MG Meets Sheza Marinova, Graphic Designer at TikTok

Step into the vibrant world of design with Sheza, a dynamic multidisciplinary graphic designer, whose illustrious career spans over seven years in London’s creative industry. Today, she stands at the forefront of TikTok’s community team, a talent we had the privilege of recruiting.

In this exclusive MG Meets interview, Sheza opens the door to her world, sharing the joy and fulfilment she finds in her role at TikTok. She also imparts invaluable guidance for aspiring graphic designers eager to thrive in the high-octane, innovative environment that TikTok offers.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a Graphic Designer at TikTok. What inspired you to pursue a career in graphic design? 

Being a Graphic Designer at TikTok is an absolute privilege and a truly fulfilling job for me. I have the ability to convey important messages through my work on projects like Pride, Black History Month, The Creator Council and many more. It’s an amazing position that allows me to create work that celebrates diversity and empowers communities.

As a child, I loved art and painting and so I knew I wanted to work in the creative industry. When I was choosing my career path I found out that being a Graphic Designer would provide me with the opportunity to work on projects that can make a positive difference in the world and in return give me a real sense of purpose.

Could you tell us a little about how you came to work with Manning Global; how did you find out about this opportunity at TikTok?

I was getting a bit tired of the freelance life when I started job-hunting for a new role. I wanted to work for TikTok, but I never actually applied for a position there as I thought I didn’t stand a real chance with so much competition in London – classic case of imposter syndrome!

Then one day I received a LinkedIn message from Alena Ivanova, Senior Business Manager at Manning Global. She told me about the position and the rest is history!

Can you describe your experience with the recruitment process at Manning Global? 

I find that most of the time the recruitment process can be extremely stressful for the candidate, but this was not the case with Manning Global. I received a design brief that I had to work on which was followed by an interview. I remember I got the news about my successful application on a Friday afternoon – safe to say I had a great weekend following that! 

What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?

I really love the amazing variety of projects I get to work on. No two days are the same at TikTok and this keeps the work interesting and prevents monotony.

What motivated you to join TikTok, specifically, as a Graphic Designer? Were there any unique aspects of TikTok’s company culture or mission that resonated with you?

TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. This completely resonates with me, because I believe that it is essential to create a safe space where everyone can shine and express their creativity online. It’s amazing to see so much talent and potential thriving on TikTok and I love being a part of it!

How does TikTok support your professional development and help you stay updated with the latest design trends and technologies?

I follow influential designers, design studios, and industry leaders on TikTok to stay informed about their work and the latest industry developments. I also try to be hands-on with the latest design tools and technologies by experimenting with new software, techniques, and design trends. Practice is crucial for staying relevant and improving my skills in this constantly changing design landscape.

Can you describe a project or campaign at TikTok that you’re particularly proud of? What was your role in it, and what impact did it have on the company’s goals?

Creators are at the core of TikTok’s business and they are extremely valuable for the company. As such keeping creators on top of platform changes and new feature launches allows them to be efficient in building their communities. This requires TikTok to constantly provide creators with educational materials.

My favourite projects have been around working with fellow TikTok colleagues on designing and distributing educational material for creators such as our playbooks. It has been extremely rewarding to witness the information presented in my designs being used in practice by some of our most popular creators in order to amplify their voice. This includes assisting underrepresented communities such as the LGBTQ+ and the Black community.

How do you manage your time and prioritise tasks effectively?

I use an off-the-shelf task management tool that allows creation of a public task board, so that everyone can see what I am currently working on. I review it regularly and adjust it according to my progress and priorities as needed. Sometimes project requirements change, so I make sure to stay flexible, but I also try to be transparent if there is a project I can’t take on due to my current workload. Oh, and I also love using focus techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique!

How do you approach designing content that resonates with diverse cultures and demographics?

I always start with research to help me understand the target audience to create culturally sensitive designs. This is especially important when designing for different cultures and communities. For instance, the colour orange represents autumn, warmth, and harvest in Western cultures. However, in the Middle East, it is associated with mourning and loss.

What excites you the most about the future of graphic design at TikTok? 

As one of the most influential companies on the planet, TikTok resonates mostly with young people. As a result the design decisions we make impact a whole new up and coming generation. It is possible that young designers take what they see on TikTok and use it as inspiration further in their careers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the design language partially inspired by TikTok becomes mainstream in the future, leaving its mark in history. And I’m proud to be part of this.

