Cart Icon

Sophia Ahamed

Sophia Ahamed is a designer and founder of design agency Monograph & Co. She and Chris go deep into the role that empathy plays in creative business. Spoiler alert: it's an important one.

Designing With Empathy In Mind
Designing With Empathy In Mind

Designing With Empathy In Mind

Ep
81
May
04
With
Sophia Ahamed
Or Listen On:

The Business of Empathy

Sophia Ahamed is a designer and founder of design agency Monograph & Co. She and Chris go deep into the role that empathy plays in creative business. Spoiler alert: it's an important one. They talk about how losing someone can trigger a perspective shift and, subsequently, how you can use your own life experiences to build greater empathy with your clients.

A lot of us get caught up thinking about ourselves and that makes it difficult to look at the world through another person’s lens. In strange times like these, we could all use a bit more empathy.

So how can we be more empathetic? In Sophia’s eyes, it’s not exactly something we can be taught. We can’t just open up a notebook and say, “Teach me to be empathetic.” Empathy is something we learn through our environment; our observations, reactions, connections, and experiences, and how we relate to all of these things, all shape our empathic side.

Throughout her late 20s, Sophia’s world was turned upside down when both of her parents fell very ill. Seeing both her mother and father in a state of helplessness was absolutely heartbreaking. At the same time, though, the powerlessness Sophia felt during her parents’ struggle was what gave her momentum to acknowledge her fears and start to turn things around.

Her perspective began to shift. Seeing her parents going through the pains of their illnesses was incredibly difficult, yet was a reminder for Sophia that she was still young and able to reclaim the reins of her life.

The feeling of helplessness turned into courage. In a way, this difficult time in Sophia’s life served as a wakeup call to start her business.

If you feel as if you’re going through a rough patch, know that you’re not alone. Sophia’s story is an inspiring one, and we encourage you to tune in to this conversation. As she shares, we learn a little bit more how to step into other people’s shoes and practice empathy along the way

Hosted By
special guest
produced by
edited by
music by
Appearances

Episode Transcript

Sophia:
I don't think empathy is something that can be taught in the sense of like, "Open up your notebook, and turn to page four." Like I think it's something that is taught through the environment that you're in, through your experiences and how you relate to them, how you relate to yourself.

Greg:
Hello, and welcome to the Futur podcast. I'm your producer Greg Gunn, recording this intro from beneath a blanket to my home studio. I'm not doing that because I'm cold, just makes my voice sound better. There's a work from home pro tip for you. Here's another one, wash your hands. Today's guest is the founder of design agency Monograph&Co. She and Chris go deep into the role that empathy plays in business. And spoiler alert, it's an important one. They talk about how losing someone can trigger a perspective shift, and subsequently how you can use your own life experiences to build greater empathy with your clients.

Greg:
A lot of us get caught up thinking about ourselves, and that makes it difficult to look at the world through another person's lens. And in strange times like these, we could all use a bit more empathy. Please enjoy our vulnerable and very inspiring conversation was Sophia Ahamed.

Sophia:
I think for me, my journey through getting a deeper understanding of empathy, and my role, not just in terms of career, and how I like to help others with their business and their growth. Developing more empathy as well came directly from my experience of losing my parents. So, it's been about two and a half years now, I think. But my mother almost lost her life, and I think at that time I was working. I was in my late 20s at that time. And life just became very, very difficult. I think that when you are in a situation where you're about to lose I think a very important person in your life, and you're not too sure where that pendulum is going to swing, it's almost like life speeds up, and you just become very aware.

Sophia:
You just have this very heightened awareness of yourself, your own interactions with the world, the people around you. And you start to see it's not a near life experience for me personally, but it was more like, you just start to become very hyper aware. And I think during that time I experienced a lot of other people suffering through illness. My mother, they put her in a hospice for a while because she just wasn't getting any better at that time. And so, I'd go to work 6:00 AM in the morning, and then I'll get out of work around 6:00 PM. I'll go to the hospital, and sit with my mom until 10:00 PM, until they kicked me out.

Sophia:
And you'd see people just waiting to die. People who just need help, but you can't help them. It's a very helpless feeling. And I think that at that time, I was working a job that just wasn't fulfilling me in any way, shape, or form. And you just become hyper aware of the fact that I don't have forever. I was in my late 20s. How long do I have left to do all of the things I want to do? Another 10 years? Do you need another 20, 30? That doesn't seem like a very big number. No. So, it definitely put me in a state of awareness.

