Sali Designs is the perfect model designer for 99designs’ continuous educational efforts. Not only has she been consistently good at PowerPoint template design, but she has been diligently involved in webinars and discussions on the 99designs Forum to continuously improve and upskill.
And such hard work doesn’t go unnoticed around here. In September, she was awarded Top Level designer status. Shortly after, she was named the winner in our PowerPoint Most-Shortlisted competition!
Some call it a lucky streak, but we believe it’s down to her genuine passion for her craft and her willingness to learn. We sat down with Sali Designs – real name Salima Lamiri – to get to know her a little better, and find out what drives her.
Name: Salima Lamiri
99designs handle: Sali Designs
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Salima, I’m twenty-nine years old and I’m from Morocco. I’m the eldest of four in a very tight and supportive family. They are both the best cheer team I could ever ask for and the worst pranksters who enjoy laughing at me, especially after losing a contest!
I’ve always loved drawing and painting from a very young age, mainly because of my father who is a math teacher from whom I’ve inherited the love of reading and drawing. I studied Information Systems Engineering and kept painting as a hobby as I loved the logic behind math too.
Halfway through my education I had the opportunity to finish my studies in Paris as an exchange student where I spent my weekends wandering in the museum halls and tutoring high school students to feed my art books addiction!
How did you first get into design? What made you interested in PowerPoint design on the first place?
A year ago, I had to make some hard decisions to prioritize my health and wellbeing so I quit my job and took the opportunity to restart my life and take care of my health. After a while, I had to start looking for a full-time job to help my family.
I’d decided to refresh my web developing skills before sending out my resume, so I was watching a video tutorial where the first topic was about web design and one of the sites that was used as an example was 99designs. I paused the video to take a look and came across this contest. I wasn’t even aware at that time of the existence of the PowerPoint design category.
I was so inspired by the brief that I started working on the slide designs instantly. Unfortunately when I signed up and tried to submit my design to the contest, the winner had already been selected. But for the first time in a very long time, I was so excited and enjoyed the rush of the competition that I gave myself a month to try and see if I could make it by designing PowerPoint slides. Suffice to say, I never finished that tutorial video!
Why the interest in PowerPoint design? During my studies, we had a lot of projects that had to be presented and I always enjoyed tweaking my slides and later in my last job as a brand manager. I was either making or assisting with presentations for the international teams, practically on a daily basis.
To me, there was no need to make my audience suffer through a badly-designed PowerPoint presentation, thus I always paid attention to the design aspect too.
Describe your typical day as a designer.
No matter what, I always start my day by reading a book, approximately three to four hours. It is my coffee fix of the day!
Then I log into 99designs, check and reply to my messages, browse through the new PowerPoint design contests and spend some time in the Forum. The guys are awesome and it feels great to be a part of such an amazing community! I always leave laughing at some shenanigans and learn something new too.
The afternoon is spent working on 1-to-1 Projects or contests. I work my best at night, so I’m usually awake till three in the morning!
Tell us about your first win on 99designs. What was the most memorable thing about the experience?
The first contest win was actually the second contest I ever participated in on 99designs. The client Bill was looking for a new PowerPoint template for his consulting company; having a red logo, he was looking for something new with less red as it has a negative connotation in American culture.
I listened to what he was looking for, made some suggestions and later made so many changes based on his feedback. But that was the most informative experience as I learned about CC0 (Creative Commons Zero licence) pictures, free-for-commercial-use fonts, PowerPoint color palettes, and so on. I’m so grateful to Bill for making it a very enjoyable experience.
What are you interested in other than design? What inspires you?
I’m truly addicted to reading! Give me any kind of book and I won’t say no, ever. I read between one to two books per day, otherwise I don’t feel productive!
My iPad is used as an expensive eBook reader only. English is actually my third language but it’s my favorite language, mainly because it feeds my addiction to books!
