Pushing the artistic boundaries in a digital environment

Visual Design
Saman van den Akker
Publication Date
12 November 2021

Pushing the artistic boundaries in a digital environment

With a love for all things creative and visual, Saman joined the Mobiquity creative team over two and a half years ago. He shares with us his passion for artistic design, and how he enjoys pushing the boundaries to ensure value is added to user centric digital products.

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Saman van den Akker: I am originally from Sri Lanka. I was adopted together with my twin sister by my Dutch parents, and moved to The Netherlands at just 4 weeks old. I live in Amsterdam on Zeeburgereiland. I come from a creative home. Both my parents are visual artists. My mom is a now retired visual artist with a focus on nature as a subject. My dad is also a visual artist with a focus on people as a subject, he also does sculpting in both ceramics and metal. I think this is the reason I love everything creative. One of my life goals is to explore all creative things to see which I find interesting and want to take on a little longer. Due to the recent pandemic, I have had the time to explore that life goal and got into some things that are close to my heart. One of my biggest loves is music so I started learning guitar to be able to create some music myself, though I’ve been slacking lately. In addition to that I took up online vocal lessons to see if I can learn to sing. I enjoy all kinds of genres depending on what I am in the mood for that day, but hip hop and R&B are my favorite. Next to music I started getting painting lessons from my parents together with my girlfriend. It’s nice to learn from my parents' experience and explore painting in a more structured approach.


Finding my path to visual design

Throughout school I struggled quite a bit not knowing what I wanted to do, or what I was good at. I ended up not finishing high school as I needed some time to figure out my next step. I decided to apply to my local college, ROC Hilversum, where I ended up studying to become a “Mediavormgever” (Multimedia designer) for four years. That’s where I fell in love with design and learned most of my design skills that I use today. After graduating I did freelance work, for example, I helped a local liquor store with their website design. Here, I learned more about the engineering side and chasing people for money than I did about design. After a few years of different projects, I wanted to focus my direction a bit more. I joined an agency and focussed on small to medium businesses and some larger projects. I really enjoyed honing my UI skills in particular. The coolest project I worked on was a project for a broadcasting network where they wanted to create one platform for their social media, tv and radio. After that project I felt it was time for a new challenge. That’s when I found a new, interesting and challenging opening at Mobiquity.

Adding feeling to a digital product

What does a visual designer do? Simply put, I give feeling to screens. As part of the creative team we look at the various visual aspects of a product, for example colours, typography and layout as well as prototyping and accessibility for the user. We need to figure out how to match the clients branding to the users needs. To some the decision of the colour, look and position of a simple button on an app, can seem like quite a small and insignificant detail. However, this can have a big impact on the finalised look and feel. A lot of consideration goes into such decisions to ensure that the finished product is not only visually appealing and attractive to the users, but also a true and authentic representation of the brand it represents.

Throughout my time here in Mobiquity I have gotten the chance to work on many exciting projects. I really enjoyed working on the UMCU project. The client wanted to create a mobile application that would improve the supply and demand of patients and clinical trials. For my role, I had to really think about how I could translate this idea into a visually appealing end product for the client. Luckily I had a lot of creative freedom. Through a great team effort, we were able to successfully create a north star prototype for the client in a really short amount of time.

The project I am currently working on is Manpower. This client already has a lot of established branding, however they didn’t have app branding and we saw an opportunity to help them grow. We started by breaking down the branding they did have, in order to select the elements that would work best for the app branding and design. It was quite a thorough process which was also very interesting as we were able to explore a lot of new ideas. With approval from their design team, we have now created an entire design system with all the components and guidelines on how they should be used, ready for the engineering team.


Bringing feeling and value to the brand

If you have a product that is only based on how it should function from a technical perspective you miss out on making the user feel something, which is thinking about how the product works from the visual perspective and what brings it to life. A user will not necessarily dismiss or not use a product or app because of a bad design. However, this can definitely make users much less inclined to engage with it. A weak design can create a sense of doubt around the credibility, security and reliability of not only the product or app, but the entire brand it represents. By placing just as much emphasis and importance on the visual aspects as well as the technical side, you can really bring an app to life and actually add value to the overall brand.

Passionate people in a friendly, supportive environment

When I think of Mobiquity I think of the passionate, friendly and supportive people. Everyone encourages one another to be the best at what they do, and enables each other to excel and create amazing products for our clients, even when working on some very challenging projects. As a company we make sure to spend time with one another and have fun, with team outings and various employee activities. This really helps to foster quite a unique culture and working environment. I really like the open communication and flat structure of the organisation. There is very little emphasis on hierarchy. I feel like I have the room to help grow the team and the company.

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