Mikha Makhoul on being a retro urban bohemian

Deutsche Telekom's visual designer tells us about the Beirut web scene, bohemian urban design and the secret of great UX.

Mikha Makhoul is a digital AD with seven years' experience, focusing on interaction design for web, mobile & tablet. He's currently working with the Creative Direction team as Visual Designer at Deutsche Telekom. We chatted to him to find out more...

Why don't you introduce yourself?

I was born in Lebanon, raised in Beirut and am currently living in Bonn, Germany, working for Deutsche Telekom as visual designer with the products and innovation team.

I studied computer science, but my passion for creating things led me to experiment with Flash and Photoshop, becoming a self-taught designer. Freelancing was hard in the beginning: making a commitment to do something you don't know makes you research and experiment until you master it.

Day by day, my skills flourished, until I met creative technologist Nicholas Credli and we co-founded the digital design agency Novium Collective, exploring advertising and interactive games to achieve brand objectives. We became leaders in gamification in Beirut, leading campaigns for huge clients like the Azadea Group, Grand Cinemas and Le Mall.

What's the design scene like in Beirut?

There are some agencies, but most of them are moving with a slow pace. It's rare to see outstanding designs or creative products. Now AIGA has landed in Beirut to change the perception of the design industry, and I'm proud to be collaborating with them, designing their website in the Middle East, and preparing presentations for workshops.

How do you get so much international work?

After I got invited to Dribbble by Media Novak, I got featured on Behance Served Sites, 365 Awesome Designers, CSS Design Awards and Computer Arts magazine. This exposure led lot of clients and agencies worldwide to contact me. The best of all was Telekom Design who found me on Dribbble and approached me to join their team in Germany.

How would you describe your style?

Bohemian, urban and retro. I aim to merge modern styles together to be a trend-setter instead of just a follower.

Your blog is called Feshil Expression. Where does the title come from?

In Arabic, 'feshil' means 'loser'. It's pronounced the same as 'facial', hence Feshil Expression.

The aim of the blog was to criticise designs that lack usability and visibility, while sharing my own knowledge and featuring great designers like Eric Hoffman to keep my readers' minds fresh.

Can you describe your design process?

I always start in pen, drawing wireframes and connecting the major points to achieve usability, then figure out the UX and interaction design before polishing the UI. Once that's done, I select a colour palette and fonts to communicate the message.

Is there a brand or a site you'd like to redesign?

Yes, actually: the website of Can Dagarslani, a fashion photographer from Istanbul. His photos are very nice and he has an epic style when it comes to fashion and nude photography, but his website lacks branding and interactivity, and doesn't show the big picture of his work.

I did a case study where I redesigned his website, creating a single-page site with a clean background so his photos pop up. I rebranded using light fonts and flat colours (gold and alizarin crimson) that reflect his portfolio. You can see the full case study on Behance.

In 10 words, what's the key to creating a great user experience?

Behavioural common sense for usability, visibility and desirability of content.

This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 250