Greg:
Did she have a terminal illness?

Sophia:
No, my mother, luckily she did recover to the point where she didn't need to be in the hospital anymore. She has heart failure. So, it was very touching though. And that's something that will last with her for the rest of her life, and that needs to be monitored for the rest of her life. But yeah, that's pretty much just [inaudible 00:04:35].

Greg:
She's still alive today?

Sophia:
Yes. My mother is-

Greg:
Okay, wow. Thankfully.

Sophia:
Yes. Very, very grateful for that. She's not going to be able to be mom that she was, before, but I'm grateful to have ... Again, hyper awareness. Right? I'm grateful that my mother is alive, and that's very, very important to me. And you just become grateful with things that you have.

Greg:
Yeah, the way that you set that up, I was like, "Oh my gosh, what is going on?" And I'm trying to sort it out my head. I thought ... Well because you said, "I had to deal with losing my parents." I was like, "You lost both your parents at the same time in two years. Oh my gosh." So, did you lose your dad or?

Sophia:
I did.

Greg:
You did. Okay.

Sophia:
Yes. So, just around the time that we got mom back to a stable position to be at home. I think me and my sisters had to rearrange our lives. Like my mom can't be on her own. That's just not going to happen. Okay. But that's fine. Like I said, I'd rather have my mother alive, and be with her, and spend time with her than want to have anything else. But a year from that, my dad died. Again, very suddenly, no one really expected this. And so, in a way, I kind of I lost them both in one way or another.

Greg:
Right. I see you lost the mom that you knew, and now you have to help her and take care of her. And she's no longer going to be the caretaker of you. Right?

Sophia:
Yeah, even though I think that ... Obviously, we're all adults and we don't need our parents to take care of us and that kind of weight, you tend to miss going home to your parents. You tend to miss holidays when people are like, "Oh, I'm going to go see dad, I'm going to go see mom." And like, "Oh, me and my mom went for a walk." You miss the little things. And I think that's again, another sense of hyper awareness but also fuel for the work because you get into this mode where it feels very singular. You don't have that person to call up on phone like, "Hey mom, I need advice." Or, "Hey dad." Whatever. All of a sudden that's just gone.

Sophia:
So, and again, it's a bit hard to articulate because I think I'm still very much in that process of understanding my own needs, and wants, and how to fulfill them. But luckily I think I found a career path that is very fulfilling to me. Being able to dive into my work and have a greater sense of empathy for the clients that I work with, a greater understanding to the needs and wants. And also, I think at the same time it gives me that sense of fulfillment and joy that perhaps I am in a way lacking at times because I'm still trying to navigate through this process as well.

Greg:
So, take me to this part where you start to become hyper aware of what's going on. And maybe starting to recognize how precious life is, and your mom getting sick. It seems like it sent you down a path of just becoming very present to the moment, and starting to reevaluate your life. You mentioned a little bit about the job that you had at that time, it was very unfulfilling. And trying to find these moments to steal back from your mom because you didn't know because you said it was touch and go.

Greg:
Let's stay in that moment before we get into like how you apply it to work life, and your clients. I want to fully understand that because I feel like I can sense the anxiety, the feelings that you've had, but I still have both my parents. So, I want to understand like what's going on in your mind to see if I can map something else that I've gone through to try to relate a little bit more to what you're going through or have gone through.

Sophia:
Yeah, I think at that time ... Again, I was in my late 20s. I think I was coasting. I was in many situations I think at that time, things just weren't very fulfilling or they just weren't something that was for my best interest. But I was just coasting because you get your routine reset, you've got to go to work, you get a paycheck, whatever. And you keep going, and you keep going. And when my mom got very ill, it was very sudden. Like all of a sudden you're just living your life and all of a sudden the phone rings and says, "Hey, guess what? This is what's happening."

Sophia:
And I think that really changes your trajectory. And for me, when I go see my mother after a very long grueling day at work, you'd go there, and this was a bit of a hospice in a way. A lot of elderly people who are there for life until their clock runs out. And you walk down the halls and you hear people screaming in pain. We're not talking about rooms of like separate rooms. We're talking about like open rooms. You'd go in to like six people in the room, sharing that space, and a little thin veil of a curtain that separate them. And you'd see people sitting in their own feces for hours just waiting for someone to come help them because they can't do it on their own, and their sense of self-worth, sense of self-dignity is just gone.

