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Meet West LA Creative Director: Gary Shikhelman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gary Shikhelman.

Gary, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I was seven years old, I came to the United States with my parents, grandparents, and sister as a Russian/Jewish political refugee. I grew up in LA without a lot of material possessions. I had a hard time in school, but always loved to be creative. I was always curious and questioning things. I didn’t always have the right answers, but I loved working towards solutions. I had teachers that gave me positive reinforcement in creative pursuits, and this ultimately is how I ended up at design school in Las Vegas. After I graduated, I moved back to LA and started out as a graphic/web designer. It’s been cool to see how tools and technologies have evolved since I first started. Designers have so many great resources now that didn’t even exist when I first started.

Has it been a smooth road?
In life I have dealt with some challenges; rough childhood, poverty, personal perfection and over analyzing everything, my sister passed away when I was 21, sometimes I felt like I was the slowest learner in the room. With all that, I have figured out how to build a life I am happy with. Just like other aspects of life, pursuing a career in design has had moments of setbacks, stagnancy, and explosive growth. I am working on enjoying the ride and celebrating the highs.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and career?
Sure, luck has played a role.  I’ve been lucky to work with other talented people.  I have also been fortunate to be apart of really innovative and interesting projects. I have also been lucky to maintain relationships with those I have worked with, which has opened up new opportunities. However it is my attention to relationships, details, and my desire to constantly grow that has helped me have trajectory. I have put in hours and hours of work to be better at design, to be more empathetic towards people interacting with products, and training myself to work with executives and developers alike.  Effort has more to do with it than luck.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think being respectful and listening to others has helped me significantly. This is how I have come up with design solutions, how could I do that if I don’t know what friction points people have? You can’t, and listening is the best way to figure out the right problem to solve. I also think, as a manager, collaboration with people on my team is super important. I don’t want to be the boss that is telling people what to do. What ideas come from that? Only mine, and I don’t find that particularly effective. I think conversations and illustrating design thinking by example is the best way I can mentor designers, executives, and other employees alike.

Tell us about your favorite and least favorites things about our city.
The thing I love most about LA is that it’s really more of a whole country than an actual city. If you want to go for a swim you go a few miles west.  In the mood for some snow? You drive an hour East. If you want to go for a hike you have hundreds of options in between. Also, you can’t beat the tacos. So many good tacos.

Contact Info:

  • Website: garydid.com
  • Phone: 310 777-3675
  • Email: gary@garydid.com

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