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Design conversation with Apple Art Director Mel Zahar



Fuat Kanık

A design conversation with our former colleague, Apple Art Director Mel Zahar

Mel Zahar is an Art director & Designer, coming from Cairo, Egypt. Mel combines his creative expertise and technical know-how to deliver a holistic approach to design leading and executing projects from conception through production. Since 2009, Mel has crafted dynamic, multimedia visual experiences for a variety of brands like Nike, Apple, Tesla and Beats By Dr. Dre.

We talked about design, human perception, trends and Turkish versus American market.

Designneuro kurucusu Fuat Kanık ve Apple Art Direktörü Mel Zahar ile bir tasarım sohbeti.

What was it like to live & design in Turkey? How would you compare it to the USA? And how did it help you grow as a Designer?

Melz: I spent my best days in Istanbul, I was so young at the time and full of dreams to learn and grow. Turkey is such a massive market, super rich culture, and the amount of creative talents is absolutely incredible, USA on the other hand is the land of opportunity. The growth really comes from pressure and hard work, which increases when you aren’t in the country you were born in, so I had to learn fast to be able to adapt and find opportunities in these gigantic markets.

Mel Zahar - Beats Icon Collection

Melz: The US for me wasn’t really the goal, my goal has been really to work with corporations directly such as Nike or Apple. Which means more control over the content itself. and that wasn’t possible with such brands if I work on the other side of the world.

Tell us more in detail what’s your current focus and what are you looking to work on next?

At the moment I’m an Art Director working at Apple, overseeing a product category and helping the establishment of the hardware’s visual imaging for all outputs, both moving and still, across Apple Marcom. I’m always interested in product making, building a brand and developing experiences. And lately the metaverse and VR experiences.

Mel Zahar - Midjourney AI tasarımı

You started sharing more Ai work lately, how do you find Ai as a tool for design making and what tools do you use?

Melz: It seems like the Ai age has begun, artists and designers should embrace the technology and use it to their advantage. I find it fascinating, and versatile! You can literally generate design ideas in minutes by writing words that simply should help make smarter decisions. Quickly find what works and what doesn’t, instead of spending hours scouting the internet for good reference.
I currently use Midjourney as my main Ai tool, looking forward to the Dall-E invitation tho. My main use is to generate ideas that could possibly be produced. With production CGI or photography tools.

Fuat: I'm trying Midjourney too, with an experimental way to be honest but possibilities offered by the AI is amazing.

As a designer what’s your thinking and designing process?

I tend to study the client brief and goals first before thinking of any ideas. When I’m well-aware of the message and need, I then start with researching, analyzing and finding great references.
Ideas usually come from here, I begin to illustrate those ideas, sketching and pre-visualizing as many of those ideas as possible, then select what could really work and eliminate the rest.
Finally, the execution part, that’s when all the fun begins. taking the beautiful ideas and making them happen at the best quality possible.

Are there any designers you’re inspired by?

Melz: Absolutely, many designers and studios I love following their works, here are some: Nando Costa, Ars Thanea, Ash Thorp, Man Vs Machine, Future Deluxe, Six N. Five.. to name a few.

Mel Zahar - Nike Posters

One of the important elements of design is colors and we see that you use it very well in all your works! Can you explain to us how you pick colors?

Melz: Colors are pretty much like words, feelings or thoughts they are all connected. color communicates those things that we aren’t going to put in words, such brand size, the nature of the product or philosophy. I pick colors based on those things, to give the user the emotions I needed him/her to feel. I also use colors to define my own art style, especially for personal art projects.

In today's world, people have no time for an ineffective product, image or user experience. It’s becoming more important day by day to design frictionless to ensure that users are not challenged at the cognitive level. (we know that when cognitive load increases customers emotional motivation decreases) Have you had this type of experience with any brand you work with? If so, what would you like to share about this topic?

Melz: Like Elon Musk said “Any product that needs a manual to work is broken.'' Understanding human psychology, behavior and emotions is such an important key to a great product no doubt. Through constant analysis and research I believe all great brands were able to massively grow. I’d actually love to take the chance here and learn more about Neuromarketing and what tools or technologies you offer to your clients.

We are not a research company but we believe the power of data. We work together with ThinkNeuro, Turkey's one of the leading research companies in the field of neuromarketing. They synchronize eye tracking and EEG devices to investigate such things as the areas which customers look at on a webpage, the times in which they become frustrated, the things which attract their attention and which allow them to form an emotional bond. The research measures the time spent on different areas of the webpage and essentially whether consumers see what we would like them to see and how they feel when they see it. A good data is very important for a good design and user experience. Over time some principles also start to settle in too.

What are your favorite campaigns lately?

Melz: Apple privacy campaign, I really loved the cinematic story-telling approach. very creative. It’s such a great fun example of how to deliver the message in a way that really connects with the customer psychology with no vulgarity.

Apple Privacy Campaign

There is a simplification trend all around the world. What are the reasons behind this trend?

Melz: Simplicity is the key to more users, and it’s also a way to beat competition, that’s why big brands became big, even though there is so much competition, and there are many examples in the market. Users by nature tend to use what’s easy with little to no thinking or effort, that’s in itself is a business idea, if you ever come across a product and thought this could work in a much simpler way, you’ve already found a successful product, because it already exist in the market and has usability, the users will immediately switch if it’s easier to use.

For young friends who will read this article, What route would you like to draw for the young designers?

Melz: I highly recommend having a goal, and many plans, plans need to be flexible since situations always change, but the goal should remain crystal clear, great designers create endlessly, with great care to minor details, that’s something I remember to first learn from my boss & director Fuat Kanık you actually! :) while we worked together in Istanbul. Then comes sharing your best work online, really important! Create with the trend, collect the best work with a studying mindset and never get attached to your own work to not be dragged down. Great artists always doubt their work, hearing good things doesn’t make them actually happy, instead they listen very well to criticism, and work harder to improve.

Fuat: At this point I would like to add. As if when we say boss, I feel a little odd, we are mostly colleagues who have worked together in the same company and have not lost their friendship even after years. From time to time, of course, I try to give advices to my colleagues. I am honored that you have taken this advice into consideration and guided you. Thank you for sharing.

Mel Zahar - Midjourney AI Design Mel Zahar - AI

A sneaker, a web site or a movie poster. All of them basically appeal to people. What's important for you for a human-oriented design approach?

Melz: As a user, how much I relate! as a designer how well it was made, the design taste, does it bring something new to the table? Does it seem innovative? something could really take my attention if the colors are mixed in a very unique way that I haven’t thought possible before, I find many of these especially in the interior design world.

Where should people find you to see your works?

Melz: Over here at, or on IG mel.zahar.

Fuat: Thank you very much Mel.