Sophia:
They can't do anything. And you see your mother and your parent there is struggling, not in the same way, but struggling in some way, and you want to help, but you can't help because you don't have the resources. And a lot of those resources at that time was financial. I think that, it was like, we can help up to here, and if you want more help, "You got a couple of thousand dollars? You got a couple hundred dollars? "No, I don't." At that time. Again, I didn't work a job where I got a tremendous amount of pay. I got enough pay to pay my bills. So, you just sit there and go, "Okay, this is not a position that I want to be in physically, obviously, but I don't want to see the people I love and care about in a place where I can't help them."

Sophia:
And you feel powerless. And I think in that sense of powerlessness, I gained so much more momentum, and so, much more power that says, "You know what? I know stuff. I have certain abilities, I can do things. I don't need to stay in one spot waiting for someone to say, okay, move, now's the time. And if it doesn't work out, I don't care." I think all those fears that usually comes starting new business trips, going away, or quitting a job, went just out the window because what I was looking at every single day was worse.

Greg:
So, it sounds to me like that phone call that you got, letting you know that your mom was really sick, was a wake up call. I mean, there was this information that you got in terms of like, "Hey, mom is not what we think and she's really sick." And then this wake up call to see her in a place, and feeling helpless that you as a child could not do anything more to help your mom because of the financial circumstances situation that you're in. Now, we always hear about other countries' healthcare system is much better than America's, and I don't doubt that at all. But even in Canada, where you have I think good healthcare system, there's still this gap between yeah, you're getting by here but this is not how we want to live. Right?

Sophia:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.

Greg:
And then this gave you, I think this helplessness turned into something else. It turned into courage. And you were able to then ... Just that switch in your brain like, "What else am I living for if I can't take care of my parents?" And also I don't want to be in a situation like that myself living, not hand to mouth, but not having much of a cushion in case circumstances change in your life. So, this was your wake up call to start your own business, and do that thing that you wanted to do. Is that right?

Sophia:
Yes, absolutely.

Greg:
Okay. This is very inspiring. Okay. So, a lot of people would buckle and fold. What makes you so different that you don't just collapse in ... I don't know how to describe this, but in feeling defeated, and feeling like life's unfair. And why was this thrusted upon you at this moment in time? What is it about you, your upbringing, your personality? What else was it that allowed you to say, "You know what? Instead of going down that dark path, I'm going to go down this other way."

Sophia:
That's a very interesting question, and I think that's something I ask myself every now and then. Again, I don't know if it's an upbringing as much as it's just something internal. Gosh, it's hard to say. I feel like, I was in this path where it's like I could swing either way. I could go either way, but it was just like something internal that just snaps and goes, "This is what I want to do, and I'm going to do it."

Greg:
What was the internal dialogue for you at that point?

Sophia:
I think that for me, another ... This was a self-protection thing or something against something else. It was just for me versus ... Like I just refused to throw in the towel. And I think it's because when you're faced with someone that you love, and someone says, "Well, this person can die, or they can live like. How do you feel?" Usually, I think a lot of people would be like, "Well, I want that person to live. I don't want them to go." And for me, obviously, I can't control my mother's health. I can't control the healthcare system, but I can control my own actions, and my own emotions, and I have control over that.

Sophia:
So, I wanted to take control as much as I could. And that was the way I could take control. That was the way I could be helpful. That was the way I could change the circumstance, and I think that was what drove me to go forward.

Greg:
You describe it as control. I think other people would sit there and say, I think Sophia is taking accountability. Like you're saying, "There's things that I cannot control, and there's things that I can. And the things I can control, I'm going to be accountable this day forward."

Sophia:
Yeah, I mean, I think that's a great way to put it. I mean, you're right. I think for me, I always talk about being an essence of control. I think for me that feels like, again, like I'm in the driver's seat. I'm taking accountability. I'm steering this, whether I steer it in a bad way or a great way, it's up to me. And I take full responsibility of the better things, or the worst things. That's just how I went about it.

Greg:
So, what happens next when you decide, "I'm done with this, I'm going to go do this other thing." How long did it take you to leave your job and to start your own business?

Sophia:
Nine months. It took nine months. I decided very early on, but as you can see the circumstance, I couldn't just be like, "Hey, I quit." I was using some of that money to help my mother. I had to take care of myself. I had a job still that had responsibilities. And so, it took me nine months to plan out what things were going to look like. I mean, obviously, starting a new business, there's all these things to go forward with. And so, it took a very long time to get to a financial position where I could leave, and at least have a little bit of something to take care of myself while still dealing with all these other events that were unfolding.