Are there any upcoming projects or trends you’re looking forward to exploring?

With the dynamic nature of TikTok a lot of trends come organically and suddenly. I wish I could predict what would be the next best thing but without the foresight of a fortune teller I can only guess. Whatever it is, I’m happy I have a front row in the room and will be the first to experience it from the inside.

What are some projects or experiences that have had a significant impact on your growth as a designer?

Although going through University gives you the basic set of tools you need, it is not sufficient to prepare you to thrive in the fast paced environment of big tech. For me personally, the fact that I worked in a fintech startup before joining TikTok allowed me to learn the tricks of getting on top of always changing requirements with tight deadlines. Armed with these skills I was able to really hit the ground running in TikTok while also having fun and knowing I am having a real impact from day 1.

How do you stay current with design trends and technology advancements to ensure your work remains fresh and relevant?

Being part of one of the most innovative companies in the world certainly helps in getting exposure to design trends. Inevitably this leads to building a network of highly talented colleagues with various skill sets across the social media and tech sectors. As a result it feels almost effortless to be aware of the latest trends just by socialising, working and having fun.

What’s a personal passion or interest that brings you joy and inspiration, and how does it influence your work?

I love going to art exhibitions and galleries – art has the power to evoke a range of emotions and provoke many intellectual discussions. In addition, learning about the history of art inspires me with fresh ideas, leading to a more enriched approach to my work.

Besides your work, what are some hobbies or interests that you’re truly passionate about?

My job involves a lot of time staring at the screen, so I always try to pick non-tech hobbies. I love looking after my plants – I’ve got about 50 of them. It’s a great way to bring the outdoors inside my home and I also find it impossible to check my phone when my hands are all covered in soil.

Another passion of mine is reading and participating in the #BookTok community. I’ve found some great titles from there such as “Steal like an Artist” by Austen Klein and “Colour and Light” by James Gurney.

What’s one travel destination on your bucket list that’s not typically found in travel guides, and what intrigues you about it?

I’d love to visit Japan! I’ve always been fascinated with the rich Japanese artistic heritage and culture. I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan and I’d love to explore The Ghibli Museum one day!

Let’s explore your creative side. Do you have any hidden talents or artistic pursuits that you enjoy? 

Aside from my full time job at TikTok I enjoy painting digital portraits through my Etsy shop Sheza Draws.

What’s a surprising or unusual fact about you that people might not expect, something that doesn’t typically come up in your professional bio or interviews?

I used to play the piano as a kid and I wanted to become a piano player. When I reached my teenage years I realised my passion for the visual arts is stronger and I had to give up on this dream. 

What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

“Take everything with a grain of salt.

We all get overloaded with information and sometimes it’s easy to forget this. Now more than ever we need to use critical thinking and consider various perspectives before forming opinions or making decisions based on the information we receive.

If you could have a one-hour conversation with any fictional character, who would it be, and what burning question would you ask them?

I would choose Guido Orefice, played by Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful. One burning question I would ask him is: “How do you maintain such a positive outlook and keep your humour, wit and imagination during one of the darkest periods in history.”

What was your dream job as a child? 

Pianist – I loved playing the piano, but eventually I found that I don’t feel passionate enough to pursue it as a career. It’s still a lovely skill to learn and one of my hobbies!

What is your life motto?

“Always choose kindness.”

If you were to create a playlist that represents your life journey so far, what are the top three songs that would be on it?

“Dream On” by Aerosmith. It resonated with me when I first moved to the UK and inspired me to hold on to my dreams and aspirations, even in the face of adversity.

“Imagine” by John Lennon. It depicts my hope for a fairer and better world for everyone.

“I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston. It’s such an uplifting song that reminds me of the strength and resilience of women and it makes me do a little dance every time I listen to it!

If you were to write a personal letter to your younger self, what advice or words of wisdom would you offer?

Dear Younger Self,

Remember that every challenge you face is an opportunity for growth. Trust in your instincts, and never be afraid to take risks in pursuit of your dreams.

Be kind to yourself and others, because your actions, no matter how small, have the potential to create a positive impact on the world around you.

And lastly, don’t forget to have fun and take the time to appreciate the beauty in the world around you.

P.S. Head here to ‘MG Meet’ our industry experts – from CEOs to business consultants & career advisors!

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