Sherif Maktabi

Sherif graduated from the 3-Dimensional Design and Architecture curriculum area of Foundation Diploma in Art & Design in 2012. He then studied BA Product Design, from which he graduated in 2015.

Tell us a little bit about your practice and what inspires your work?

At Kano I direct new product development through my role as a Product Manager. This means I work with multiple teams, including the design team, to ship products our customers will love. I bring designers, engineers, manufacturing experts and developers together and support them in making crucial decisions that define the product. My background in design allows me to communicate the importance of the design intent and allow for the best product to reach our customers.

What this means is that I spend close to half of my year in the southern industrial part of China. It's there that I get my inspiration and insights into the world of Consumer Hardware. Understanding the dynamics between factories and brands, manufacturing processes, assembly lines and quality control is crucial to design great products. I see electronics as a material, similar to the way we see plastics and metals. I believe that operators at an assembly lines are craftsmen, instead of carpentry, they practice the art of making consumer electronics.

China is a source of inspiration for all of us. Sometimes in Shenzhen, when seeing a fruit vendor accept payment on WeChat, or unlocking a bike by scanning a QR code it feels as though I have caught a glimpse of the future.

When did you first realise that you wanted to work in product and industrial design?

Very early on in my life, I knew that I wanted to be an industrial designer. My home town, Beirut, didn't have any industrial design courses at the time. Yet today, Beirut is a hotbed for design. Young designers are making a mark. It's so exciting to see new products, studios and collaborations taking place in Lebanon.

How did your time on the Foundation course at Central Saint Martins help to encourage the way you work?

I got rejected the first time I applied to Central Saint Martins. I remember driving seven hours from Lebanon to Jordan for my interview in Amman. After a whole day of workshops and portfolio reviews, I learned that I didn't make the cut. I didn't give up.

A couple of years later, I build up my portfolio again. This time, instead of sketches, my portfolio consisted of a series of art installations, startups that I founded, a virtual civil war museum and even a crowdsourcing platform for a TV show in Beirut.

I remember the interviewer at the time told me "you don't fit a traditional applicant, but it would be very interesting to see what things you will make at Central Saint Martins Product Design". He gave me a place at CSM, pending my successful completion of the Foundation course. Walking out of that room was probably one of the happiest moments.

What are you most proud of working on since graduating?

At Kano, we create computers you build yourself, like Lego. We aim to make products that beginners as young as six can take apart, build, code and invent what they do. I am very grateful that our products trigger genuine excitement in kids and a curiosity about how things work. It's a unique challenge to make creative tools, like laptops and cameras, that must user-friendly enough for kids, beautiful even when everything is exposed in clear plastic, and allow a business to thrive in the competitive and complex world of hardware.

What words of advice would you give to a student studying for a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design?

The Foundation Diploma is your rare chance to experience the breadth of design practice. I encourage you to explore fashion, architecture, jewellery and product design. Spend as much time as you can in the workshops. Learn how to weld and how to knit. You have nothing to lose, this is a place for you to make ideas come true.

What are your favourite memories of studying at Central Saint Martins?

On my first day, David Scothron gave us an introduction to the course and he showed this huge projection of the first Macintosh with the word "Hello" written across the screen. I remember thinking "Wow, I am in the right place."

Today at Kano, I am witnessing for myself how design is revolutionising personal computing, again.