Design Engineering #2 — Accept all Challenges

Vietanh Nguyen
4 min readJan 31, 2023

Anderson Oliveira is unique in many ways, but like all Design Engineers: he says Yes to challenges.

This futuristics pair of shoes were sewn by an Italian artisan and soldered by a Design Engineer. (images: Eleven Inc., Ebay)

Challenge #1: Can you make a pair of shoes with a TV on it? And add Wifi while you are at it?

In 2016, Virgin America pitched the crazy idea to the ads agency Eleven Inc. where Anderson worked. While already busy working on other projects, Anderson agreed to make the concept happen in two months. His teammate for this project would be some shoemaker in Italy doing the leather work they had been doing for centuries. On the other hand, Anderson had to tackle unfamiliar technologies along with many questions: Is there a shoe size that fits a screen? Where is the space for the battery? Putting the internet under people’s soles and walking to recharge the battery, really? He quickly burnt through hundreds of dollars of equipment while making basic electrical mistakes and overloading the screen’s circuits.

His mind was so burnt out that he had to step out of the project to work on the other project for several weeks. When he got back to it, the client’s timeline was drawing to an end. He could have given up, but he did not. He realized no one had ever put a screen into shoes, and he would be the first. After that, he put in 14–16 hours per day to do more soldering, figuring out rechargeable batteries and watching a lot of C++ and PHP server tutorials. Eventually, he arrived at a breakthrough to use two separate sources of power. His working version was full of knots of monitor cables and iPhone cables. The rest was history. The pair of shoes went on eBay for $4,950 and were sold out within 8 days for $100,000.

Anderson learned Photoshop without a computer (images: O’Reilly — the missing manual)

Challenge #2: Can you learn Photoshop without a computer and ace a job interview?

Back in Brazil, Anderson graduated from college without any jobs. He saw an opening at a company doing magazine and poster designs. When the company asked if he knew Photoshop, he said Yes, even though he had never owned a computer. He went to a bookstore and bought a dozen Photoshop tutorial books. By learning all the interface pictures printed in the books, he could separate lights and shadows in a Star Wars scene or convert sunlight to snow in another photo’s background during the interview.

He got the job. It was thanks to Anderson’s photographic memory, which lets him memorize those thick Photoshop manual books. But more importantly, as a Design Engineer, he said he could do it before knowing how to do it.

The Black Crowes (images: debut album Anniversary Edition)

Challenge #3: Can you follow your passion even when you are not supposed to?

In the 2000s, Anderson collected every CD of the rock band Black Crowes. It was challenging because the band had many studio albums, live albums, and singles. He decided to build and design an unofficial website to store all the work of Black Crowes. A year later, the band found out. Instead of suing him, they requested Anderson to make it their official site. He went on to work with the band for 15 years to manage their social media presence. He even took more unofficial recordings from other fans like him to edit and share the music further. He designed artwork for them every time they had a live show in a new city.

He flew to New York to attend the band’s live show. His artworks got recognition on international magazine front covers and his website won several awards like the Fwa.com. He later landed a job outside advertising at Uber to automate marketing site creation and create futuristic customer support experiences.

Anderson faced endless challenges, but he had the Design Engineer fortitude to say yes to them.

This is the second article in my series on Design Engineering. If you have questions about this best unknown job on earth, leave a comment or reach me on LinkedIn.

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