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January 04, 2021

Five Questions with Felix Lee + James Baduor: Co-Founders of ADPList

ADPList Co-Founders Felix Lee and James Baduor talk about how creatives find, connect with, and inspire each other—even during a pandemic.

When we asked “What drives you to create?”, Felix Lee replied, “To leave the world better than I found it.” That answer gave us goosebumps because he’s already done that by co-founding, with James Baduor, Amazing Design People List. ADPList is a community platform connecting designers with mentors and jobs globally. Launched in 2020—yes, during the pandemic—it already has over 700 mentors and 8,900 designers.

The organization’s mission is “to inspire powerful conversations and collaborations among designers worldwide so together we can change the world with creativity,” so we knew they would have something special to contribute to INVT21. Instead of giving a talk, though, ADPList is generously offering a pro-bono virtual portfolio review, career advice, and more from design mentors. (Limited to 15 spots; get details here.)

We wanted to know what drives these two creatives. (Felix is an entrepreneur and designer; James is a design educator and tech entrepreneur.) Here’s what they shared with us in answer to our “5 Questions.”

What did 2020 bring into focus for you that you want to Re:Make, Re:Think, Re:Imagine, or Re:Design for 2021?

FL: In 2021, I want to reimagine the way communities connect from around the world as we walk into a new chapter together. I want to redesign the way people find, meet, and connect with one another based on their passions. That’s the most powerful conversation that can happen in the world right now. So that’s that.

2020 really brought forward the focus of a community. ADPList was started during the pandemic when designers were laid off, and, in six months, grew to one of the design industry’s most prominent mentoring platforms. It showed that there is a global network of people ready to connect and provide support for the people in their communities—one where unity triumphs and differences are nonexistent.

JB: The COVID-19 pandemic taught us all to ask: What does it mean to be apart? What do abnormal times look like? I think being able to live with uncertainties got everyone rethinking their approaches to work and relationships. And being a designer, I am no different. Being able to connect, collaborate with others, and share common goals has me Re:Thinking 2021.

What is your relationship to the creative process?

FL: It’s pretty much a relationship with myself. I love it, and I constantly work to better it.

JB: Simple. There is a stable equilibrium between how I get inspired and how I create.

How or where do you find inspiration?

FL: From mainly three things on a day-to-day basis. First, meeting new people from diverse backgrounds globally. Next, catching up on books (one of the best ways to lean into new topics beyond design). Finally, practicing daily meditation and taking walks in nature. It’s a way to let my mind go free.

JB: I tend to get a great deal of inspiration from what others are doing. The mere presence of someone who is both inspiring and inspired themselves reignites the fire in me and opens up my mind of ideas. And then creative platforms (like Dribbble) and blogs.

What was one of your biggest creative challenges?

FL: Understanding the constraints that we are constantly working within. There are macro factors that affect the way humans think and interact—the political landscape, climate change, etc. These are some big mentions that you have to take into consideration, even through your creative process. To design a product people love, you need to start from understanding them as people.

JB: Well, this wasn’t directly a creative task, but then, I was torn between leading and creating. I could easily make an excuse to go around a design problem if I was just executing. But as a leader, understanding the impact of a product feature or quality of work on your business forces you to do things the right way when you are executing.

When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?

FL: When I was in engineering school.

JB: Back in high school, I was curious about how all those graphics in the science books were created. I found myself skipping biology classes and going into the ICT lab to create a logo for my class. Each time I did this, I felt fulfilled while hoping one day I could create beautiful things.

Bonus Round: Who is one of your heroes and why?

FL: My father. His tenacity, kindness, and gratitude for life has taught me a bunch about being a hustler and being grateful for things in life.JB: Chris Do (founder of The Future). Chris’s contributions to the design community are tremendous, from his willingness to share knowledge with designers all over the world to the amount of impact he has created for designers like me.