Greg:
So, when it came time to leave, how did you know it was the right time? Did you need to have certain clients, or saved up enough money, or what were you waiting for? What did those nine months prepare you for?

Sophia:
So, it prepared me for I think, getting a lot of focus, getting a lot of clarity. I think that when you're in a situation like this, it's not just like extreme ... It's not to the point where you're like, you have no emotions and you're just focused. You're feeling so many things, anger, sadness, despair, all these things. And so, the nine months helped me put into practice of one, are you really do this for the right reasons, or are you just in the moment?

Sophia:
Two, I got a small business loan, which is very lovely, but in order to get that, I had to get certain things in place. I had to get certain things to check out. And yeah, so those were the things I was doing. I was lucky enough actually, it was one of those odd things where it's like I'm not looking for clients, and you just find me. Something that's never, ever happened after that, but it happened during this time, which was so great.

Greg:
Wow.

Sophia:
Yeah, I know. So-

Greg:
That's really cool.

Sophia:
... It was really cool. Just I think the universe was just throwing me a bone a little bit. So, I had two people, two projects waiting in the wings. But you know what? I was just in a position where it's like I can't do more than what I was doing, going to work, and see my mother at the hospital until like 10:00 PM every single day was the best I could do. So, I think this moment came where I was just like, "Okay, you got the loan, you've done all you can, you've got to jump." And I jumped.

Greg:
How much was the loan for?

Sophia:
It was just about 15K.

Greg:
15K. And is this a loan that's available to anybody that applies for it or were you a special circumstance? I don't know how Canada works in getting a small business loan like this.

Sophia:
So, we're lucky we have a wonderful program here that gives new starting businesses a chance. And it gives you a little bit of business light up, as well. So, yeah, anybody could apply. You just have to have a business plan. You have to show that you're focused, you have good intent, just regular credit checks, and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, it was just a very good-

Greg:
And have you paid it off already?

Sophia:
Close.

Greg:
Close. Okay. So, how long has it been?

Sophia:
It's been two years.

Greg:
Oh, you're doing great.

Sophia:
Thanks.

Greg:
I mean, you laugh a little bit like, "No, not yet, sir." But I was like, "Two years. Come on. That's pretty good."

Sophia:
Yeah. Gosh, it's all been a journey. I planned for as much as I could, but it's a journey. You can plan for so much, but you don't know what's going on in the wings.

Greg:
Yeah. Okay. So, let's move on to you've got your business set up, through a lot of different fortuitous things happen, getting a loan, and clients popping out of the woodwork. Like you said, sometimes when you're down the universe reaches down and is like, "Get up kid, you got this." And it doesn't always work out that way, and it's beautiful when it does. Right?

Sophia:
Yes.

Greg:
So, kudos to you for that. I always feel like these expressions of luck with universe answering is just you putting in the time, and somehow on the opposite side of that, these things come out of nowhere. And it comes up out of somewhere obviously, because of the relationships that you build, the reputation, or something in your past has helped you here. So, you're starting your business. And now let's move on to the client stuff. Like when you said that, but this is new to you, right?

Greg:
Because before you're a staff person working somewhere at a firm, and now you're dealing with your own clients. And tie this together for me like how the idea of losing your mom, and then ultimately losing your father, how that helps you, and what lessons did you learn from that that you could apply to working with clients?

Sophia:
Well, I think the first thing, and again, maybe this goes back to a lot with what you said in the beginning, like what drives you? I think this experience created a drive in me where it's like it's a mixture of curiosity, which I think is great for anyone in any field. But also this driven personality of wanting to just do better, and do more meaningful work. And I think that drive comes out in the personality of when you talk to clients, when I'm talking about the work. And I think a lot of that was something that resonated with so many people.

Sophia:
Didn't feel that passion being brought to their work, to what they were trying to build. And I think I brought that forward. And then again, remember any of the experiences that came from things that I saw at this hospice is it gives you a greater sense of empathy, not just for the clients but for yourself as well. You give yourself a little bit of a break, but that sense of drive and curiosity comes out of really wanting to connect someone who is paying you to do something that they feel is very meaningful to them.

