'The Innovator's Handbook' Author Hussain Almossawi Talks Innovation and Creative Design

By Naomi Gordon | June 5, 2023

This feature is in the December '22 "The Creators" Issue. Click here to subscribe.

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the aspiring designer in your life? Try Hussain Almossawi’s latest release, The Innovator’s Handbook (Mossawi Studios LLC). This colorful read features key advice from one of the most decorated product designers in the industry. This book does not aim to solely inform readers on how to jump-start their creative processes. Instead, it provides readers with questions as references for every stage of their process.

Based on his experience designing for brands like Ford Motor Company, Apple, Adidas, Nike and Electronic Arts, Almossawi shares advice on how to develop a framework for every idea. “The main purpose of writing this book was to collect my insights and learnings from the different companies I have worked with and identify the overlapping patterns in their approaches and mindsets toward innovating and thinking outside the box,” he says. “The stories I share are both personal and from well-known innovators within the industry, past and present.”.

An illustration from The Innovator’s Handbook PHOTOS COURTESY OF HUSSAIN ALMOSSAWI
An illustration from The Innovator’s Handbook PHOTOS COURTESY OF HUSSAIN ALMOSSAWI

The book is a compact, vibrant and engaging depiction of your journey as a tech designer. What prompted you to write about your journey?

The power of storytelling is a very important tool for every entrepreneur, designer, and creator. It helps solidify your perspective in a clear, inspiring, and unforgettable way. The main purpose of writing this book was to collect my insights and learnings from the different companies I have worked with and identify the overlapping patterns in their approaches and mindsets toward innovating and thinking outside the box. I share personal stories and experiences in each chapter— stories that make an idea much clearer and relatable. The stories I share are both personal, and from well-known innovators within the industry, past and present. Essentially, the core of a book like this is to inspire, educate, and lead the reader to take action and find results.

As a young aspiring designer, I always felt like innovation and coming up with great ideas were overwhelming and difficult, but in reality, I discovered that when you have the right mindset toward innovation, everyone can innovate. When writing this book, I had the young “me” in mind who could have greatly benefited from these lessons as I was trying to figure things out.

How did you come up with the idea to format your book in this way?

As a product designer, I had to approach the design of my book as an object, something that stands out and looks pleasing to the eye. Part of any successful product is creating an experience. Experiences leave unforgettable memories and a sense of joy, and that’s exactly what I wanted to create with the book.

One of the insights I share in my book is the power of collaboration and feeding off each other’s ideas. The design of this book was no different. I had a clear idea in mind of what I wanted it to look like, but thanks to the amazing people I worked with, it became even better. I became more of a creative director and curator at times to ensure the final results aligned with my overall vision.

I had the pleasure of working with the amazing designers at Mano-a-Mano Club from Portugal. They were responsible for the overall design of the book and layouts. I also worked with two great illustrators, Abdelrahman Hajj and Mélissa Menu. The illustrations in the book and on the cover definitely elevated the overall experience and created a nice vibe alongside the stories that are being told in the book. I also worked with three amazing editors, Gregory Newton Brown, Brad Bartlett, and Isabelle Russell, who pushed me and my storytelling, overall narrative, and structure. Other partners that played a huge role in the success of the book were the printing press, who I worked very closely with and went through multiple samples, as well as my distributor, who handles all the shipping and distribution of the book worldwide.

Finally, I got tremendous support and feedback from industry leaders and well-known authors when I shared advance copies of my manuscript with them. I even got amazing testimonials from people like Tobie Hatfield (Senior Director of Athlete Innovation at Nike Inc.), Carl Arnese (Senior Design Director of FUTURE Innovation, Adidas), and Derek Sivers (Author of Anything You Want), among many others.

You have worked at some of the biggest companies in the past, and many tech creatives are looking for the same opportunity. What is one thing that you suggest they do to make themselves stand out in the tech world?

We all have our dream companies that we aspire to work for, and sometimes it just feels impossible or out of reach. As a designer who comes from a small island called Bahrain, I always had my aspirations and dreams of working for companies like Nike and Adidas. It definitely was not easy to make it a reality and work with both of those companies, but I did it, and many more great ones like Apple, Ford, and Amazon. It’s wonderful to have big dreams and dream big, bigger than the world. But it’s one thing to have a dream, and it’s another to execute. Basically, if you talk the talk, then you also have to walk the walk.

I applied over 80 times in the course of 5 years to my dream companies until I finally made it. I tried everything to get in and nothing stopped me because I wanted it really bad, and I wasn’t going to stop until I got it. There are a million different reasons that could stop you from getting in…But the bottom line is, you can’t stop and need to push and push, and take any feedback that could elevate you with a grain of salt until you make it.

As a designer, do you find the skills you acquired useful for your other career opportunities?

There is certainly a lot of overlap, and applying design/creative thinking goes way beyond the design field. Creative thinking has opened up many opportunities for me to problem solve and come up with new and exciting ideas for my business and book, and most importantly to overcome hurdles and challenges. That’s why The Innovator’s Handbook is a book not just for designers, but for everyone— creators, entrepreneurs, startups, etc. On the other hand, being a business owner and author also has its own set of unique learnings and challenges that have helped me as a designer.

Being open to new ideas and always being curious to learn and be inspired by everything around you allows you to have that innovative and creative mindset. When I got my design internship at Nike World Headquarters over 10 years ago, I met up with Tinker Hatfield, a designer and innovator at Nike that I always looked up to. One piece of advice that he shared with me and has had great value on my career, was to “be a curious sponge”.

Is there one thing you want your readers to remember above all else?

If I want to sum it up, I would say be FEARLESS. You can read all the books in the world and listen to all the podcasts and talks, but there is one thing that can always stop you from elevating and improving, and that’s fear. Fear leads to self-doubt, negativity, pessimism, and an unwillingness to try anything new. Fear of failure, being judged, what others think, messing up— each of those becomes your roadblock from the very first step, before you even take it.

Are there any upcoming projects you’d like our readers to keep an eye out for?

Since my book has just launched two months ago, I have been sending out a bi-weekly newsletter called "The Innovator’s List", with regular doses of innovation stories, exercises, and creative insights. The list has been evolving and growing, and it’s great to have that interaction with the readers. I am also giving multiple talks at different venues and events about innovation and the topics covered in my book.

As for my design work, I’m currently working on a series called “What If?”, where I take an existing brand and create a product that they are not known for. For example, I’ve made Tesla Football Boots and NASA Football Boots, and am currently creating a set of sneakers based on some well-known super sports cars. I am also working on a new exciting short film fully created in CGI.

Photography by: Courtesy of Hussain Almossawi