Staff Spotlight: Ahmed Oteifa
We sat down with Pax designer, Ahmed Oteifa, to learn more about his background and the work that he does at Pax. Ahmed is originally from Cairo and works closely with Pax Principal, Stephan Tran, on graphics for clients. In this interview, we learn more about who Ahmed is and how design is a part of his life.
1. Could you tell us about your background and what brought you to [the] design world?
I went to school back home in Cairo where I studied mass communication. My last semester, I took a digital art course where I realized that I could work in design for a living. Thunder struck me, “That’s what I want to do.” After I graduated, I discovered a small design agency in Cairo led by two graphic designers, [and] went for an interview. I had no prior experience: they showed me their work and asked me to critique it. They must have liked what I said because they hired me as an intern for six months and I only had basic Photoshop skills [at the time]. After that, they hired me full time and I stayed there for an [additional] year.
The design industry is not as appreciated in Cairo as it is here in the States, and I wanted to be more challenged. I looked for portfolio schools as I needed a robust portfolio, which I didn’t have at the time since I hadn’t gone to design school yet!
Chicago Portfolio School in Chicago had the only one year program that I knew of [at the time]. That led me to move here. I freelanced for a while at various agencies before meeting Stephan. When I first interviewed for him, I didn’t get hired. I continued to freelance and about two years ago, when Stephan was in need of a freelancer, he reached out to me. He hired me as a freelancer for about six months and then brought me on full time.
2. Could you tell us about your role Pax?
At first, I was a junior designer. I handled small projects, such as business cards, and certain parts of larger projects, such as single web pages. Now I’m involved in almost all of our projects from start to finish, taking on each of the design components of a project from the initial client meeting through the final delivery of the project.
When he’s not in the office, Ahmed likes to spend time with friends. Sometimes that includes dressing up in goofy costumes!
3. Have you had a favorite project you’ve worked on or one you’re working on currently that you’re excited about?
My favorite project would probably be the work we completed for the Field [Museum]. The Terracotta Warriors and the China exhibitions website were very different from the other work that we had done so far. We had a strong collaboration [with] the Field Museum digital team: it was exciting and brought a different vibe. We also had a few sites visits at the Field Museum: it’s a fun and interesting place to visit. We always made a day out of it, so that was cool.
4. With the Field Museum project, did you encounter any challenges?
It was different because they had a lot of complex content, design, and functional requirements. And even though the collaboration was fun, it was also a challenge because the workflow was different from what we’re used to – much more content and science-based.
5. What did you find were the best ways for the two teams to collaborate effectively?
I’m pretty flexible when it comes to what people need from me. If I need to change my habits or workflow around a specific project, I can. It’s not that big of a deal. If they need an asset this way or that way, I adapt to the needs of the team. The Field Museum team was the same. They had specific requirements at the beginning but were also pretty flexible and went-with-the-flow. We trusted each other, and it worked out. Also, It was [a good partnership] because Stephan and the Web/Digital Engagement Director at the museum, Brad Dunn, had a close working relationship. The whole interaction [was] casual yet focused and productive. That’s the best thing about being in the creative industry. Everybody’s laid back and chill. There’s no suit and tie and that whole dance. It was fun.
6. Would you say that’s your favorite part about being a designer?
Definitely. At my first interview [for a design position], I showed up in a full suit, and I was so out of place. That was the last time I did that… thankfully!
7. Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to break into the design world?
Trust yourself. If you have an eye for it, and people have told you that you have an eye for it and like your work, trust yourself even more. All can be very subjective. Don’t be defensive at all. Just take everything in. It’s only design.
Writer / Content Development & Marketing Intern
Miriam is an undergraduate at Northwestern University pursuing a degree in Communication Studies with a focus in Integrated Marketing Communications and Design Innovation. She is passionate about learning about people and finding new ways to problem-solve.
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