Greg:
How can you help people who are listening to this, who haven't gone through this hardship that you have gone through, to try to understand that like tie it together like really tie it besides ... Just give me a different way of looking at it so that they can apply it to ... Because that's the idea, right? Like you have lived a life, and you have wisdom, and experience. And if I'm a young person it's like, "Well I don't understand this, this is not for me." Make it easy for them to understand.

Sophia:
One way I do that is to remove all my feelings from it and ask them questions. Really connect with them. Imagine if you were going on a date with somebody that you really, really liked, or you were going out with someone that you really admired, and you'd ask them questions, and you'd really want to get to know them. And you remove that sense of money, and status, and you just want to get to know them. That's very, very important I think to apply to when you're trying to build that sense of empathy. I don't think empathy is something that can be taught in the sense of like, "Open up your notebook, and turn to page four."

Sophia:
I think it's something that is taught through the environment that you're in, through your experiences, and how you relate to them, how you relate to yourself. So, I think that's something that I would say first and foremost, that's so much more important than taking that sense, and utilizing it through the work, through visual execution is so much more fulfilling, so much more beneficial. And I think if you do those things, there's no real difficulty to "sell" because you're just really connecting the dots.

Greg:
So, this is me interpreting a little bit of this which is I think sometimes we get caught up too much in like thinking about ourselves so much that we lack the ability to look at the world through a different lens. I think this experience with your mom and your dad maybe, and just the way I'm looking at it, it's like there's something that's greater than you at work here. And for you to be humbled by it, and not a defeatist way, to surrender a little bit of that. Like, "There's only so much I can control in my life." And then looking at the hospice system about how they were or were not taking great care of the people that they had. Maybe there's overworked and underfunded that maybe that also made you realize like this idea of service to others that it's a pretty noble thing.

Sophia:
Yes. I mean, I think that it was such an interesting precursor to what I was about to dive into, which I had no idea. Sometimes, I see the elderly ... And you get to know them because you go see your mother every day, you get to know the other patients. And when you look at them and you say, "How are you? How are you feeling?" And some people haven't talked to anybody in months, weeks, and they're just dying to say some stuff to you. And so, you just sit there and listen to them, and you just give them some comfort. You just give them a bit of a sounding board. And maybe you can say one or two things that will help them feel differently, or just think differently about certain things. And it's a very enriching process.

Sophia:
Yes, it's a bit of an act of service, but I also at the same time, I'm feeling better too because I also don't want to see them suffering, even though, I don't know them personally. And it gives you, again, a greater sense of empathy to try to understand what it would feel like to be in this situation, which in my mind, even though I was only in my late 20s, at that time, it didn't feel like, "Oh, I'm young." Like whatever. Like I felt like this could be me tomorrow. So, it felt very jarring. It felt very real.

Greg:
So, that really grounded you, I think, right? That you put yourself almost mentally in their position even though you're in your 20s. And you could feel that. This is what I talk about a lot when it comes to empathy is to try to walk in someone's shoes for a moment before you form an opinion about people. And you're looking at this situation surrounded by people who are in desperate need of some attention. Just a little love concern, a friendly face, someone to show some compassion, and you just happen to be that person. You felt that, and you switched roles with them. You're like, "What happens if I'm in this position?" So, that probably taught you everything that you needed to know prior to going into business for yourself.

Sophia:
It did. I think there were a lot of lessons there. Again, I think I learned a lot of lessons and not so much in that school way, like, "This is how you invest. This is how ... " But in a deeper sense that really pushed my own work, and my own capabilities as well.

Greg:
Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

Ben Burns:
Hey, Ben Burns from the Futur here. If you don't recognize my voice, you might know me from our YouTube channel as the friendly guy with a big beard. Yup, that's me. Listen, the Futur's mission is to teach a billion creatives how to make money doing what they love without feeling gross about it. And let's be honest, historically, we creative types are great at producing the work, but not so great at running the business, especially, when it comes to things like sales, marketing and money. I know personally, I used to struggle with all of those.

Ben Burns:
Now, fortunately for you though, we have a slew of courses, and products designed specifically to help you run your business better. These are tools like the complete case study, and the perfect proposal. These things are there to help you attract new clients, and then wow them with a thorough and professional presentation. Now, you can go even deeper with one of our business courses like project management, how to find clients and the intensive business boot camp. Check out all of our courses and products about running a creative business by visiting the Futur.com/business.

Greg:
We'll come back to our conversation with Sophia Ahamed. Can you relate a story or talk about an experience that you had with a client where you used this empathy to really break down some barriers or just to connect and relate to a client?

