In a relatively short time, inventions have evolved from being a simple solution to a problem (the wheel, the light bulb to innovative ways to improve life (the telephone, the television) to today’s technology, which surpasses anything you would have thought would have been possible just a few years ago. We’re, of course, talking about 3D printers, smartphones and the likes. But the great thing about technology now is the fact that it moves at a sharper speed than ever before. It sometimes feels, however, that it is hard to keep up with what we should be using, what we should be investing in and what technology is not worth living without. To help you out, we called upon Oliur Rahman, the OPUMO 2017 Gadget Man, to talk through the new world of technology, his entrepreneurial mind and the simple life hacks that will be sure to improve your day-to-day.

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Oliur is a self-taught designer and entrepreneur based in south England who began his journey into web design when he first laid hands on his first HTC phone. “I basically modified everything on the phone,” Oliur explains. “I just tried to make it all look the way I wanted it to look, right through from design to usability. That’s when I started playing with certain tools like Photoshop for the first time and basically, my whole design career began from there”.

Now, specializing in web and mobile design, Oliur has successfully built a variety of products and websites that have grown to reach millions worldwide. Plus, thanks to a large and loyal following across his social media channels @ultralinx, Oliur’s contributions to design have granted him with heavy influence in the world of online design. So, we think you’ll learn something.

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Your journey from a college student experimenting with tools and apps to a multi-faceted modern designer seems like an easy transition but how did you manage it? When did you gain the confidence to share your thoughts, opinions and work with the world?  

It’s funny, even now after all this time I’m still not confident to share my work. I’ve never thought I’m the best and that everyone is going to love this work that I’m doing. The few people that identified and supported by work from the beginning were the people that inspired me to keep on going and they have inspired me to grow.

But in terms of growing myself as a business, I think I’ve always known I wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age but never thought it was possible without lots of money and experience. My first venture was theultralinx, a blog I started when I started college. I worked on it for two solid years whilst at college and then made the big decision to make it my full-time job instead of going to university. That period of my life was a special one. It was a time where I invested in myself. I learned to design and code, which is where I now focus more of my efforts.

Was there a particular moment where you fully threw yourself into design full-time and to decide to turn your back on university?

There wasn’t a precise moment I can think of. It all just came through me learning. I started to make pretty good money from theultralinx through advertising, so if I did go to university I knew I wouldn’t be able to grow as quickly. Luckily, in the first 12 months, it grew very quickly, so I ended up making more money than most graduates who step out of university so it was kind of a no-brainer for me to stick with it.

How do you ensure you stay original as a designer? 

That’s a difficult one. I honestly don’t know the answer to that. I guess you naturally emerge with your own style and adapt it to how you work and how you like it. I draw inspiration from all areas of life, I mash them all together into my own style. That’s what any designer does, really. They have seen it done elsewhere and modified it a little bit to make it their own.  

So, what do you think makes a good piece of design?

When it comes to websites and apps the best type of design is invisible design. When you’re using something and you don’t even notice the little touches, that’s what makes a design so good. Look at Instagram, I think that’s a great example. If you took out all the pictures you would see that it is very clean, very basic. You would see that it is effectively just lines, grids and numbers. It’s so simple, and that’s why it makes people’s images look great. When it comes to web design it’s all about becoming invisible.

Aside from your approach to design, minimalism also seems to play a major role in your lifestyle. Tell us more about your relationship with it. 

It’s funny you mention minimalism. I never intentionally got into minimalism. I kind of fell into it. My parents grew up hoarding stuff constantly and I lived in a messy house. I didn’t like mess and always liked things being organised and clean. I’ve been obsessed with good organisation since a young age and always like to have things in order. It just makes life more efficient.

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I think it’s safe to say having an optimal work environment is important to you. Besides the organisation of your workspace, do you have any tools or apps that help you get the most out of your work? I have loads and loads of tools and apps that help me do my work every day. As you’ve probably seen from my setup on Instagram, I like to have a vertical monitor, this helps with coding a lot. When it comes to apps that I use every day, they include Sketch, Sublime Text, CodeKit, MAMP and 1Password.

What are your ‘Life Hacks’? Can you give us 5 easy tips to make all of our lives that little bit easier?

  1. Get a smart thermostat. Being able to change the heating and change schedules on your phone is a million times better. I use Tado and now I couldn’t live without it.
  1. Get a smart security camera. Again, I use Logi Circle. It’s a simple and great way to keep an eye on things and notifies you when it detects movement
  1. Get a proper desk chair. It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world but it is something a lot of people overlook. You want something that’s comfortable but also keeps your back upright
  1. Get an external monitor for your laptop. You can get them quite cheap these days and having a bigger screen will instantly make you more productive.
  1. Get a good set of speakers. You don’t know what you’re missing out on or appreciate the intricacies of music until you spend a little on audio

Shop and explore the ‘Gadget Man’ Christmas Gift Guide at OPUMO and follow Oliur Rahman on Instagram, @Ultralinx.