Design Journey with ownpath — 1

Take your pleasure seriously. — Charles Eames

Before I graduated as a computer engineer in June 2018, I was pretty certain I wanted to be a designer. Not just as a 9 to 5 job, but for life. The last two years of my engineering degree were spent doing desk research on UX design; finding good mentors and “designing” through college projects. A brief internship helped me kickstart my design career and also got me an amazing mentor. Post graduation, I already had a remote project with my mentor and I knew I’d get hands-on experience to build my portfolio. What more could I ask for, right?

Wrong.

As I started working on the project, being the sole experience designer with no formal training in design, I was essentially lost. Even though my mentor was guiding me, I felt that every aspect of the design process that I was involved in didn’t …come together. I wanted to understand every stage of the design process, especially user research and principles of visual design. Hence, I decided to take a course in design. And then…

…destiny intervened.

As I was mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a tweet by Shreyas Satish, who wanted to explore a rather unusual way to learn design stuff through his forum called ownpath. Since I knew how consistent I was (not) with online courses, I thought his collaborative method to learn design could work for me. Boy, was I right!

In the last four months, I’ve learnt more about design through small side projects rather than just looking at videos and reading articles which you can’t put to use in real time. Since Shreyas and I are based in different cities, we had to come up with a way to work remotely. Eventually, after the first month, we were comfortable with the flow and structure of my course. The best thing about ownpath which really worked for me was that I could curate what and how I wanted to learn. We got on a call every week to discuss my objective for the month and subsequently decided weekly tasks to get it done. Along with that, ownpath helped me connect with a mentor who was an expert in the field I wished to explore.

Project 1 — Furniture App with Rasagy Sharma :

My first objective was to learn more about user research and Shreyas got me in touch with an awesome human Rasagy Sharma, who mentored me on understanding user research. We decided to design for a Furniture AR app. To do so, I studied three user research techniques : Diary Study, User Interviews and Journey Mapping, of which I exercised User Interviews. We got in touch through weekly Skype calls and discussed queries on the forum or emails.

A snapshot of our discussion for user research on a Furniture AR app

We started with Rasagy guiding me on how to take user interviews through articles and discussions on the questions I’d come up with (the What and Why). I spoke to my neighbours who helped me understand their furniture selection process, their expectations, constraints and pain points.

While you’ll continue to find observations (facts or behavioural/contextual), insights will be surprising & actionable. — Rasagy Sharma

Key highlights of this small exercise :

  1. I became more observant of the interviewee’s unconscious mannerisms along with their words.
  2. I observed how they shop for furniture by accompanying my mom to stores.
  3. I also learned to distinguish between observations and insights(a slow learning curve).

The freedom I had, to choose what I wished to learn and doing so through projects, helped me. Since I understand better by applying, doing small projects helped me in my portfolio building as well. This mini research project introduced me to user research techniques and got me curious to explore this field at a deeper level.

In the next part of the series, I will be writing about my visual design project, who helped me through it and what it turned out to be. Stay tuned!

PS : I will also include some behind the scenes design talk for this project which helped me change the way I now look at visual design.