Pani Fooladvand is a Senior Experience Design Manager at T-Mobile. She’s one of our favorite grads (Class of 2016). Originally from Iran, she took a chance on Seattle when her fiancé got a job opportunity here. The move was supposed to be a temporary adventure in this world traveler’s life, but they fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and ended up getting married in Kerry Park at the top of Queen Anne Hill. She is now happy to call Seattle home. We talked to Pani about her current role at T-Mobile, how her path led her to (literally) stumble upon Seattle Central Creative Academy, her passion for creating useful design, her perseverance, and the community she’s built along the way.
A designer from the start
Pani knew from the time she was tiny that she wanted to follow a creative path in her life, even earning the nickname “little artist” in elementary school. One of her prized childhood possessions was a set of 24 Faber-Castell colored pencils and she harbors fond memories of drawing flowers and animals with her grandmother, her first artistic influence. Pani’s mom told her that she drew animals all over the walls of their house (and her cool mom wasn’t even upset about it). She always thought she’d be an artist – but at 10 she got a book on something called graphic design. Looking at the logos and layouts in the book she remembers thinking “This is a design for a purpose. Paintings are great but I also want to make things that people can use.” She held onto that goal and graduated with a BFA in Visual Communication Design from one of the best Art Universities in Tehran where she learned typography in Farsi, studied illustration, web design, and design history. After graduation, she continued her education in Art History and worked as a visual designer, web designer, art director, and UX design lead both in-house and at design agencies as well as large corporations in Iran, including Iranian television.
A life-changing discovery – found on a walk.
When she moved to Seattle she was able to continue her design work, but it was not the “step-up” she’d been hoping for. Working alone, she realized she was missing being a part of a community of like-minded people like she had in Tehran. She began research on going back to school, hoping it would help her level-up her skills, and find a community like the one she’d left behind. One day on a walk she happened upon Seattle Central College, went inside, and asked about the programs available. The woman she spoke to said, “We have a design program upstairs!” Surprised and curious, Pani ventured to the 5th floor and talked to a few students in the hallway. She returned for an open house, applied, and started the program in 2014. “From the very first moment I walked in, I realized this was for me.” (more…)