Atif Azam

Atif Azam

Product Designer at Facebook

Product Designer at Facebook. Previously MongoDB and

9 action items

Decide what job type to start your career in

    • Where you land your first job may seem like a paramount decision. I assure you, it is not. Your career will be long. There will be ups and downs (hopefully not many, though!). For example, my career has taken me from agencies; to freelance; to startups, and now to a big company. Each role has its pros and cons. The important part is to view each stage as a learning experience. Each experience should inform your next adventure. The key is to identify the environment you will be the most happy.

    • Talk to working designers

      Take the time to have open conversations with professional designers. Talk to designers who work for an agency. Talk to designers at small and large companies. Ask them what their day-to-day looks like. How is their work/life balance? Even more importantly, if you're serious about a particular company - talk to designers who work there and ask them open and honest questions.... See more

    • Optimize for learning

      Identify the type of environment in which you'll learn the most. At an agency, you will most likely be doing a lot of pitch work and collaborating heavily with other designers and even clients. You may also be juggling multiple projects of varying context. At a small startup, you will be one of a few designers or maybe even the only designer. While that can be a great way to flex different skillets, it can also be a high-pressure position.... See more

    • Money talks

      Compensation can vary between these three company types. Typically, agencies will pay you the least. Startups can vary, but you may be able to offset this with equity. Large companies will most likely pay the most. This is solely based on my own experiences and should be taken with a grain of salt.... See more

Know when a design is complete

    • When it comes to digital products, your designs are never 100% complete. Think about a website or application that you frequently use. How many times have certain aspects of the design changed? At least a few, if not, many times. Don’t grow too close to any one execution. Be flexible and willing to adapt your designs based on user feedback and analytics.

    • Don’t stop there

      Focus your efforts on talking to users who are using your product and view analytics. Are your users successfully interacting with your product? Are there new feature requests? Move fast and address any issues. Rinse and repeat.

    • It doesn't have to be perfect

      When I started designing web products, I always wanted every pixel to be perfectly placed and every interaction to be flawlessly executed. Learn to differentiate what’s necessary and what’s considered a “nice-to-have”. Prioritize the former and, later, strive for the latter.... See more

    • Focus on the goal

      Does the design communicate the problem your business solves? Does it work as expected? If you the answer to both of those questions is yes, then you’re ready to ship it.

Get valuable critique on your work

    • Being the sole designer at a company can be a lonely, lonely proposition. But, it can be an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience. The key to receiving constructive feedback from non-designers is to help them understand what you do and to ask the right questions.

    • Have thick skin

      Yes, this is easier said than done, but do your best to realize that some aspects of design are subjective. If someone doesn’t like the color of a logo or that you chose rounded corners for buttons – that is solely their own opinion. Don’t take it personal or as an attack on your capabilities as a designer.... See more

    • Educate the company

      Stakeholders and others departments at your company may not fully understand that design is more than shapes and colors. Hold an open session where you educate folks at your company on what it is that you actually do. Show them that design is about problem-solving. Being transparent and giving everyone a glimpse into your process will garner more thoughtful feedback down the road.... See more

    • Define what you're looking for feedback on

      At the beginning of a meeting, make sure to set ground rules. Let all attendees know what aspects of your design you are looking for feedback on. Your feedback sessions should not be a free-for-all. You should lead the discussion and respond to any vague, general comments by asking for specifics.... See more