HOW [BATCH]ELOR AMBASSADOR, TOMIWA ALABI, APPROACHES CREATIVITY AND DESIGN
Meet Tomiwa Alabi.
Tell us about your role.
I am a Senior Human Interface Designer at Apple focusing on iOS, watchOS, and macOS experiences. The team I work on is essentially responsible for how anything looks, animates, feels and sounds on Apple devices – from the Apple logo when the device is first turned on, to the last visual customers see before turning it off. This includes typography, transitions, animations, coloring, and visual layout, to name a few. Our group is part of the larger design team led by Sir Jony Ive.
How did you wind up designing for Apple?
I came to Apple six years ago after a career in advertising in Manhattan and St. Louis. I was in New York working as an interactive designer, and shortly into 2012, was contacted by a recruiter at Apple. After a few months of discussion and contemplation, I decided it was time to start a new chapter and moved out to San Francisco to start a new chapter at Apple.
What does your day to day look like?
I live in Oakland so my days start quite early in preparation for a two-hour commute to work (that’s just one-way). In the mornings, I like to start my day off by either practicing piano, going for a run around Lake Merritt or heading to the gym for a quick workout. It’s a nice way to start off my day by doing something inspiring or productive.
Once I get to work, most of my time is spent either designing at my desk or in meetings with leads, producers, engineers and other designers.
After another two-hour commute home, I typically only get a few hours to wind down and decompress from my day. I like to spend that time making dinner with my girlfriend and catching up on our day, chatting about current events or relaxing to the endless cycle of TV shows out now.
What first got you interested in design?
Growing up in a family of architects and expressionists has always been a gift to me. My father and brother are both architects, and because of this, I spent a lot of time going to sites, looking at buildings, observing layout, structure, shapes and spaces around me.
I always knew I enjoyed design, but I never knew what I wanted to do with it as a career. Around college, I started playing around with design on my own by creating amateur car commercials and ads. This ultimately opened the door for me to get an internship at an ad agency in St. Louis, where a coworker taught me how to use photoshop. That’s really where it all started for me as I entered the world of design and made it the focus of my career!
What is your favorite part of design?
Probably making mistakes. I imagine most people are reluctant to doing so, but I believe it’s the mistakes that sometimes lead to visual opportunities. I love those moments when you’re working on a project and you make a design error, but that actually leads to an unexpected idea. It goes to show that sometimes you have to get something wrong to figure out a better way to do it.
What do you think about the state of Silicon Valley today?
Silicon Valley has evolved, and it continues to do so every day, but I think there are a few facets that could do with some revolution. I believe the Valley has a lot more work to do in terms of evening out the playing field regarding diversity and inclusion. Additionally, it needs to heighten its responsibility of empowering voices and roles of people of color and women - particularly in leadership, management, and seniority. A lot of companies have started to do incredible work in these areas, but we still have a ways to go to make the opportunities equal and widen the sense of belonging.
Also, given the current political climate, I think Silicon Valley has a responsibility to bring people closer together and to fight ongoing social, racial, criminal, and humanitarian injustices. Silicon Valley is leading change in so many different ways, and I believe together there can be big waves made to connect people empathetically and help better rectify these shaky political times.
What advice do you have for fellow designers who are just starting out in the career field?
Don’t be too hard on yourself!
Hangout with people in different fields to gain fresh voices and perspectives.
Learn how to step away from work and find time and spaces to decompress.
Can you tell us about your personal design preference? What do you look for when designing your home?
I’m really proud of my current apartment because it feels so cozy and relaxing - or so I’ve been told. A lot of elements in our home have a traditional, mid-century, rustic/farmhouse vibe with a lot of warm wood colors, cozy blankets, white accents and some vegetation. I enjoy mid-century designs, but I don’t like it when it’s overdone. I think pairing mid-century modern pieces with more traditional styles looks best.
I also like the room to feel like it’s lived in and it’s not too perfect. For example, I won’t line everything up perfectly on a bookshelf – I like to mix things up and add depth to my shelves with various decorative pieces, books, vinyl, and other interior accessories.