Hello! My name is Zaib Ali and I'm a 22 years old designer based in Sindh, Pakistan. I began designing in 2012. Prior to becoming a designer, I was a medical student who had never heard of the word “design,” but now I can't imagine my existence without it.
What is your background and how did you get into design?
I was a medical student who was working day and night to pass the pre-entry exam and qualify for MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery). While preparing for the exam, I got seriously ill. This affected my results, but I managed to make it through. I was disappointed with the low grades and I felt like I was done with pursuing a medical degree.
I was inspired to look into design after I accidentally met with an old friend, Asher Abassi aka Kyotux. He is a very reputable designer on Dribbble and was already on the top of the list of Pakistani designers. I was happy to see his success, but was depressed at the same time, as I was lost and unsure of my future compared to all of my friends. We met quite often and he would always talk about design and the different things that were happening in the design world.
Asher's stories inspired me to do something in a positive way. He showed me a couple of talented designers' profiles, including Creative Mints. This was the point where I began to take a deep interest in design. I began to follow all of the designers he suggested. As I found enormous amounts of free tutorials and resources and dove deeper into learning, it was confirmed that design would become my future expedition. In the beginning I would follow a tutorial many times to get close to the final result. In doing so, I would learn so many new tools and techniques. Upon completion I would show it to Asher for feedback. Asher was very honest while giving me feedback which definitely broke my heart many times, as well as pushed me to become better.
Initially I was learning the basic techniques and practiced on whatever came my way. By late 2013, I started to take keen interest in icons and illustrations.
Would you give us a glance at your day? What is your workday like?
My day starts with a cup of coffee while surfing the Internet, replying to emails, checking my favorite sites for updates and having breakfast. I love to cook. In fact, I worked in a restaurant for a short time just so I can become a better cook.
After breakfast, I come back to my desk and begin working. When I don't have any work I tend to spend my time listening to music and learning new techniques.
I do enjoy taking big breaks in the evenings. I usually visit the nearest park to become inspired and draw the nature around me, as well as observe and sketch moments people are having as they pass by. I like to take walks and have tea in a local hotel before I come back to my room to work again.
Drawing is one of my key expertises and I really want to become better at it. Every illustration that you see in my portfolio was first roughly drawn on paper before it became alive with colors.
Over your career, what took you the most to learn, understand or master?
All the skills that I have mentioned so far. I have given close attention to every skill that I have now and strive to master it. I think the sum total of excellence is knowledge. I think I am not a master yet - there is a long way to go and I am still a learner.
Who or what inspires and influences your work?
My dad is one of my biggest inspirations. He was the first one to obtain a higher education degree in my whole family. I'd also like to add nature to my inspiration list before I mention the talented designers who have inspired me throughout my career: Mike Creative Mints - design style, Artgerm - character design, Nick Slater - flat illustrations, and Zulal Ahmad - visual design.
There're a couple of quotes that I'd also like to share. When I'm stuck or I don't feel motivated I look up these quotes:
"Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion."
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
- Pablo Picasso
What is one project you are most proud of and what was the most challenging and rewarding part of it?
I am most proud of my low poly illustrations. You can take a look at my Behance portfolio. These illustrations took a lot of hard work, as I had to create different scenes with flat colors and moderate details. When I posted this project and received attention from many good designers, it really boosted my motivation and encouraged me to strive to become even better. This project changed my career. It was also rewarding to see it featured on Behance.
You are engaged in a wide variety of design projects, from stunning low poly illustrations, drawings and animations to skeuomorphic app icons and game characters. How do you prioritise your work, manage your time, and stay productive/motivated?
I would like to mention that, I am not just a designer but also a developer. I have experience with HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, jQuery, Wordpress and PHP development .
To motivate myself I make sure to not only focus on a single skill, like icons or web design, but rather explore all of shades of graphic design. I am currently working my socks off on low poly illustrations and incorporating them in UI design.
I am also a UI/UX designer. After using Sketch App I began focusing on UI design and I am beginning to post UI designs on a regular basis - I hope you will enjoy them.
How do you choose the clients you work with?
I don’t specifically pick clients, rather I love to take on different projects whether it is graphic design or development. I enjoy working on a variety of projects and it doesn’t affect my speed or quality. Recently I worked on a project for an RPG game. For this project, I continuously worked day and night for a couple of days to deliver it on time. I must say it was one of the toughest projectd I have taken. I like to take on challenges.
How do you think your career and job will evolve over the next 5 years?
With hard work I can see myself becoming a senior Graphic Designer in the next 5 years. I would like to offer a complete suite of design services so that my clients would never have to look for someone else.
If you could, what career advice would you offer to your younger self?
If you are not sure about your exact objective, move towards the field you like. Clarity will come with experience. Money will come with the inevitable excellence. You don't need to gravitate towards a job with the highest pay, you just need enough money to help you pursue your passion.
What are some of the design, development, and project management tools in your workflow?
For UI design, I use Sketch. For 3D art, I use ZBrush and Maya. And for a lot of my work I use Adobe Photoshop CS6. I usually use Illustrator on client’s demand. For team coordination, I use Slack and for prototyping I use InVision and Pixate.
I believe if you are skillful and can master one tool you can do wonders instead of being a jack of all trades and master of none. In my opinion, a good artist can do wonders even with a piece of chalk.
How did you get introduced to Sketch and what do you like most about it?
I was Introduced to Sketch by some of the finest designers in the industry like Meng To and then I saw designers at Google and Apple also switch to Sketch. I love Sketch for UI design as it’s light and there is great plugin support. I also like the Artboard and assets generation feature which saves a lot of time. I created the visual below for this intervie.
What advice would you offer to those starting out in the field?
My advice for beginners is to work hard. Never take advice from a person who is not motivated and trust yourself to follow your passion even if you have to pass through a storm. Always remember most influential people in the world like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Dieter Rams, Elon Musk, Jonathan Ive and others were once unknown to the world, but they worked hard, faced criticism and many challenges before achieving their extraordinary success.
You can start by taking an online course or work on a degree from an art school, but remember these are just platforms. To become good you will have to work hard, show devotion to your work and most importantly be passionate about it. Remember design is about problem solving, so try to solve problems via design, get inspiration from every design and never go after any field just for fame and to earn money. In design you must love your work.
Last but not least, I would advise to always start from a piece of paper. If you can’t bring your idea to paper you won’t be able to deliver it on the screen. Always design something that you love, if you are not satisfied with your design you would not expect others to like it.
What makes you smile or enjoy life?
Making others happy and smile, gives me immense happiness. I enjoy seeing nature closely. I often take breaks to explore nature by traveling to the northern areas of Pakistan which to me are like heaven on earth.
Where would you travel to or what is your favorite travel destination and why?
I would like to go to adventurous places like Alaska, the Amazon Jungle and the Land of The Maori (New Zealand's North Island). All in all, I like to go on adventures and sometimes visit dangerous places.
Anything else you would like to add...
The last thing I would like to share is a Dwayne Johnson quote written on the wall of my room - “Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.”
- iterate on designs
- discuss with others
- don’t be afraid to try a design
- plan ahead before starting on a complex image