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The August 2020 edition of our podcast featured a conversation between Juliana Proserpio and Felix Lee, a designer, innovator and co-founder of a nonprofit initiative ADPList (Amazing Design People List). Felix has extensive experience in the startup ecosystem as a product designer. He has worked with clients worldwide, including Gotrade, Capture, Eatsy and Knowledgehook. He is also the co-founder of Packdat and led design at Passpod.

This interview covers how the pandemic inspired Felix to create the platform ADPList as a way to help people who had lost their jobs to connect with designers all over the world for mentorship, collaboration and employment. They also focus on the inspiration behind the ADPList, the growing cross-cultural influence of design, how to use design to do good and last but not least, how to mature from a good designer into a great designer.

Founding The ADPList

Felix Lee founded the ADPList along with James Baduor from West Africa to help designers worldwide who were losing their jobs due to the pandemic crisis. The ADPList is a global community with 400 design mentors and over 6,600 designers on the platform. Designers and mentors come together to help one another find jobs, to provide portfolio reviews and collaboration on projects.

Felix explains, “As designers, we talk about solving problems, right? When there’s a problem, like a pandemic, we are not going to say, we’re not scientists, we’re not doctors, we can’t do anything. As designers, we have the responsibility to think, what access do we have with our networks, what influence do I have? What can I do to help make this world a better place?”

Felix first started his project by creating a spreadsheet where people could add themselves as available for work. The excel spreadsheet transformed into a website. The community on the site started interacting so much that they started Zoom sessions called ‘Coffee Hours’ for community chats and support. 

“I think the one thing that I’ve learned is that humans are fundamentally good, Felix shares, “We have amazing folks that reach out to us that want to mentor. They want to give up their time to help others. And it’s just super inspiring. That’s the number one thing that I’ve learned is that people are really good at helping, and I think humans when we come together, we are all better.”

Remote Work Works

The team that runs the ADPList is completely remote. There are six people on the team from Singapore, Ghana, West Africa, Canada and San Francisco. The people who work tirelessly to maintain the community have never met in person. This is a testament to the fact that remote working works. 

Aside from the fact that the team is remote, many collaborations that take place through the ADPList platform are fully remote. The remote work shift has arrived and now there is a shift towards hiring people to work remotely through the platform. Before the pandemic, the freedom of hiring people from anywhere in the world was not as common. 

Now with remote work and global platforms, this is changing. The way designers meet each other, the way people are hiring is being transformed by connecting online. And this is only going to strengthen the design community as ideas and information flow freely around a global community. And most importantly, it is enhancing the quality of designers all around the world as people learn from one another. 

Singapore’s Influence On Design Trends

Felix Lee’s home is Singapore which he believes is in a very unique position due to their multi-racial, multi-religious society. Although they have a small population, they have a unique position of being in the middle of many Southeast Asian countries with diverse access to Asian markets for the rest of the world. 

Not only is Singapore a mix of cultures living at the intersection of many Asian countries, but Singapore is also a unique combination of influences from the US and China. The mixing of these two design and cultural powerhouses gives products and innovation in Singapore a very unique mixture.

Felix has observed in Singapore, ‘We take the clean design of the Western market and the way the Chinese do their super apps, we combine it. That is uniquely Singapore and it’s not just Singapore, it is Southeast Asia. Thailand, Indonesia, we all are learning from both the Westerners and the Chinese.”

This is due to companies like Tencent and Alibaba influencing the way apps are developed. For example, in Singapore, the use of QR codes and super app capabilities are influenced by China. But stylistically the way the apps look is very influenced by American design with lots of negative space and highly refined interactions. This puts Singapore in a very special position as they learn from both sides, China, being geographically close and America being close in an ideological sense. It is a very special position with a mix of different cultures that learn from both the Chinese and American ecosystems.

Becoming A Better Designer
The best way to become a better designer is to understand why you want to be a designer, Felix describes this as having a calling, such as designing a better world for the rest of humanity. Felix sees Nelson Mandela as a perfect example of what it means to have a calling. He went to jail for 27 years and when he got out he still believed in the same cause as 27 years ago. Despite everything he went through he had a just cause, so when he went back into the world he was ready to start working for change. 

“How many designers could be in prison for 27 years and come out and say I want to design a better world?”, Felix asks. 

Design in most markets around the world has reached a level of maturity. And this means that designers are striving to improve their skills. Felix in his work is frequently asked to define not only what makes someone a good designer, but a great designer. Felix shares that the distinction is not only in the way they execute their projects, but the timing involved in the decision making process. Good design is defined by how they measure tradeoffs. For example, there might be two versions of a design that works well. But in each option, different things have to be sacrificed. A good designer knows how to measure the right tradeoffs at the right time. And a great designer knows not only what to let go of, but also the perfect time to execute the tradeoffs. 

Listen For More
The full interview is available on Spotify. We invite you to listen for more information on Felix Lee and the ADPList. Felix dives deeper into his thoughts about design leadership as the next step of evolution in people’s careers and how the industry evolves worldwide. Felix also speaks about his work as a humanitarian, “You have the intentionality to say, okay, I want to be a designer because I want to design a better word for the rest of humanity. First, you must have that intentionality to create good in the world.”

Felix is certainly helping his industry and we look forward to following him on his journey with the ADPList and more, listen to the full episode here.

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