Vikalp Gupta is currently a product designer at Obvious and also a mentor in ownpath’s product design fellowship. In the article, he talks about his journey in design and his mentorship experience during the fellowship.
It’s been more than 8 years since I’ve started my design journey. I was introduced to Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and the world of design during my college days at a time when my friends were busy preparing to apply for internships.
For the past 4 years, I’ve been a designer at a boutique design & strategy studio called Obvious. Here I’ve worked with some amazing folks across small startups, non-profits and big corporates, helping them design e-commerce apps, a gaming platform, new-age information consumption patterns, & much more. Before this, I was part of the core-team of Razorpay, at the time a small startup, working on all things design, be it brand or product design.
Reflecting on ownpath & what excited me
Digital product design has gained a lot of popularity, fueled by an increase in the number of startups and new found understanding of user experience in the industry. Designers like me are interested in learning deeper about the craft as well as looking to grow in specific segments.
I’ve been closely following ownpath since its inception. Shreyas identified the opportunity early on to set up the platform. They conduct workshops & upskilling programs by industry leaders, something which I wish I had in my self-learning design journey. They are bringing together knowledge & experience scattered across the design community, helping designers grow & learn together.
Becoming a mentor
I come from an engineering background. Not having a formal education in design always left a longing for more knowledge.
Similar to how people who teach can learn from students or from the process of teaching itself, I have also learnt things from peers old and new. Knowledge, I realised flows across us who seek it.
While I was content with my work, I always had this deep desire to help those who are starting their professional design journey and would perhaps be looking for guidance just like I did. In late 2020, when Shreyas approached me to become a part of ownpath’s new initiative, I said yes without thinking twice. This was a great fit, where I could give back to the community, in a much more structured way. I was excited to meet new folks and help them in their design journey.
Mentorship in ownpath
My first interaction with the new batch of fellows happened early in an office hours session I conducted, introducing them to JTBD framework (Jobs To Be Done). They were keen, energetic and, asked a lot of questions. Interacting with them was fun. Discussing about design is something I could go on and on. Honestly, I learnt a lot more about the framework as I did my research and prepared for the session. It gave me an opportunity to polish many of my concepts which had faded.
Soon, I got introduced to the team I would be mentoring. Sayani, Jyotsna & Abraz came from diverse backgrounds and were a great team to work with as a mentor. They chose a complex problem statement in the healthcare domain, but that didn’t let their enthusiasm wane.
We met every weekend and would start our sessions by reflecting on the past week’s work. The team often got stuck in discussions while working and wouldn’t be clear on how to proceed. This isn’t new and happens to most of us. I enjoyed helping them identify the instance, blockers and how could they could move ahead.
In their initial research stage, they gathered a lot of information going through current methods and conducting interviews. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with this new found information. A great way is to synthesise it by mapping the experience and lay down pain points faced by the user. This resulted into a customer-journey map which helped visualise the problem in detail and identify the moments of truth to be solved.
I could already see a positive change in how the team was moving forward. This was the first time I facilitated a new team to carry out such an experience by themselves, the experience helped me understand things more deeply and further strengthened my understanding of the same framework.
Young designers often jump directly into the tool to work on a design approach. Using tools like Figma/Sketch, which are suitable for high fidelity interfaces deviates them from the real solution, leading them to focus on visual design & other details instead of ideation and problem solving. A good idea during such times is to focus on sketching ideas rapidly and have as many rough iterations as possible.
Letting go of the tool and sketching was liberating for them. They put together a large number of ideas in a very short time. Giving feedback on each other’s ideas, combining the good parts of multiple ideas led to greater team collaboration and a higher quality output. I learnt this during my time at Obvious and seeing them benefitting directly was a great feeling.
I really enjoyed facilitating similar sessions on our calls; helping them understand different processes which enabled them to get clarity, how to work within a well-defined scope and, also how to achieve great results at every step. Sharing the way I approach design and how it could work for them has been a convenient way for me to revisit concepts, approaches and thought processes. The experience of mentoring keen and open minded designers new to this field has been very fulfilling for me.