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Mentor Spotlight: Shir Albin

In this edition, Shir Albin gives us insider advice on building a portfolio, starting new projects, and finding inspiration in Instagram

Tell us about your work: what is your current professional status?

I'm a product designer at the WOW - a group of 10 creators, thinkers, and coders from many types of backgrounds & disciplines, who are responsible for inventing the new media & motion cutting edge products. As the product designer at the visual innovation team, my goal is that our products will stand out by their content, experience and relevance.

What was your graduation project and how did it affect your career?

The goal of my graduation project was to tell the aesthetical story of my city - Tel Aviv. I decided to do so through visual research about Tel Aviv's buildings and architecture. I chose to Illustrate the buildings, inspired by specific fonts that I felt shared similar values to the building and the time they were built.

I can say that my graduation project didn't directly affect my career, but it’s one of my favorite creations and as a personal research/experimental project, I learned a lot through the process.

What skills/assets did you learn in college that you felt ended up rewarding you the most in finding your first position?

In college I had a fruitful experience exploring design in motion. I took courses in animation, soundtrack design, video editing and storytelling which opened my mind to the magical and varied world of communication and design. I find myself using those skills in my current position as a product designer that deals a lot with media and motion products.

When you got into the “real world” what did you look back on in your education and found lacking?

One of the most important things in the “real world” is to know how to work with other people on the same project. I think that it could be helpful if we had more experience in that respect. For example, creating heterogeneous groups with people from all kinds of disciplines or different degrees who can work together on a digital or a physical product.

The portfolio interview is a daunting moment. Any general tips around etiquette for before, during and after? (secret things that people wished were done but might generally go unsaid?)

I think what helped me the most with my portfolio interview was to do lots of interview simulations so I felt comfortable presenting each of my projects and explaining my design choices. I literally presented my projects verbally to a friend so I could be clear and confident in real time. I believe that the story behind your projects is basically telling your own story—your passions, your strengths, your concerns and it's better to be accurate.

And what’s the most important thing to have/show in a portfolio?

I think the most important thing in a strong portfolio is to know how to compile it all together—which projects to showcase, how to present each project, what the portfolio looks & feels like (fonts, colors, layout, etc). The portfolio is the place to show you are a great designer who knows how to communicate your story.

How do you usually start working on a project?

I tend to start a project as “Tabula Rasa”. In order to do so I usually start with some "get lost" time. This is where I’ll open my mind to explore off-topic, yet relevant fields hoping that unexpected and clever insights will come my way.

The first year after school can be a confusing time. What was it like for you?

The first year after school was frustrating because I had to return to my parents’ house and keep working as a waitress. It was also a confusing time because I didn't know which direction I should choose as a career; I loved so many aspects in design and didn’t want to do only branding, or only web design. So I took that time to think, work on my portfolio and do some freelance projects. It took me almost two years before I started to find myself and discovered something more fulfilling.

What are you working on now?

We recently launched Gradients on Wix Editor, which lets you add Linear, Radial and Fluid gradients to your container background. As part of my product design research, I tested how the gradient presets we offer to our users as a starting point look when wired to the site palette. Here I noticed I am creating a sort of 'Generative Gradients' with random pallets that use the logic I defined. The Gradients I have got were beautiful and at the end of the process we felt confident to offer the 'wired palette presets’ method to our users.

What do you find most useful in your work (research, visuals, softwares, etc.)?

As a product designer, I find myself doing lots of research, catalog curation, defending the product presets etc. The method I usually use is called visual mapping. After collecting lots of visual materials, I lay it out and start mapping them through analyzing and cataloging. That process helps us draw conclusions and make fast and clear decisions about our products.

​​Any projects past, present, or future you’d like to share here?

About three years ago we launched THE product called ‘Transparent Videos’. It's a unique player that can play mp4 video files with transparency(!). It was (and still is) an innovative & first-in-market product! When we launched the product, we offered a stylish, rich and varied catalog and added the option to create extraordinary visuals with infinite coloring options. In phase two, we even gave users the option to upload their own videos with alpha channels and stream them on any Wix site as transparent. It is without a doubt one of the most exciting, meaningful and groundbreaking projects I took part in.

When you feel stuck, where do you turn for inspiration?

My favorite place to get inspired is Instagram. I follow so many talented designers, artists, illustrators, art directors, coders, small & large studios, fashion houses, magazines and much more. I even took it a step further and created a Chrome Extension as an independent project to make Instagram more desirable for designers on Desktop.



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