A part of Cohort-4, Oiheek shares how he made his way to the world of design from the IT field. Currently a Product Design intern at Pratilipi, Oiheek talks about his experience at the Fellowship and how it helped him bridge the cap in his learning.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey.
A: I am from Bombay - was brought up there, lived all my life there. Did my engineering from Chennai and then started working in Cognizant as a software engineer and in roles on those lines. Gradually, I realized that for me, tangibility was something that was very important for me anywhere I was working.
With the kind of work that I was doing at Cognizant, and in the IT field, it did not really feel like I was having a significant impact on the company and the project that I was working on. That was quite a demotivating factor for me. When I was not satisfied with my work, I came across design through Twitter, YouTube and conversations with friends and the design community that exists today.
Then I started learning design on my own through a lot of online courses. Soon, realization struck that this is something that I probably could be doing for a very long time in my life. I am someone who has explored a lot of possibilities earlier and they have not really stuck with me. To be honest, it requires a lot of time for me to build the patience towards something. But gradually, I could do that with design. Even right now, the more I am learning design at times it does get intimidating, to be very honest. But that intimidation does not take away my desire to learn design.
The best part about being a designer is that you’re always learning and all your work is completely guided through discussion. I recently started working and nobody in my team has ever told me that I’m doing something wrong or I’m doing something right. Everything we do is absolutely open to discussion. And that’s something that is very exciting about being a designer. For someone who just started working in the field, it is quite the revolutionary experience.
And ownpath played a huge role in that. Earlier, I was just touching upon certain aspects of learning design, but not really going into the depths of it, which is very important. But through the online courses and the self learning process I’ve been introduced to this pool of information, and possibilities.
When you think of research or visual design, how many things should you consider and study before you can approach your own design. That line of thought, I think, is something that has quite changed me as a designer.
- How did you come across ownpath? How has your journey with the Fellowship been?
A: I came across ownpath on Twitter. There were a lot of Twitter threads and conversations about ownpath with a lot of people from cohort-1. They explained how this had helped them become better designers and shared their opinions about the fellowship. So, I reached out to a few of those people to try to understand these opinions in depth.
They said they had certain discrepancies in their own learnings and ownpath had fit very well in regards to filling those gaps. The best part was that the cohort size was very limited so you have direct interaction with the mentors. That is something that is very important.
Their constant feedback has been invaluable in all the projects that I’ve done in ownpath so far. You can book a session at any point of time and the mentors are always ready to help. That is a very important part of learning building.
- During the course of your fellowship, did you have any experiences worth sharing? Do you recollect an interesting session or assignment, discussion with peers or mentors, masterclasses?
A: One particular thing that I’ll always cherish for all my life is the way we were taught colour by Arnab. Choosing colour is something that is a huge task for every designer because there are a million possibilities. How do you decide which colour to choose?
So he created this very structured, scientific approach, which really changed the way I thought about colour, especially when you consider colour with all the possibilities of accessibility. So now colour makes a lot of sense to me, it’s not at all abstract anymore. And this particular bit of knowledge is something I’ve been propagating to every person, every designer that I meet. I think for a very long time I’ll continue studying colour.
- Are there any projects in particular you’d like to talk about?
A: I’ve had peer interactions with people of my cohort as well as with the people of the other cohorts as well. I’ve started a project with a person from cohort-5 now, because we are having collaborated modules right now. So I thought maybe I’ll reach out to someone else from a different cohort. We had to start working on that project and I’m looking forward to that.
- What is the most important thing that drew you to the program, and something that you’ve been able to apply at work?
A: There are basically two things. Every mentor I’ve spoken to emphasizes the fact that we have to keep the user at the front and center of every approach that we take as a designer. This is something that I have tried to incorporate in my work from day one and tried to do it as much as possible.
The second thing is that you have to constantly read a lot about how people are designing, how they are documenting their design, see and analyze a lot of designs and tear down a lot of products.
I’ll add a third important thing - the discussions. I said earlier that design is completely something that we do and learn through discussions, because there is no right or wrong approach. And I don’t think there should be a right or wrong approach here. Because design is very subjective. And discussions are the only thing that can help anybody become a better designer.
- Let’s talk about what’s been the highlight in this fellowship for you. And talk to us about how you’ve been applying to companies.
A: I got a list of companies. According to their preference, Pratilipi wanted the designer immediately and so my application was pushed accordingly.
I think the fellowship has changed the way I think about design or anything that’s been a very guiding factor for me to get placed in a company like Pratilipi. So I joined on 16th May as an intern and am continuing as an intern.
- What are you looking forward to in terms of the responsibilities of joining the design team at Pratilipi?
A: Pratilipi is a company that is very data driven. Everybody focusses a lot on data and numbers, which they use as backing for their decisions. I would like to optimize this with research and that’s the approach I’d like to take as a part of the design team at Pratilipi.
- Looking back upon your programme, is there something you’ve learned from the mentorship sessions? What stood out about them?
A: The main learnings have been through mentorship, the constant feedback sessions and iterations that I’ve done on my projects, and the feedback. When you think of certain things about your own design, and then when you go into a feedback session with a mentor, their thinking is something that really inspires you.
They look at your design in such a detailed way that it changes the approach that you should be taking towards the next iteration. I think the most important thing that Arnab said to me during my first project was that the whole process of iterations can never end. So you can never achieve a perfect design. However, the final result depends on your bandwidth at that point of time and is something that you have confidence in.
That’s a very great learning for me from the constant mentorship sessions.