Design as a career for an Engineer

My story of getting into the field of design

Vivek Anand
Sep 7, 2018 · 8 min read

Passing a good couple of weeks as a UX design intern at Paytm, I met Saurabh Jain, VP Paytm, who is heading the Paytm — Build For India initiative. I got to know from him that there are many people who don’t know about the opportunities in the field of design and even if some of them do, they aren’t aware of the steps leading to the gate of this land full of opportunities.

So here I am, sharing my journey of becoming a designer and ways by which anyone in any field can learn designing, if interested. I am a civil engineering final year undergraduate at IIT Roorkee but still, I have decided to pursue a career in design. The only thing required is a knack for problem-solving and building things.

The outset of my journey was when for the first time I joined a society called Kshitij which publishes the literary magazine for my college and it was there, where I got introduced to this aspect of graphic design and creating illustrations using tools like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. These softwares were quite new to me and were fascinating to me because now I would be able to create things digitally in a way that I had never thought before. My seniors introduced me to some basic tools and told me to watch tutorials.

So, here comes step one for you: KNOWING ALL THE PHOTOSHOP TOOLS AND THEIR USES. You can easily see any good tutorial from YouTube to learn it. “Watch, note and use it” — IS THE BASIC MANTRA.

Remember nobody is a unicorn who aspires to be a designer. Small and firm steps taken lead you to your destination. I used to watch and practice the tutorials regularly and saw the same tutorials many times. I tried to learn new hacks and improvise them in my own way.

It took me about 2–3 months in getting acquainted with the basic tools and then it was time to do things and implement whatever I had learned. So I started working for the technical fest of IIT Roorkee called “Cognizance” where I worked a lot in designing Graphics for print as well as for online promotions. There I learned a lot about the idea of brainstorming and portraying ideas creatively and having a minimalistic approach. This essentially enhanced my creative thinking.

In the following links, you can find some resources for improving your creative abilities.

Gestalt: A theory of perception

The Gestalt principles attempt to describe how people perceive visual elements.

Gestalt Theory

Gestalt principles in UI design.

Typography

“Typography is two dimensional Architecture, based on experience and Imagination, guided by rules and readability. ” — Hermann Zapf

Tips For Better Typography

Typography in UI: Guide for Beginners

How to use typography in UI Design

Colour

“Color does not add a pleasant quality to design — it reinforces it.” — Pierre Bonnard

Color, psychology and design

Tips on Choosing UI Colors.

While working in the field of Graphic Design, I explored a lot on Behance and Dribbble for design Inspirations and I think for beginners, visual design is all about developing an eye towards design, train it by observing the most intricate detailing, and develop the ability to critique and identify good design. So, explore as much design as possible for inspiration and always try to execute whatever good parts you observe.

It was from here, knowingly or unknowingly I took my initial step towards learning UI . See, I know this only sounds easy, but remember, that once you are familiar with things and your mind knows what you see, you would definitely start to design with better fluidity. All you have to do is “DO” things. Search and Visualize things in your daily life. Observe, Analyze and do all those stuff which contribute to tremendous brainstorming.

“Design is in everything we make, but it’s also between those things. It’s a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy.” — Erik Adigard

You can follow these websites for Design Inspiration

Behance Best website for UI/UX Design, you will learn both visual design and basics of design process

Awwwards Best for Web Design and Web Interaction inspiration

UI Movement Best for Interaction Design Inspiration

Dribbble Best for visual design Inspiration

Check out these resources on Interaction Design

First Principles of Interaction Design (Revised & Expanded)

10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design

The 4 Golden Rules of UI Design

Switching to UX was never planned. It was an outcome of my curiosity. While doing UI designing, there were always some flows and charts which used to push me towards thinking on various questions and definitely evolved my sense of understanding things. Questions like “why this button is always in the same place?”; “why not something else?”. These questions now started bothering me and pushed me to look for the reasons that had led to a specific way something is being designed. This helped me in getting aware of the basic terms used by the designers across the globe whom I followed.

See, UX is all about observing and thinking about various aspects of something. Someone can be a great visual designer but it’s not necessary that he or she would be a good UX designer at the same time. One might not take the path that I took to reach here and might have a little knowledge about all these stuff and might as well start directly from UX. It’s all about choosing which genre of design you fit in and are passionate enough to pursue it. Being a self-taught designer, I try to do as many projects that I can and do a lot of brainstorming. I take various freelance projects on both UI and UX and design every day to try and brush up my skills.

The most important aspect of my design learning has been reading and watching tutorials and doing projects. There are other factors that, of course, helped me a lot like my mentors and my mentees. Finding a good mentor who is willing to help is another great way of learning design. It catalyzes your learning process. It’s like a shortcut (obviously there is no shortcut to hard work though). You easily come to know about their experiences and learn not to commit the same mistake that they did. Also, the tips and tricks they have discovered is always a boon.

I would also add that in the process of learning, the phase of being a mentor to someone is also beneficial. As a mentor, you learn more when you teach. You’ll always find a different perspective which can give you the opportunity to evolve more. You also need to be patient enough to listen to the idea that your mentee has and understand it. Moreover, one is always in the brainstorming mode when talking or discussing design to others. So that for sure will fetch you better results. And it is also true the other way around.

Lastly, all that I would suggest is read, read and read. Read different blogs and experiences. One practice that I follow is whenever I do a work related to design, say any client’s project and get bored. In that time, I read a lot. You usually spend so many days while doing a project. So, this refreshes the mind and also sometimes give some really good ideas for the project.

Reading should be one of your habits if you want to be good at anything. All the great personalities across the globe have majorly one thing in common and that is reading a good amount of literature.

I will not mention any book because there is no need for books if you only want to explore the basics of design. Digital contents are enough for it. If you want to pursue a career in Design then first figure out which genre interests you more and then you can study books related to it.

You can read articles from these websites

NN Group

Medium

Adobe Blog

Summing Up

So, summing up I would say one thing that my way of learning design may help you or maybe not but you can at least try some of the things that might suit you. Everyone has a different way of doing things and it would be great if you can share your thoughts on how you learned it.

Also, I would suggest that if you take up a project, try never doing it from your previous knowledge. Take time from your client, extend your limits, research more and do it. In that way, you would give your best and I can bet on it.

I would grab this opportunity and thank all my IIT Roorkee mentors, my seniors, who kept on guiding me, scolding me whenever I was wrong or wasting time. All my Aeva, QorQl, and Paytm teammates and of course my girlfriend for assisting me with my first blog and every time when I was low and disappointed and for all the care and encouragement she gave. Had it not been these people, my journey would have taken much more time than it has.
So, you see, keeping yourself in a good circle somehow also helps. Nevertheless, it’s your self-dedication which leads to all.


For any queries connect with me here


This article has been written by Vivek Anand of IIT Roorkie. Paytm - Build for India aims to provide a platform for professionals and students to share their knowledge on areas which can help people working in startups. We do not claim responsibility for this content.

Paytm - Build for India

Paytm - Build for India is an initiative to promote the culture of grass root innovation in India. We run an Open Source Incubator to promote this cause. We invite institutions, students and professionals to build open source projects to solve India’s problems.

Vivek Anand

Written by

Design at FamPay (YC S19) | Ex-Razorpay | Ex-Paytm | IIT Roorkee https://dribbble.com/vivekanand28

Paytm - Build for India

Paytm - Build for India is an initiative to promote the culture of grass root innovation in India. We run an Open Source Incubator to promote this cause. We invite institutions, students and professionals to build open source projects to solve India’s problems.

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