James Udotong is a student of the University of Lagos and should be in his penultimate year, but ASUU and FG have been bickering going eight months now, leaving him to focus on his Brand and Product Design projects.
James, 20, says he has been designing for the past four years – since August 2018 – and has had a rough journey, starting out with programming, before he switched careers.
I am also interested in robotics.James Udotong
The years before Product Design
James Udotong says that his earliest encounter with tech was with the game world when he would watch movies or games and be fascinated by what he saw.
He would wonder about the characters or the creators and how they did it, so “I dived into game-making, and I created a game when I was eight. I had gone through some tutorials. That is how I started coding.”
But, like many who wanted to be doctors or lawyers or engineers when they were younger and ended up as Instagram content creators, James started ‘seeing the light’ in graphic design, but he did not start a career in design until later.
He finished high school and could not stay idle, so he continued to explore coding, flutter, python, C# and JAVA. He says, “I am more like a generalist.”
Interestingly, he received the kind of support that would help him get better at his craft from family and friends. He says it is probably because they already knew he could do stuffs on PCs.
“But when the coding was too much, and there were no results, they started asking questions. But my brother still supported me with data and encouraged me,” James says.
He stopped coding officially in 2020 when he tried balancing it with product design, and “it was not working.” Those times, “I did not know what else to do, so I would spend the whole day coding”, he said.
James was obsessed with the idea of coding and now with solving problems.
On being a Product Designer
James was self-taught and “did not believe in bootcamps.” But he says taking courses, and bootcamps are as good as they give you structure and a solid foundation.
However, he says he uses Coursera, YouTube, and Google to learn and become better at his craft.
For his work, he uses the Adobe collection because it is design intensive. Specifically, he recommends Figma for product design.
“You can earn a living out of Product Designing, and it is a matter of mindset,” James says.
We took him back to when he was coding, and he says he used Android Studios “because I was doing flutter.” He adds that he used PyCharm, Anaconda, and Microsoft Visual Studio.
James Udotong’s most exciting project
He already knows to code, but that is not where his allegiance lies.
He is the Product Designer/co-Founder of Skibble – a food social networking platform (launched on August 8, 2022) just like Instagram, but this time for foodies. His work here is to ensure aesthetics are adequately covered.
Skibble is run by a team of five, and he says the reception has been phenomenal.
He says the specialisation of the app on a single field makes it more appealing, and you will not have to search for food-related content as with other social platforms.
“We are trying to enhance the food experience of people. So, you say post a skib.” The skib is the picture of the food posted by the content creator.
James is also the Chief Brand Officer of Skibble, and he says it has been an awesome journey, as the team has experimented a lot while studying other social platforms.
The app has not started generating revenue and will rely on raises, ads, and a chef functionality to be sustainable, but that feature is restricted to chefs in Canada, as “we are looking for ways to verify chefs and for security reasons.”
However, James is already filling his pockets with a high-paying job and freelance gigs.
I got a job three months ago as a Product Designer. They just came to me, and I what I earn there is a six-figure per month.James Udotong
He also likes the idea of freelancing because “it is flexible.” And it is this flexibility that informs how he manages his earnings.
“40% of what I earn, I try to put it in my registered business. 30% I keep for saving. If I am spending, it is for gadgets. I use the rest for family and friends and data, which is a lot.”
Besides his job, James Udotong has hands-on other projects.
Right now, I run a design agency with a team of eight, building brand identities for different tech companies around the world.James Udotong
School and Product Designing?
Thanks to the ASUU strike, James says he is relatively free to work, but when school resumes, he is a student during the day and a designer at night.
“I have been managing it, and it has been good. I am in control of my time.”
Words for young (+intending) techies
“Don’t do it for the money!” James almost screams. He says it should not be about money as the ‘money will come.’
He says he worked for two years without pay, and passion should be the motivation.
Always show your work. That is how I get clients.James Udotong
James recommends that people join communities and not be the sole ranger people tend to be these days.
“Start with Twitter. Just search for #DesignTwitter. You will see users posting links to communities. It is from these communities that you will get resources and show your work,” James says.
He adds that having mentors help a great deal, and people should not be afraid to reach out to experts who they look up to.
Meanwhile, it is not all work for James Udotong. So, when he is not working, he is playing games, listening to podcasts or learning through tutorials. He says all these are to ensure that “something must be entering his head.”
Watch the full interview on YouTube:
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