Originally from Cairo, Eman Abdallah was studying graphic and product design, but the way she was being taught actually made her “kind of hate it”! She moved to America and discovered Shillington in New York—the perfect fit for “being an extrovert who mostly learns by interacting with other people, having conversations about the subject-matter and loves challenges.” Flash forward and now Eman is now working as a Designer at Humachina, a research-based startup using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to improve the way people learn and perform.
Read on to hear more about how she used GoFundMe to crowdsource 1/3 of her Shillington course fees, building an AI life and career coach in her current role, differences between the creative scenes of Cairo/New York/Los Angeles, why she has a “Play” section on her website and how design briefs are “the professional version of a treasure hunt”. Plus, make sure you read all the way to the bottom to see five don’t-miss tips for graphic design students.
What were you doing before Shillington?
I was studying in university. I studied design for two years at the German University in Cairo while also managing an open-mic project. Even though I was excelling at university, I was very dissatisfied with how we were being taught design and it actually made me kind of hate it! That led me to pursue art instead so I ended up moving to the U.S. and got an Associate Degree in Studio Arts at Pasadena City College. After graduating, I wanted to experience living in a different state. Art, culture, work opportunities, and diversity were on top of my priorities so I moved to New York.
Why did you decide to study design? Why Shillington?
The way I was introduced to design at first kind of gave me a bad representation but while I was studying studio arts, I realized that we were incorporating most, if not all, of the design principles. Surprisingly, studying art is what made me see design in a new light and fall in love with it!
When I moved to New York, I was looking at different workshops and courses that could teach me more about graphic design. I wanted methodology (design theory, typography, design principles, etc.) as well as practical experience of how designers work in the real world (briefs, deadlines, client feedback, etc).
I ended up going to a Shillington info session and realized how tailored it was for my personality; being an extrovert who mostly learns by interacting with other people, having conversations about the subject matter and loves challenges.
What was your favorite part about studying design in New York?
So much is happening and it’s usually happening for free. I found it rather easy to find design-related events in New York. Meetup and Eventbrite are worth checking out. Moreover, New York is a very student-friendly city with tons of resources and inspiration. Most museums were donation-based or for free with our Shillington student ID.
To fund your studies at Shillington, you started a GoFundMe campaign. Tell us more about that! Why did people donate, and any tips for other people considering launching a GoFundMe effort?
When I found out about Shillington, I realized that it was way beyond my financial means to pay for and it was kind of disheartening but I was determined to do it.
My best friend suggested creating a GoFundMe campaign to collect the money necessary to enroll. The campaign ended up paying for 1/3 of the fees.
I think people felt that my story is honest and that I shared it with an open heart and that is why they donated. I also think that people believe in someone who believes in themselves and is clear about their objectives. That’s really the kind of approach I took when I created my campaign.
Yes, a few tips from my experience:
You’ve lived in both Los Angeles and New York. Do you see any creative differences between them? Which one is your favorite?
My experience was that Los Angeles is way laid back compared to New York. LA was perfect when I was doing more fine art; I had a lot of space, A LOT of storage, time with no stress and some of the finest museums in the world (The Getty is my favorite). New York, on the other hand, is literally buzzing all the time. There is an enormous amount of energy that moves people in New York, especially the creative bunch. That helped me as a creative person who wanted to learn and achieve so much within a short period of time.
New York did not fail to feed my curiosity and nurture my creativity even once!
Now you’re working as a designer at a start-up. Tell us more about what about that role!
I am working at a start-up called Humachina. It is a research-based startup using AI technology to improve the way people learn and perform. One of the things we are building is an AI life and career coach.
I’m the start-up’s graphic and UI designer. I designed their brand identity, landing page, chatbot UI, user profiles and other miscellaneous interfaces for the company’s product.
I also constructed a growing UI style guide for Humachina’s developers to build a consistent an intuitive User Experience across desktop, mobile and tablet devices.
Why do you love working as a designer?
Love the Play section of your website. Why do you share that?
I feel that my website should be a true representation of me as a creative person, not just as a designer. I hope that when someone visits my website, they enjoy my playful side as much as the professional one.
What are your top five tips for graphic design students?
Where do you go for creative inspiration? Any suggestions?
I have been exceptionally inspired by lettering artists and printmakers lately. I’m growing to appreciate both forms immensely, so here are some of my favorites go-to people: @realfunwow, @gaellegarrocq, @ginkgomaker, @jimbobernaus, @superniceletters and @nickmisani.
Huge thanks to Eman for sharing her story! Check out her website, Instagram, Behance and LinkedIn.
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