My original dream
For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in design. When we had to write book reports in English class at school, I would spend more time designing the layout of the document than I did writing the actual report! I also loved drawing and designing dresses. I decided that I wanted to be a fashion designer. But around the time that I needed to choose a university degree, I realized I couldn’t sew and wasn’t willing to learn! I just wanted to design and draw cool things.
I found a university degree called Information Design and was immediately captivated when I saw the beautiful work the students created. It seemed amazing to make posters, books and photos for a living! I applied for Information Design instead of fashion, and started my 4 year journey of joy, dotted with late nights, expensive printing runs and a few computer crashes.
During my course, we only had two projects about UI/UX design. I had to learn HTML and CSS at university too. Having a background in coding can help you better work with developers, but it’s not a required skill for most UI/UX designers. I found it interesting but challenging but at that time, I rather wanted to pursue branding design as a career.
Working as a graphic designer
During my third and fourth year at university, I did three internships at Japanese design agencies in Tokyo. I worked as a packaging designer, and one of my clients was One Piece (that’s right, the anime and manga!). It was a wonderful experience learning more about Japanese typography, design history, packaging design and of course, improving my Japanese language skills in a native environment. None of the companies I worked for used English!
I also freelanced as an art director at a Canadian indie magazine in my last year of university. It was awesome being able to design the whole magazine, from the logo to the visual identity to the page layouts. Unfortunately the magazine only ran for two issues. But by that time, I graduated and was ready to step into the working world.
My first UI/UX job
After graduating, I received an offer from an agency in Johannesburg for a service designer position, with a focus on UI/UX design. Some of my seniors from uni worked there and they told me it was great. I was daunted by the idea of working in UI/UX, but took the plunge, trying to dispel the thoughts of having no idea how to make an app! Work was way more fun than I had expected, and I fell in love with the user research and the design process.
After a few months, I realized that I felt much more at home in UI/UX design than in my initial dream of pure graphic design. I fell in love with creating pixel-perfect design, setting up design systems and guides, and understanding how users interact with products and how to make things easier and faster for them.
Related video: App design for the world
My speech at Polyglot Conference 2020.
Full title: App Design for the World: considering langauges, scripts and digital literacy
After 2 years in Johannesburg, I moved to Singapore for a new adventure. I joined a local startup and have been working here for almost 3 years. I help manage our small design team of 5 people while working on a monetization product in my company.
On the side, I’m doing some passion projects in language education that combine my love of languages and design. Right now, I’m fully focused on a flashcard app that we’ll be launching soon, so keep your eyes peeled for something exciting!