Sophia:
Yeah, I think it might be even similar to, again, with what you practice as well. It's just that I had a client who was just very hostile. And she was just very erratic. And I think one thing that works for me is always just trying to have, not monotone but have a tone of voice that's neither high or low. It's just something that's a bit soothing. So, the person can just get it all out and then just relax, and just be like, "What's really going on?" And I think that understanding the sense of empathy because I've been through a lot of my own emotions, my own whirlwind of emotions, you can feel it right away when somebody is hyped up about something that has nothing to do with you, but it's something else that's really painful for them, or a very bad experience.

Sophia:
And I think that you can slow it down. It taught me how to slow down. And it taught me how to, again, not so much ignore my own feelings. So, I've got feelings, and they're valid. But to try to look at the heart of the matter, so, it's not like, "She's wrong, I'm wrong." It's more like the in between. What's going on? And it's almost like an art of war type of thing where it's just like, "It's neither this nor that. It's the middle ground." And it's taught me how to find the middle ground as much as possible. Just get to the heart of the matter. And usually the heart of the matter is miscommunication, misunderstanding.

Sophia:
I thought something differently or, "I'm just really scared, and I don't want you to do this to me, so I'm just going to do this." And you find the middle ground, and everybody just feels at peace. And then you can just go and do good work, and give them what they paid for even more so.

Greg:
I like that. Is there something that you feel like, "I got to share this with the audience?"

Sophia:
Yeah, I think one thing I want to share with all of these types of things, and I think it ties in, but it doesn't tie in directly, but it's a bit of a loose tie in, is the importance of maintaining the sense of curiosity through empathy. I think that what I see for a lot of people in the creative community as well as just a sense of like, there's no sense of imagine. It's almost like you can't have a mind that's very imaginative. You can't have a sense of curiosity. And if you do, it has to be bound in a box that is associated with some very hard facts.

Sophia:
I see a lot of this fueling going on. And it's like, if you want to gain empathy, learn these business tools, and techniques. And it's like if you want to gain more empathy, go out there, and be curious, utilize that sense of imagination. Go read a really great fiction. That's okay, you can do that. That's also very important, to building more rapport with your clients, to building more sense of empathy with the work that you do, by engaging that part of the mind as well. And I think that's something that I really would like to stress in a situation like this.

Sophia:
It's easy to be hard strung with facts. It's easy to be looking for the fact, and the literal meaning of this, and the roles. But a lot of what I learned was a direct emotional experience. A lot of what I do I feel has that sense of a direct emotional experience.

Greg:
Do you an example where this curiosity has really helped you to understand something? I think I get the general sense of what you're saying, which is something about sometimes these logical paths, these formulaic approaches that you might read in a textbook aren't really great. And in times like that, you have to expand your mind. And I think from a general philosophical point of view, I understand, empathy requires you to imagine something that you've not experienced or to connect with somebody else's point of view.

Greg:
And if you live in a very narrow lane, and you only look at certain things like you only like chocolate ice cream and you've not explored the other flavors, then it doesn't really help you because you're only painting with one color. You're only tasting things with one taste bud. So, curiosity expands that pallet, so that when you meet somebody they now fit in a wider spectrum of experiences, and points of views that you might have. That's how I understand what you said. Does that align?

Sophia:
Yes. Absolutely. Sorry. I tend to speak sometimes in abstract ways. I think because again, it's not something that I've done. It's like, "Oh, this is what I've done. This is the outcome, this is the result." I think I'm very much still in this process. So, it's like, this is the journey so far. But I don't know 100% where it's going to lead me. I have a few ideas where I want it to go. But like I said before, you only have so much control.

Greg:
Right. And I love it the way that you're talking about it. It allows me to understand it through something that's very fresh versus you looking back on this, and it's really neat to be able to share this with you because I think if my math is right, you started your business two years ago, and nine months before that you made the decision that, "I'm going to leave my job and do this thing." So, we're talking about within say three, three and a half years or so that you're going through a tremendous amount of change. Like your life has been an upheaval. So, this is precious I think that you're able to share this with us.

Sophia:
Thank you. Yeah. And your math is right. It's close to about three years now. But yeah, [inaudible 00:34:46].

Greg:
Okay. So, you were talking about curiosity. Is there something else that you feel like you need to share that's important for us to know?

