Alexander Mayes is a product designer at Instagram in California. He grew up in Bakersfield, California - a small town where his passionate interest in art and design was a unique one. He talks about honing his design skills by working design jobs during school and how doing both at once developed his work ethic. He also shares the importance of soft skills and accepting feedback from other designers. It may be something to do with the epic beard, but Alexander has some great wisdom to offer young designers and is honest about why he loves what he does.
Tell me about the work that you're currently doing?
I currently work at Instagram on the design team, as a product designer. Unfortunately, a lot of the work I’m doing right now I can’t really talk about [laughs]. I'm on a team comprised of around 15 or 16 designers, our team is growing a lot. I was the 8th designer that started on the team, and that was six months ago so we've grown a ton since then which is awesome.
As a product designer at Instagram each of us are working on different parts of the product. I'm in the monetization realm at the moment, but I've worked on some growth stuff as well in the past.
What was your path to design like? I noticed you actually went to school for it, so did you know early on it was what you wanted to do?
I did know really early on, which is funny considering my upbringing. I come from a small town in California called Bakersfield, which is sort of like a farming, agriculturally-based town. It's super conservative and super republican and they hate the arts and don't really have any artistic sort of mindset there [laughs].
I remember being in high school during the recession and they cut all of the extracurriculars. They cut all kinds of classes and they were laying off teachers too. The only teachers that they didn't lay off were the teachers that taught sports. I was in a web design class and I was the last person in the class. They shut down the class but they still needed somebody to run the website so they literally created a class for me to go in first period to work with a librarian who had no idea what to do when it came to web design. So I was in this one person class, called web design that consisted of me sitting on the computer in the library designing the school’s website.