Be a more thoughtful designer.

How I leveraged self-doubt for a better design perspective.

Divya Kant Singh
Nov 4 · 7 min read

I am just a poor boy from a poor family.

Not really! I have a roof on my head, food to eat, my stuff and had an education. I come from a pretty prosperous family. But were never wealthy and that is exactly what helped me shape my personality.

As a kid, I was a total geek frequently messing up my PC and then getting screamed at by my brother as he fixed it. But that ended as I watched him and learned to fix things myself. That’s also exactly how I learned to draw a house, write in cursive or got my first freelance contract. All I am saying is a lack of things in my life forces me to level up every time. Knowledge has been one of them.

Who are you without all that makeup?

Take everything away from me, I am just a poor guy who is self-driven. I was a geek without equipment (some will relate). When I was 16 I used to google tech jobs to see the requirements and then wonder how am I going to learn all this. Never thought of myself as a hardcore coder. I tried and I found it boring. It was just following some instructions written by someone else and then clapping about the output. I liked the logical part but writing statements with no certainty of the outcome felt useless to me. I was copying codes from the internet most of the time. I finally found my niche in UX. It had art, it had technology, perfectly balanced as all things should be. So I started randomly doing things to qualify as one. I taught myself visual design tools, frontend development, I used those skills to design and develop UI. And finally ended up being an imposter telling people I am a “UX Designer”.

Our experiences make us.

Have you ever had an encounter with extremely nice and kind individuals who make you realize you are a piece of shit? I had a few which forced me to introspect, realize, accept and improve. Now that I think of it, what an asshole I was back in school, or how much was I full of myself every time I talked with a person. Anyway, something of that sort worked as a driving force for me.

It was 2017. I was 18 by now and a freshman to an Indian engineering college with no hopes to learn anything from it, thanks to having a sibling who went through the same process years ago. I knew the ground reality. But as I said for me technology is before design so had to be there. I started observing. I started reading for hours online. Design, business, psychology, marketing, all sorts of stuff. College wasn’t very useful. People faked and that was exactly what I was trying to correct about myself so I often skipped it. Just scored enough to stay out of trouble. Gradually I started getting mad about everything. That’s what development of real design intuitions do to you.

Subconsciously I started reading and thinking so much that I noticed myself having ideas about correcting those issues. I started having a lot of issues in the first place. I had an issue with the architecture of my house. I used to stare at the roof and walls of my room constantly repainting them in my head. I was frustrated with businesses using media amplification when the answer was contextual creativity. I was frustrated with cars having horns. And people acting indecisively when they had a clear intent.

Most of all I had a problem with the complex representation of communication and information by people to feel important about themselves.

My realization of Cognitive Bias.

Thoughtfulness gave way to my analytical thinking. My design now started being based on data and I focused on making them more actionable and less complex. I observed people in my class, what they said and how they said it. Scrolled through Instagram stalking people to learn how they lived, what they had, reading their captions and trying to interpret their state of mind and all this was coming naturally to me. My head started telling me that my thoughts could be biased. That forced me to read articles on cognitive bias and I now knew WHAT THE REAL ISSUE WAS.

We all are occupied by our self biased in this fast-moving world, having our presumption of reality. Bending things for ourselves from our current perspective. Evangelizing the same through different ways. Everything we stand for, we never really got a chance to think about with an open mind. It’s all a confirmation bias induced by privileges.

Confrontation leads to acceptance in the long run.

My realization of these biases converted me to an empath. I started questioning behavior in general. And all I was able to gain was a more stable and accountable perspective on things. I stopped feeling entitled to anything any more. My pride reduced to zero. All I had was facts about myself which I started putting forward openly.

Once you accept the world owes nothing to you, it gets easier to work on yourself to make up for all those dependencies. The realization that not everyone understands your process and the acceptance that they don't have to makes you go unbound. You just mind your own f*cking businesses for you know that's all what matters.

I started acknowledging my material needs and that my parents are not supposed to pay for my luxuries. So I put my design skills to use. I started working as a freelancer doing any sort of design or development project that came to me. They gave me good money. Later I was amused that I got those projects in the first place. Thought for a while, took feedbacks and all I got was my confrontation of self worked wonders for me.

People often said my ethics are great but what they liked was my truthful and straightforward outlook. It helped as a deciding factor by making my clients assume I was ‘authentic’. Not that I wasn’t.

Acceptance leads to growth.

This success in freelance gave my design career a direction as I no more wanted to be acknowledged as a good designer while I had a sense of success in it. Instead, I read everything I could use to help me design better. I confronted that my visual skills were dope but I lacked information on research methodologies. Accepting that, I spent a year reading blogs by experienced professionals, taking online courses and then silently observing design discussions to validate the truth. I read a book called “UX For Dummies” long back which made the process more clear to me. In most cases, the theoretical UX process is nowhere what everyone is doing at their offices. Things are pretty flexible. That made me more driven towards reading books on design psychology rather than the design process.Don’t make me think” made me think a lot. I can say that the book made me efficient enough to discover design without any mentor or help.

Communicating my understanding of UX now fetched me even more clients. Enough to let me decide which one to go forward with. I started interning with startups for a change of air. Probably the best decision as this helped me learn to design under constraint and remain patient while juggling through tertiary tasks of networking, development and assisting non-designers to maintain the quality. I kept myself involved in doing that. What’s better than getting paid to level up.

And I entered 2019 as a better person. I stopped reading for a while and spent my time interacting with other designers on twitter. By this time I was seeking individual perspectives on micro talks instead of popular ideas on popular topics. I recently got on Dribbble and started spending time browsing designs for inspiration. I’ll say I hated Dribbble for all the superficial gimmicks people put to show but the community is pretty supportive and active. This made me migrate from Behance.

What now? Nothing just keep learning from the past.

It's almost the end of 2019 and I’ll be graduating in a year. It’s Sunday 7 PM when I am winding this up. It's been 3 months of me documenting my works, researching, reading portfolios and case studies by other product designers. I thought it was high time for me to give the world something to judge me on. And that's how I just got done with my portfolio. https://divyakant.in

For this article, I know I wrote this as I wanted to document what led me here. I wrote this being done with classroom education. I wrote this to use it as a tool to demonstrate my learning process for a recruiter to take notice and give me that big*ss opportunity. But again at a deeper level, even if everything goes wrong, I did all of this because I have started to love this process which lets me have a conversation with myself. I enjoy it. It’s relieving to understand your thought process. Still, don’t have it all figured out like everyone else but it’s nice to know my head is in its place. Let’s see how much more I mess up in life and learn from it. Definitely unlike a lot, I am counting on my past for the future.

Divya Kant Singh

Written by

Technology is my Ikigai, design is my Lego. I am Divya, a Product Designer with a focus on crafting digital experiences. More on : https://divyakant.in

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