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Check Out Guillaume Azadian’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Guillaume Azadian.

Hi Guillaume, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Normandy, about an hour and a half from Paris, France. Since this is the countryside, I had plenty of time on my hands and I spent a lot of it reading books, comics, and watching Japanese animes. I was fascinated by the power of words and images and what makes a good story; I imagined myself being a journalist or a writer for a while. It took me some time to find my way. While studying marketing in England, I discovered Photoshop at 21 and spent full weeks trying to recreate a playing cards game from the famous RPG Final Fantasy 9. I decided that I needed to shift and after getting my degree, I took a loan and spent two years at a design school in Paris. Even though I was initially more interested in illustration, this experience opened my eyes on so many things, especially typography and motion design. But two years of design school was kind of short so I struggled a bit to find a job that suited my expectations at the start of my career. Being a huge travel enthusiast, when I left school I applied to jobs in China, North Africa, North America, Paris… and ended up getting a job back in Normandy, which was a bit tough. I worked there for two years and decided that it was time for a new change so I moved to Montreal, Canada, where I stayed for five years and learned a lot about the things I truly enjoyed: product design, experience, branding, and direction. This happened when the web started being a very exciting place for designers opening doors to use complex animations and a wide variety of amazing web fonts.

From there, my career kicked off and I had an opportunity in the US and decided to move there. Currently, I am freelancing as a hands-on design director with agencies or directly with brands, mostly from the US and Europe.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
While it has been and still is a very exciting journey, there were bumps along the way. Primarily, it took me a while to discover my passion for graphic design. I also had a skewed perception of what makes a good designer. I was convinced that it was mostly about talent when in fact, it was 99% about work and perseverance. Growing up, graphic arts/design was not of interest to anyone in my circle. I discovered those career possibilities while I was studying marketing in college and it took me a while to get over the imposter syndrome. Feeling late to the game and disadvantaged in that sense pushed me to work harder and constantly seek new experiences. I also struggled understanding how to reconcile substance and shape because I really love the craft behind graphic design and I’m a huge perfectionist. Sure, most graphic designers are, but I used to go through endless rabbit holes, not knowing when to stop or if this would really make a difference in the end. I discovered after a lot of trials and errors that I was sometimes focusing on the design craft while neglecting the idea behind the design.

Finally, I think that there is a piece of advice given to me at design school that helped me a lot going through hard times in my career. A teacher said: “there are going to be times when you will get work that doesn’t fulfill your expectations, and maybe sometimes no work at all, when that happens don’t fight against the wind and make time for side projects that make you happy because eventually, this is what you will be hired for”.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I mostly work on digital projects as a hands-on design director. I enjoy tackling big projects with heavy design systems such as Reuters Connect, Marriott, or Upwork, just as much as I love working with ambitious startups and small brands. Typically I am leading multiple facets of the project such as scoping, work planning, design team management, production, final designs delivery, and QA.

My experience covers product design, experience, branding, and direction. I tend to consolidate all disciplines into a single process rather than having design teams working in silos, which still tends to happen a lot especially between brand and product design teams.

As I mentioned before, I love pop culture such as mangas, animes, video games and I draw a lot of inspiration from these interests. Ultimately what I aim at creating as a designer is a good story, something that catches your attention and creates an emotional connection. I’m not a fan of quotes as they can be reductive but there’s one that I think applies here: “People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” That could apply to an interaction between two people or to a song you heard somewhere. There is no way you will remember all the lyrics, but you will go back to it if it makes you feel good. Same goes for a brand in my opinion, and that is one of the most interesting parts of my job.

I’m also a design jury at Awwwards and occasionally at some design schools. I love mentoring young designers as this is something I lacked when I started my career.

There are many projects that I’m happy about. Squadeasy (branding, web and app design) was very refreshing to work on. Upwork’s digital rebrand was very satisfying as well as I got to collaborate with studios and individuals I admire, and it’s also a huge platform with a lot of complex dependencies which sometimes felt like a Tetris game.

How do you define success?
There are many ways to measure success but if I had to summarize, I would say that it’s about managing to work every day on something that you love doing. Sure, a high salary or some recognition from other peers is important, but on the long term, success is a personal thing. In a nutshell, for me, success in work is happiness in work.

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