We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, books, methods, and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome. This week we interviewed Amir Hadjihabib, a Product Designer at Zendesk in San Francisco. Amir works with project managers and creative teams to create new functionalities for the product.
Give us a rundown of how you got into design.
Originally, I was never into design. I love photography: it’s my passion. Any time I can shoot I enjoy it. My mom gave me a camera when I was 5 or 6 years old and so I was always running around with a camera. I started to develop a really strong interest in photography and now I have 15-20 cameras, both film and digital. I was thinking about going to school for photography so I started researching photography as a career, but it just didn’t seem like something I wanted. The industry is pretty rough. It’s really competitive and it just wasn’t an attractive culture. Zendesk is a really fun environment but if I was doing photography it would be a lot more nose-to-the-grind. As I was researching careers, I found out about new media. I grew up on computers, and it just made more sense to me to try design on a computer. I’ve always had a strong interest in art, but design is a relatively new thing since college. It was always photography.
What are the top 3 essentials in your workspace?
- Pencil & Sketchbook: This is my number one for sure. I always start with pen/pencil and paper. I love having something to quickly sketch out an idea.
- Pin-up/White Board: It’s a lot more collaborative. If I’m working on a specific project, I’ll pin up everything from early sketches to wire frames, and then start pinning up high fidelities. I like having it in the background because you’re kind of absorbing it, and you’re kind of looking at it, but it’s not constant. Your concept should always be in your mental periphery.
- Good Team: You can only work on your own so far, but if you have a good effort with other people and get feedback, it goes a lot faster and a lot better.
How important is your workspace to your creativity?
It’s pretty important to me personally. Having a good art collaboration area is definitely beneficial. I’ve done both freelance work and collaborative work, and I do better work in a collaborative environment. Having more eyes on a project is always better.
Do you ever work outside of the office? Where?
Yes, at Zendesk you can work from home if you really need to focus on something. I don’t do that very often because I enjoy the environment so I don’t have a need to work away.
What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
Collaboration. You can only progress so far on your own and then you need that group effort. One person might say one thing, and then another person might say another thing, but then you might actually click on something completely different than what those two people said. It will help you build on top of what you’re working on. You may not go in their direction, but it will help you to think in different branches: Collaboration helps your brain not get stuck in one train of thought.
What is your favorite part of the design process?
I really enjoy early-on concepting, just trying to grasp what it is you’re doing. That goes for any kind of product or any kind of design. Building on it is fun, but just the concept exploration is really fun.
How do you know when you’ve achieved an understanding of what the client really wants?
Zendesk is selling customer support. To sell it, we have to have a foundation in it and own it ourselves. We have a really good support team with people who are constantly in contact with all our customers. We also have a lot of users using the same product, so we’re really in tune with them. When customers request new features in help desk tickets, that comes to the project managers who decide if it is usable and necessary. Then it will go to UX for testing and then it comes in to me.
InVision helps me communicate what my designs are doing in a clearer way.
What is your ritual to “get in the zone” when you’re working on a project?
I really like sketching. Even if it doesn’t really have to do with the project I’m working on, sketching is a great way to get your brain down on paper.
Photography really gets me there too, especially outdoors. I really enjoy taking my camera on a hike and getting out there in nature.
What are some of your favorite books?
- Breaking the Grid by Timothy Samara
- Typeface: Classic Typography for Contemporary Designer by Tamye Riggs
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
What music do you listen to when you’re designing?
I like a weird range of music. I go from modern music to Brazilian to old jazz. One of my gripes with Pandora is you can only have 100 stations.
What is your beverage of choice?
I’m a huge supporter of tap water, especially in San Francisco. I mean, who gets their water from Yosemite?
Tell us about some of your favorite tools for the creative process.
- Pen and Paper
- Illustrator: I use Illustrator to create wireframes for the project I’m working on.
- InVision: Once I’ve created the wireframes I’ll drop them in InVision.
- Photoshop: I use Photoshop to create low fidelity mock ups which I then drop into InVision to create clickable mocks.
- Pin-up boards
InVision helps me iterate faster, figure out what’s wrong and what’s right and just be able to show people more quickly.
How important is collaborating with other designers?
Super important. Having everyone focus on one design makes it better than any one person could ever make it.
InVision helps me communicate what my designs are doing in a clearer way. It helps people experience it so that if there are any kind of flow mistakes they come up really fast because it gives them the ability to say, “I clicked that and nothing happened…what’s up?” InVision helps me iterate faster, figure out what’s wrong and what’s right and just be able to show people more quickly.
Where does your inspiration come from?
When I’m early concepting, I try to get back to what I enjoy: being outdoors and being surrounded by people. On the polar opposite, I also really enjoy being in nature and being completely isolated. So the weird combination of those two is where I work from. Sometimes I will go to the roof deck on my building or go for a drive to be alone. Being in a place you love is a great way to find inspiration.
Who do you look up to as a designer?
What makes a great designer?
A great designer is someone who is passionate about art and enjoying different cultures. A great designer doesn’t close themselves off to new ideas and cultures. It’s about being open and trying to experience everyone’s different points of view, take it all in and then add it to your own point of view. In product terms that means trying to understand the different users. In more general terms: try to understand people on the street, have empathy for them, create something important to them. It’s not about yourself, it’s about others.
How do you define great design?
Great design is something that doesn’t need any explanation. It speaks for itself. Great design can speak to multiple people from multiple points of view and still have impact. It’s about communicating a clear message to whoever is looking at it or experiencing it.
Amir is a Product Designer at Zendesk in San Francisco. He is a photographer for fun and he enjoys concepting out stuff that doesn’t have any relevance to things he’s working on just so he keeps trying new things. He’s also going through an interview process at Academy of Art to start teaching a senior project class in the evenings. Soon we can start calling him Professor H. Check out his portfolio site and follow him on Twitter and Dribbble.
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