Sophia:
Yeah, just don't neglect people's emotional response to things. Again, I'll hear a lot of people talk about colors for example. I think a lot of my work deals with a lot of color, and different types of pallets. And that gives people a certain emotional response, whether you want them to feel happy, and elated, or subdued, relax. I think that's ... Again, ties into everything that we were saying. Just don't forget to include that emotional sense of curiosity, and how good emotions connect with people more than the product, than the design, than the brief. Those things matter of course, but it's that emotional connection that brings it together.

Greg:
Since you mentioned color, I have questions for you about one of your Instagram accounts, which is under your name Sofia Ahamed, right?

Sophia:
Yes.

Greg:
And you do this thing called full color dreaming. And I'm curious what are these? I mean, they're mesmerizing. You guys go to Instagram and check it out, for sure because she has these really beautiful images. And I think maybe some post-process coloring, but it's mesmerizing. And she has as of today, 48,000 followers on this. Tell me what this is all about.

Sophia:
Okay. Well, this is an interesting caveat. This was born through, I think this very experience. When my mother got ill, we had to bring her home from the hospital. Me and my sisters had to find a home for her to come into. She just couldn't come into any home. She needed certain equipment, she needed certain things for her. And so, we found this home. Again, the universe threw us a bone because there was nothing available in Vancouver. And we found this home, and I was lucky enough to get a nice bedroom with a very good view of the night sky.

Sophia:
And I think that this change in environment, although, I was seeking inspiration. I was seeking for like a second outlet, and very easy outlet. Like something I could just do, like something that I could just take it, do it the way I want to, and put it back into the world. And I start to notice the night sky. [inaudible 00:37:09] clouds are just very colorful. So, I start to snap a few photos. Again, [inaudible 00:37:16] is really beautiful during spring. So, I started taking pictures of flowers, and things of that nature.

Sophia:
And then playing with color because I just really enjoyed having a subtle but important effect on what I wanted to exude in my own emotion, and to see if it would connect with others on a similar scale. And that's how this was born. And I think that surprisingly a lot of people felt very connected to the work in a similar way too. A lot of people tell me, "Hey, this makes me feel less anxious. Hey, this makes me feel a little less depressed, or I just feel good, or happy, or excited when I come here." And I think that was just a very good sign for me to keep going.

Greg:
So, I have a lot of questions. These images are really wonderful. Are these photo-shopped? Are these collaged? Are you taking these images, or are these curated? What's going on here?

Sophia:
So, I mean, some of them, very few will I ever combine images. But I photograph them, and then what I do is I try to blend that sense of reality and fiction. I think people will be really surprised, what is real, and what is fake? Majority of what you're seeing is real. The flowers, the clouds. What usually is added in is the crescent moon. I don't always have access to a nice crescent moon. So, that is a caveat, but for the most part I try to keep it as natural as I possibly can.

Sophia:
And I try to work with the colors that are in the photo naturally, and then I'll heighten it a little bit with Lightroom and Photoshop. But it's very minimal. And it's just basically about layering palettes to try to get something a little bit more vibrant and exciting.

Greg:
What is your fascination with the crescent moon or moons in general? Because they're almost an every image.

Sophia:
I think it became a thing. I think that people looked for it in the photos, and it almost inadvertently became a theme. It was like, it wasn't something I wanted to intentionally do but then I think when the audience started to be like, "Oh, we want it." Like they wanted to see that whether doing verbally telling me, or just telling me by how they responded. So, it was an interesting caveat. It was almost like adding a bit of a dreamlike feel to every moment in time. And it's something that I kept because I didn't mind it. I enjoyed it as well. And I thought it was good thematically of bringing it together.

Greg:
Yeah. The moon is like that little slurrish that makes it like surreal, and it's just like what's possible? And you said dreams, and full color, and it's like, "Ah, yeah, I guess it's like a dream." I get that.

Sophia:
Yeah.

Greg:
Okay.

Sophia:
Yeah, absolutely.

Greg:
Very cool. And I noticed that you manage at least another account, which is your company Monograph & Company, a Monograph Co. You guys can go and check out her work monographco.com, and you can look at this really beautiful work. Now, how do all these things relate together? How are you managing this?

Sophia:
How does that relate together? They do relate together, interestingly enough. I have my personal account, then I have two other accounts. Monograph is obviously in my studio where I do branding. And then there's Monograph's collective. And that's between me and my two creative partners, the photographers, the stylists. And what we do is the three of us get together, and we pay a publication, it's annual. And it features food, cocktail recipes, art and culture stories, and things like that. So, it's another way for us to flex our talents, the photographic styling talents, and my love for publication design, and making books, and magazines, and topography.

