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Introducing Sonova Middleton

Meet an insightful and innovative Black creative as she shares her career experience and advice for aspiring designers.
Sonova Middleton Headshot for Spotlight

Introducing Sonova Middleton, an Experience Designer at Adobe

Q: Can you provide some background on yourself and your design career?

A: I’m a Brooklyn native with a Computer Science degree from Howard University. I have more than 15 years of experience working as a UI/UX designer, developer, and entrepreneur in the tech field. I started my career as a web designer and Java developer for the Federal Government, as well as a web freelancer for non-profits and small businesses. After a few years, I became an iOS developer at Capital One. Then, I switched my career to UI/UX.

I co-founded an app, attended an Accelerator program in Ireland, raised money and formed a team of two designers and eight developers with my co-founder. During the pandemic, we couldn’t continue the app, so I decided to move on to other opportunities. I was recruited by Adobe and now I’m an Experience Designer on their flagship app, Photoshop. It feels like I’ve come full circle.

Q: What drives your work as a designer?

A: I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. I’m never satisfied with something being “just okay” because I believe good design takes everything to the next level.

For example, I attended an iOS Bootcamp and learned how to code iPhone apps. During the bootcamp, I excelled because the design and usability of my apps made me stand out. The design of an app or website can make or break the user experience.

What drives me is the pursuit of perfection – or at least as close as I can get. I want to design things that create an experience that people want and enjoy. That’s my ultimate goal.

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Q: What was your experience like starting your design career and how has your experience changed over time?

A: When I first became a web designer, it was hard to get respect for my work.It was often seen as unnecessary or a nice-to-have. At the time, an internet presence and website weren’t essential. So, I was often the only designer on the team, and I was tasked with every design job – even if it wasn’t my specialty.

Design is considered more essential now and I find that the UI/UX industry is more respected, backed by research, and there’s more of a standard workflow process. I love that there is more collaboration between design, development, research, and project management. I still struggle and have to prove the reasoning behind my designs at times, but I am more empowered now.

Q: What advice can you share with aspiring designers that you wish you knew before starting your career?

A: Know your worth! I didn’t realize how valuable my knowledge and skills were. So, I let other peoples’ opinions of my role as a designer keep me in a job longer than I wanted to stay. I was afraid to venture out into the unknown and find my place within the tech industry. When I embraced uncertainty, my career took off and it was no longer just a job.

Q: What, if anything, is needed to improve the situation for future Black creatives?

A: Being a Black creative can feel very lonely sometimes. I have attended design conferences and wouldn’t see much Black representation. For many years, I didn’t even know any other Black web designers.

We need more avenues to get our foot in the door through networking events, career fairs, conferences, local meetups, etc. Throughout my career, I’ve learned that who you know can often be an advantage to get the right roles.

I believe in building a strong community around Black creatives – not only for job opportunities but for mentorship and support. That is why I provide portfolio reviews, mentorship and speak on panels to help designers find their way.

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Learn more about Sonova through LinkedIn and on her website.

Posted: DID Team 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Tags: #blackfutures #International Womens Day #spotlight #Womens History Month

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