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Shakeel Mohamed – Developer Turned Designer

😮 My first design conference talk! (Developer Turned Designer, vol. 4)

published5 months ago
4 min read

Hi, I definitely slipped on getting an August email out! Moving out of state was a bit more chaotic than I expected. Thankfully I’m all settled in my new apartment in Pasadena, California. In a few days I have ArtCenter orientation, and the following week the semester begins!

AIGA Portfolio Festival

Some days I feel like I’m dreaming... like this is really my life?

Last month I had the pleasure of presenting my design portfolio during the AIGA Design Portfolio Festival to 100+ live attendees! The wonderful Louise Sandhaus reviewed my work along with these fantastic other designers: Rachel Detloff & Ace Pascual.

Last year, I attended the same event and cobbled together my first ever design portfolio and received a private review. That day, I faced what felt like a very harsh truth. My portfolio was nowhere near good enough to get into a graphic design MFA program. Was I demoralized? Yes... for a few days. Then my mentors and friends gave me the perspective shift I needed and I got to work. Big time.

After five full portfolio redesigns, and constantly bugging my mentors for reviews... the rest is history. I was accepted to my top choice school, and got to share my work on the main stage at the same event I was so overwhelmed by last year! Those 20 minutes were a whirlwind, and a beautiful opportunity to reflect on my growth over the past year.

The key message from my talk was: one year can change your whole life. You can watch the full recording on Youtube!

As nervous as I was leading up to the festival, I’ve given dozens of presentations between working as a software engineer and numerous volunteer projects. Those experiences absolutely helped me prepare for this one. As unrelated as things may seem, there is often a commonality that I can find to support my growth.

My Toughest Design Challenge This Year

Apartment hunting in Los Angeles was kind of crazy. I hit the ground running the day after I got into town and within four days I toured 15 apartment units. It was absolutely wild during that time driving across town every day. Those days I was either driving, on the phone, or in an apartment for what felt like a full-time job. In the end, the very last apartment I saw was the one I ended up moving into!

Before I left Washington, I was thinking about living a very minimalist lifestyle and basically not even furnishing my apartment at all. But once I got down here and especially during those 4 days, I knew that I wanted my home to be a soothing environment especially with the heat in Pasadena being much higher than other parts of Los Angeles. Also during graduate school I expect to be really stressed out and busy, so finding a way to make my home be both very functional for studying and restorative has been interesting. Although I'm not an interior designer, I'm still a designer and finding the right furniture at a student budget has been quite interesting. Once I have everything sorted out, I hope to do a little tour video or at least take some pictures and show how it all came together and maybe some of my interior design process. Although, the bulk of my process was online shopping :)

My Latest Read: Ruined By Design

My good friend and mentor Jose Caballer recommended I read Ruined By Design, before I begin my MFA program. There’s some interesting ideas in the book with the core premise being that designers are responsible for upholding ethical standards for the work we do. While I don't totally disagree with this, it does feel like a heavy burden to bear. Especially coming from his perspective in user experience design, I feel this responsibility should be shared between design, engineering, and product. However, that does not seem to be the case in reality. So I wonder if it's a reasonable expectation for designers to uphold ethical standards within an organization. These and the following ideas are worth contemplating over the next 3 years of graduate school, and perhaps the rest of my career.

  1. I want to rethink my career goals in terms of positive impact on the world, rather than. purely focusing on phenomenal level execution. I still want to do EPIC work, but how can I steer that drive in a direction so I’m actually helping people on a global scale. Think: exponential and rippling impact.
  2. I want to write my own code of ethics, similar to Mike Montiero’s, maybe with some tweaks and share it publicly. I have a rough idea of my design principles, but until recently I hadn’t considered codifying my ethical viewpoint.
  3. What if I could create that next level organization for professional designers that Mike Montiero talks about? Of course I need more experience myself before pulling that off, but I am great at executing and that would be an awesome side hustle once graduate and have my finances in order.

Next Week It Gets Real

The past few weeks have been unpredictable and quite random while trying to get settled into my new home. I think there will be a new level of focus and determination that gets activated within me very soon. It certainly feels like the calm before a storm.

Stay tuned!

I hope to send these notes out once a month, and continue to share my insights as I begin this new journey with graduate school.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe here.

WIth gratitude,
-Shakeel


How You Can Help

My independent design business is called ntrsct (in•ter•sect) designs, and I’m always looking to meet potential clients or collaborators.

I help businesses make the right first impression with their customers, by providing brand strategy and logo design services.

If you know any of those types of businesses, please let me know. I would love to meet them! Feel free to forward this email with a note, or share my business website or services deck with them.