I’m also interested in painting and drawing. I had less time for my art hobbies when I was still in my full-time job, but I’m very interested in using my knowledge in traditional media to learn digital illustration now.
Do you have your most memorable project on 99designs?
To tell you the truth, every 99designs project is memorable to me! I’m always learning something new from them. My second contest was memorable because of all the new tools that I discovered and the client’s feedback.
My latest 1-to-1 Project was memorable too because I had just discovered that PowerPoint can do some crazy animations!
There was also a recent project that made me realise my work is being recognised, and that’s special because it pushes me to do better. The client messaged me after the project finished, saying that she had rocked her pitch deck and that the investors said her slides were way better than her competitors’!
Suffice to say, I felt like a very proud parent and was very happy that our teamwork succeeded in helping her getting what she was aiming for.
You were one of the keenest participants for our webinars! Tell us a little bit more about your experience.
I’m always on the lookout for new tutorials to learn from. So even if I was more inclined to learn the advanced skills that we unfortunately don’t always have the time for, I was actually really happy to participate in the webinars and loved them as they were the first ones I came across as a freelance designer.
I learned something new too, particularly about the font embedment trick that I had the opportunity to use in one of my 1-to-1 Projects later!
What do you feel you’ve done differently since participating in the webinars?
Sincerely, my way of work and style haven’t changed after the webinars but I’m truly grateful to nevergohungry for sharing with us that magazines are a source of inspiration for him for PowerPoint slide designs.
I incorporated it into my workflow and now whenever I’m in a designer block, I go through some magazines to reignite that inspirational spark!
Can you share some tips that helped you to improve?
PowerPoint has a very bad reputation because of its certain limitations; but it’s actually a tool like any other one that you can bend to your needs as much as you want! And businesses all around the world – no matter what they are selling – will need to make their presentations in some way and it’s our job as the designer to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible.
I’m always on the lookout for new tutorials that I can get my hands on, as I will never say that I know enough because that would simply be foolish and arrogant. So I try my best to keep learning and each time I come across a new design either on 99designs, SlideShare or Pinterest, I think hard about how I could make it by myself and improve on it.
You’ve had quite a few repeat clients during your time on 99designs. Anything you can share about your best client communication tricks?
Thanks! The trick is that, regardless of whether it would be a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum contest, I truly give the same high level of service as a designer. I listen carefully to the client’s needs; put myself in their shoes; and try to work on the design both creatively and logically as much as possible.
Furthermore, I only propose what is feasible; that’s why all my entries are already in .PPT format from the qualifying round so I’m upfront about what I can deliver and we can avoid any last-minute surprises.
At the handover stage, I also try my best to make the template as easy to use as possible by maximising its automation and provide tips on how to keep personalizing it in the future without further help.
And I’m also very, very patient! I make it clear that my client can get back to me with any kind of questions and I gladly help unless I’m feeling that I’m being taken advantage of. That’s another story, but thankfully that rarely happens!
You won our PowerPoint Most Shortlisted competition shortly after participating in the webinars. Were you surprised?
To tell you the truth, I had an evil plan!
When the competition was announced for September, I thought the focus would be on PowerPoint Design contests, so I decided to make the best of this opportunity and entered a lot of contests while trying to build an amazing portfolio. Then later in November or December, I thought I could use that folio to support my application for Top Level designer status.
But the biggest surprise happened when I got promoted to Top Level before the competition even ended! Then I think my lucky streak continued when I won first prize in the competition, and many of the winning contests I was shortlisted in became 1-to-1 clients. Best month ever!
What do you think you’ll be doing if you weren’t on 99designs?
It would be too boring for words! But thankfully that’s not the case.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity that 99designs gave me – to be able to work from home with clients from all over the world; to have less worries financially; to wake up every day, energized and enjoying the work so much that I have to sometimes get reminded to sleep!
Thanks to 99designs, this is such great opportunity for me to keep learning something new every day; in turn, it helps me enjoy what I do and never feel bored!