Sophia:
We combine that together. And then we showcase people from Canada, just hidden gems. Amazing cocktail artists, amazing the chefs, awesome writers. And just try to put it together into a really nice, cohesive thing. And so becomes a portfolio piece as well for all of us. But also at the same time, it's another thing to bring that artistic sense.

Greg:
Great. So, before we wrap up, I want to ask you this question, like what's next for you Sophia? This is a journey that you were not intending on or planning, and things happen in your life, circumstances, and you change, and you evolve, and you adapt. So, it's been interesting to hear about this two year long journey that you've been on. What do the next two years look like for you? Can you make some predictions?

Sophia:
Gosh, it's hard to say. I feel like if you were to ask me what I wanted in the next few years, I think it's just to continue on through this journey. And to really, again, have that sense of accountability, and hopefully to use it to create very good dynamic work that has a purpose, has a meaning, and that hopefully can help shape the way people see the type of things we do as a career. Give it a different thought, give it a different sense of value, sense of worth, and add to that as well.

Greg:
There's a through line that I see in your body of work in monographco.com, and that it's very beautiful, it's elegant, it's organic, and your use of minimal space. And it's actually very sublime, and sophisticated work. So, I see that you're working with the food and beverage industry, and some fashion, and I can also see your love for editorial design. So, hats off to you is really high quality work, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this journey takes you, and getting your loan paid off, which would be a high priority if I were you. Like, let's get that done. Right?

Sophia:
Honestly, I could be honest, and I don't want to shatter anybody's illusion, but if I can pay all my bills, and just have a great night's sleep, I feel like I'm making millions. I feel great.

Greg:
That's good.

Sophia:
I have to say thank you very much for that. I mean, you've been great. A really important part of my journey as well. It's funny, I'll tell you a little quick story. I was sitting at my office desk just having a heck of a time. And I had a little counter on my laptop that said like, "Two days left. Two days and 40 minutes left. One day ... " That's how much I wanted to get out of that. And then someone posted a video of you, and I think this was like 2016. And I was like, "Wow, this fashion guy looks like he really knows what he's talking about." You're standing there, and you're dressed really wonderfully, and you're pointing at a whiteboard.

Sophia:
And I clicked on it, and for the very first time, somebody was articulating all my emotions, and all my feelings about price, about how to handle your work not in a, I'll just do it when I feel like it kind of way, but like in a very focused, meaningful way. And that's what I wanted. That's what I was looking for. And nobody around me had that energy. And I just didn't know how to say it. I had the feeling for it, which was like anger, and rage, but I didn't know how to properly articulate that. And that's my first introduction to you. And I was just about to leave my job, and it was such an ... Again, universe threw me a bone that said, "Hey look, you're starting on this new path, go here." And I'm very grateful for that. So, thank you for everything.

Greg:
Thanks for sharing that story. I think you must have very good energy because it seems like whenever you ask of something, the universe responds. And it's wonderful to hear this like little countdown timer of like when you're done with work, right? Like that's your last day on the job, and you're still looking forward to leaving. And at that moment it's like now you're leaving one world, and you're entering a whole new world that has all kinds of challenges. And then it's just, I believe in this, in the law of attraction. Like whenever we focus our mind on something, we start to see the answer.

Greg:
So, a lot of us is just really, a lot of what we're going through in life in general is we need to just get clear with what we want in our life, and then things will materialize. And so, those videos had been sitting there waiting for you, like Sophia, "Check us out." But until you needed it, you're not aware of it.

Sophia:
Yeah, absolutely.

Greg:
And then you need it, and then there we are.

Sophia:
Yeah, absolutely.

Greg:
Okay.

Sophia:
Exactly. This is Sophia Ahamed, and you are listening to the Futur.

Greg:
Thanks so much for joining us in this episode. If you're new to the Futur, and want to know more about our educational mission, visit the Futur.com. You'll find more podcasts, episodes, hundreds of YouTube videos, and a growing collection of online courses, and products covering design, and business. Oh, and we spell the Futur with no E. The Futur podcast is hosted by Chris Do, and produced by me Greg Gunn. This episode was mixed and edited by Anthony Baro, with intro music by Adam Sanborne.

Greg:
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor and rate and review us on iTunes. It's a tremendous help in getting our message out there, and let's us know what you like. Thanks again for listening, and we will see you next time.

More episodes like this