bring me into the circle and I get to meet other people and connect with them. That’s kind of how it usually goes.
This was back in 2013, there was no designer, no community or anything to guide me. I was just looking at what people were doing outside the country and trying to learn. So, I didn’t have a lot of skills like visual design skills or even know if my user experience was okay, I was just designing what I thought was right. And that, for me, was the challenge. Even though I could get feedback from my colleagues, it wasn’t the kind of feedback I would get now or from the community that I have access to now. I didn’t have that back then.
Right now, I am building Hudi. It is a spiritual habit app for Muslims that helps you build healthy habits.
It’s something I always wanted to build but I didn’t have the knowledge or the design skills, the resources, and the time to build it. But when the pandemic happened, I had more time to think about it. So, I have an apple watch and I love it because it makes me very cautious about my activity level. And I know I needed something for my spiritual life that is going to do the same. There’s always that constant reminder every day to do X, Y, Z. I needed something for my spiritual life like that but it doesn’t exist.
Not trying to be petty but the Muslim community’s user interface with apps are like really, really bad. I figured that being a designer puts me in the right position to actually build something that is much needed. This is why I am building Hudi.
There is more to my life than being a designer, so I don’t follow design trends or updates. When there’s a job to be done, I find the best tools available to get the job done and just do it.
I still struggle with taking feedback. For example, when it comes to performance feedback, it can take me like a month to read mine. I have to first prepare my mind and determine the value I have placed on the person giving the feedback and how much of an impact their opinions will be. If it is feedback from somebody I feel like it doesn’t matter, I will read it and be done with it. But if it is feedback from someone that I take seriously, it takes me a while to read it. When I do read it, I might pick one or two things to be better, and leave the rest.
I think for me, just learning how to process what I feel when I receive the feedback and trying not to be defensive is still a learning process.
My inspiration largely depends on what the job is, but I mostly just do research.
As for tools, I doubt that I have any favorites. It’s just about getting the work done. I do use Figma a lot though.
My favorite apps are Uber and TransferWise. Why? Because it just works. Everything I need to do takes a few seconds.
I had this perception while I was younger, that to be a good designer, I needed to be public and popular. Now, I know that it doesn’t matter, what matters is to focus on learning and growing at my own pace.
I think the major skill to have is to pay attention to details. I cannot emphasize this enough because I believe that is lacking in the tech community. For example, I design something, and the Engineers code it and I have to make thousands of comments on the design mistake. I think learning how to code alongside good visual design skills helps because when I design something, I code the exact replica of what I have designed so I already know what would work and what wouldn’t. It makes me rethink that design solution to figure out the best solution that will be realistic and that will make sense. And also, I can understand whenever a developer tells me that a design is not possible; I can either see where the hitches are or help them figure out how to make it possible. It has made my relationship with Engineers better and easier too.
I will also add emotional intelligence and communication as necessary skills. As a designer, one has to interact with a lot of people; from engineers to users and clients, and different stakeholders, so communication matters a lot.
It’s basically just figuring out what the “right” problem to solve is, prioritizing the user and business needs, and being clear on what success or failure is.
Now, I see a lot of great designs coming out of Nigeria, but I also see a lot of “noise” from people who actually aren’t doing much design. I hope in the near future, the conversation & narratives will be driven by people with skin the game.
It is important for someone setting out in Design to find a way to work in a product team. It will change how one views design and broaden one’s understanding of design.
Great is a Product Designer with a background in Computer Science. He enjoys playing video games and producing music when he is not designing.Read Origin Story ➝