We loved Maher Sinjary's design sensibility and wanted to know more about him. Read on to learn what inspired—and surprised—us about this very active and engaging designer.
As principal designer at San Francisco-based tech startup Awair, Maher Sinjary, pictured, regularly solves problems with thoughtful design.
We originally found him on Twitter, as one of our most ardent Withings cheerleaders, followed him back, and now enjoy seeing all of his insights on tech and design.
Read on to find out how he became a designer, what he does to stay fit, and much more.
Get to know Maher Sinjary
Withings: Tell us about yourself.
Maher Sinjary: I’m a proud Kurd from Kurdistan in northern Iraq, and I’ve lived in San Francisco, California, since 2012. I moved here to pursue my MFA degree in graphic design—a field that I have always wanted to study—at the Academy of Art University. My background is in fine art and illustration.
Cool! What do you do for work?
I’m a principal designer at Awair, a hardware and software company founded in San Francisco. We make indoor air quality monitors. Our mission is to empower people with the knowledge, motivation, and confidence to be healthy and thrive in their environment.
Working at Awair is the best thing that has happened to me recently, I get to solve problems every day through design, and that is exactly what I thrive on—helping people to make better choices in their indoor spaces.
At Withings, we’re big fans of good design. So we have to ask: How did you get started as a designer?
I started as an artist at a very young age, painting and creating illustrations. I opened several art exhibitions, and at an early age, although I was a successful artist, I realized that I didn’t want to be a struggling painter. I was lucky enough to sell a few of my paintings during my art exhibitions, but it was never enough to make a good living.
I always thank my father for bringing Internet access to our home in the late ’90s. In my hometown of Duhok, Kurdistan, we were [one of] the first 10 families who had computer and Internet in the house, which helped to open many doors to me. I thought: what if I utilize my artistic skills in a digital art field? I started to learn Photoshop and tried doing some digital painting and illustrations. In 2004, I moved on to designing logos and brands in my first job as a graphic designer at a design agency. Then I moved to college in Erbil, Kurdistan, got hired by a bigger company, and worked there for 5 years. Then I founded my own company in Erbil.
I then got the opportunity to study for my master’s degree in San Francisco, and I moved here. I found great gigs and decided that my lifestyle here fits me more.
We love your Twitter cover image. Can you tell us more about it?
I call it “Reaching Goals.” In short, it’s my struggle of not giving up during the most intense two years of my life—after going through kidney transplant rejection.
All my life, I have been very active. When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to have a swimming pool in our garden growing up, so I would swim every day and run. In 2016, I started suffering from severe headaches. My doctors called them “cluster headaches.” After six months, I got the most shocking news anyone could receive: my doctors told me that both of my kidneys were failing. The disease was called IgA nephropathy.
In February 2017, I started dialysis. It basically changed my entire lifestyle. I couldn’t swim, run, or even work out at all. I decided to look for transplant solutions and found out that if I put my name on the waiting list in the U.S., I could wait for 10 years to get a kidney transplant. I reached out to my family in Kurdistan to seek help, and finally had my kidney transplant in early May 2017. On day 4 after my transplant I had an early rejection, meaning my body didn’t fully accept the new kidney and refused it.
I was very close to dying, and the most annoying thing was that where I was hospitalized—in Duhok, Kurdistan—they didn’t have a cure for my situation. I had to travel to Istanbul, Turkey, on an emergency flight to one of the best hospitals to find the right solution to save my life. Thanks to my family and their support, I recovered. During the two weeks in intensive care, I made this illustration in the hospital in Istanbul. It was me telling myself not to give up and stay optimistic.
Wow. How are you feeling now?
I’m feeling great and very energetic. Actually, this is my very first time talking about it. Only close friends and family members know about my situation, but I want to let others know that when you go through challenging times, don’t give up and don’t focus on those problems but think about good things that you still have. That’s why I focused on my talent and started making illustrations in the hospital, which helped me to recover.
What do you do for fun? What activities and interests do you have outside of work?
I love swimming, playing ping-pong, and running. I try to swim every weekday morning before I go to work. I also work out at least five days a week, it keeps me active and fresh every day.
I enjoy making new friends and socializing outside work. I love nature and try to walk outside every chance I get.
Which Withings devices do you own and which features do you enjoy the most?
I have my watches on basically 24/7. I love tracking my steps and my daily activities, such as swimming and playing ping pong. Sleeping is very important to me, and I find the sleep report very useful—I get all the information I need. I especially find the alarm to be the best feature, because it doesn’t make any noise. It still wakes me up but doesn’t wake up anyone else in the house—I wake up early in the morning to go to the gym, so I don’t want to bother my housemates.
My other favorite is the Body Cardio scale, which keeps me in shape. I especially love the weather feature of the scale, which helps me dress appropriately for the day. San Francisco’s weather is not predictable and could change every day, so it helps me a lot to see what the weather will be in the morning without needing my phone or computer to check the weather.
Any tips or tricks you’ve found for using your devices?
I synced my Health Mate app with the iOS Health app to make sure all my steps are up to date. I love using more than one timer for my alarm, so I get up on weekdays at a certain time and weekends at another time. I found out that weighing myself every day helps me stay closer to my goal weight.
I use IFTTT a lot. I especially love using the desktop dashboard at healthmate.withings.com. It’s very helpful to see all my data in one place. I also just came across the leaderboard, where you can challenge another user in different activities.
I’m just very thankful to have found Withings. It inspires me to stay active every day and keeps me motivated. Can’t wait for your upcoming products, especially the new BPM Core.