An Evening with Adam Syed: An ACM Design Event Panel

ACM UC San Diego
7 min readMay 21, 2024

On May 8th, Adam Syed, a UI/Product Designer for the prominent Video Game Streaming Service Twitch, visited UC San Diego to give a design interview prep workshop to a diverse group of ACM students at the Structural Materials and Engineering Building.

ACM at UC San Diego is UCSD’s largest members-first organization, hosting daily technical workshops, social events, and various panel/industry talks open to its 1000+ memberbase, and exponentially growing each day. Its reach grasps beyond just coding and programming specializations: ACM also deeply invests in its AI community, working on the cutting edge of Artificial Intelligence. Simultaneously, the organization educates students on cybersecurity matters through its Cyber community. In addition, it currently has an ever expanding and highly interested community of UI/Product designers, growing each year.

ACM’s Design Technical Events Directors, Cindy Peng and Nicole Gong, invited Adam Syed, a UCSD alumni in the class of 2022, back to his alma mater. You can follow Adam Syed on LinkedIn, or check him out on Youtube and Instagram, where he frequently posts advice and demonstrations of Design Content.

Adam brought some specialized stickers for the audience, just feeling joyful to give back to the UCSD community. In his introduction, he detailed that he was a Cognitive Science student (with a specialization in design and interaction) at UC San Diego. Of his club involvements, he was part of DesignCo, TritonXR, and simply wanted to know everything in an effort to be interesting. He was also an instructor for Cogs 121, IA for COGS 127. Adam currently is stationed at Twitch, where he works on the all-new stories feature. Previously, he had also interned at Tesla, helping to design the ordering flow (Step A — Step C) for customers when purchasing on Tesla’s website. He was also an intern at Facebook in the pre-Meta era.

Hopping into the main portion of the panel, he noted that he had prepared a crash course on a cornerstone of stepping into industry: the interview process. Previously, Adam had interviews with Facebook, Microsoft, Duolingo, Spotify, and many more. Of the process, he stated: “Interviewing can be a little difficult, but industry is a different ballgame. It’s all about trying to present yourself in the best way possible.” According to Adam, there were four parts of an interview for Designers. These were: Portfolio review, design challenges, whiteboarding, and app critique.

Explaining the Double Diamond Process

Adam assuaged any sense of overwhelming the audiences by breaking down the overview, beginning with the portfolio review. This section was defined as all about experience, and is a way to give interviewers a way to gauge one’s work via school or passion projects. These usually last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, and the focal point that Adam drew attention to was presentation, and to try to push the boundaries rather than conforming to a template. He bifurcated the review into two methods: first is to go through your project directly through its website, and do a full review of it. Secondly, and more uniquely, one could prepare a slide deck (through Figma or other tools) that is specialized towards each company they are interviewing for. For example, in Adam’s slide deck for Twitch, he threw a bountiful amount of Twitch stickers and created his slide deck decorum around Twitch to emphasize his deep desire to work for Twitch. That spark of creativity was something Adam emphasized, as here, one could let their personality shine through, and stand out, particularly when interviewers have to sit through many generic portfolio reviews.

When considering how to present these slide decks, he posited several factors. First, was to consider what he deemed “the discovery phase”, and how it is essential to break down how one thought about a problem, and how they’re trying to solve the problem in a way that is more efficient or more unique than other competitors. Secondly, there was the notion of how to frame the presentation, which he cemented as “all about communicating needs and storytelling in your slides.” The third cornerstone was to flex one’s skills, and any proficiency in Figma skills, prototyping, or any effects work. There’s a rationale behind every single asset and function, so even if it’s as simple as a button, try to explain it. Finally, speak on metrics, and the ways in which you and your ideas could help bolster and make money for the company. Having that bit of foresight and forward-planning stands out a lot.

Then, Adam detailed several anecdotes with regards to the next step of the interview process: the design challenges. He stated that these design challenges are made to be completed within a few hours or a day, and to be quick and efficient with your work here. At Yahoo, Adam was asked to select an existing product in the workspace, and work on his given steps for less than a day. Building on top of this, Adam also showcased a few photos to emphasize the necessity of fidelity to the audience, and how easy and fun design can be when broken down into fundamental parts.

The Crowd is Gathered for Adam’s Introduction

The next portion centered around whiteboarding. As described by Adam, Whiteboarding is where you will hop on a call with a senior designer. There, you will be given a prompt on the spot, to design something. Here, one must be clever about listing out framework and design thinking. For Adam’s Twitch interview, he was asked to design an experience for a gym studio website, where people can book gym classes in advance. Here, control was emphasized, and particularly, being able to showcase that you can think calmly and rationally in this spontaneous environment. For Adam, he used a notion document to help detail the problem, the context, logistics, and other important factors. Documenting and making sure that one had a structure was very important. If you’re calm and know where you are and what you need to do, the creative juices will begin to flow naturally.

Finally, Adam went through the final step: app critique. Its name is quite self-explanatory, and Adam proceeded to guide the audience through a critique of Twitch as an app. First talk about the app and describe an overview of what it is, because given knowledge of an app is not always guaranteed. Then, tailor about the types of people who use Twitch (predominantly Gen-Z and gamers), and how Twitch can design in accordance with that audience. Here’s the integral part: You have to choose a flow. What Adam meant by saying this is that an overview critique can be too overwhelming, so segmenting it, or singling out a specific feature or interactive option will help narrow things down. An example of a flow is if Adam wanted to discover a new creator on Twitch. Third thing: Start Critiquing the app, talking about competitors, goals, and the interactions as well. What is the design rationale behind these functions? On the visual level, hone in on the types of typography, the different icons, the colors, and many other factors. During the critique, Adam proposed that you are trying to break down and challenge the design while also proposing ways to enhance the app. At the same time, it is important not to just live insularly, and so one should bounce off questioning ideas with the designers and interviewers, to create a very conversational discussion. It builds a mental framework as a designer for user experience, for you are actively interacting with the people who will use your designs one day.

To wrap up his talk, Adam went over some of the creative exploits and journeys that he has been on since graduating, including the musicians Chainsmokers and JVKE. He was passionate about music, and loved these artists, so he reached out. With regards to resumes and CVs, he noted that there are different resumes, and that for designers, you can be a little out there. Adam had stickers on the resume, which makes it more interesting to read. He’s also made a Spotify-Wrapped style portfolio and resume, where he sang too. One year, the Superbowl had an ad with a mysterious QR-code, and once viewers scanned it, it brought people to a coin based site. Adam was inspired to do the same, and put his portfolio in the QR code. Needless to say, many recruiters were invested and interested through this creative outreach.

Leaving us off on a note of communal collectivism, Adam stressed the importance of keeping in contact with one another, being friends, and trying to lift up each other through sharing opportunities rather than viewing the industry breakthrough as an individual rat race. Design is all about creativity, empathy, and going outside the box, and Adam Syed’s panel most certainly was anything but ordinary. Adam then opened up the floor for questions as the ACM community applauded, inspired and a little more hopeful about their future design careers

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