A full human year in Product Design

The exact moment when the epiphany hit that I have completed one year as a designer and that I wanted to write an article about it.

It has been one year since I made a choice of becoming a Product Designer, and to be honest, I have learnt a lot in this time, But what I want to write is about the journey itself. Consider this as documentation of the story. It’s still an honest reflection, if not very riveting. It is something…

The Origin Story

And all this was done in Procreate.

I don’t know where my interest in product design actually came from. In college, I started off as a visual designer learning the basics of design itself (I was just learning Illustrator)- soon pivoting to filmmaking and editing short films (found it to be extremely therapeutic). I soon tried my hands at furniture design during my internship in the city of Ahmedabad, learning the beauty of proportions and appreciating it, while sipping tea. The crescendo in my design journey during college was when I headed the design team to create a branding project, which I now feel was way ahead of its time (Yes, I am immensely proud of it)

All this while I was still an Architecture student in the backdrop.

I didn’t like Architecture for numerous reasons (Some controversial) but I did like the fact that people will get to use my creations. It’s a cathartic feeling, seeing your ideas come to life. In fact, that is one of the few things that provide meaning to life- “Impact”.

2020 was a (insert your thoughts) kinda year. It can’t be termed with a single word. But I did find it opportunistic. As a final year student, my thesis was looming over me and my friends. And I was finding a way to escape from it as it was financially and mentally taxing.

“Then Covid happened. No, It wasn’t a pleasant thing, but it DID give me a lot of time to ponder over things, career-wise. And one day, when my friend and I sat and discussed what to do, we came across UI-UX. The first question was, why the X? Just to make it cool? But we did agree that our skills and philosophies are good enough that we can do well here and it does pay better (Yes. I said it. Let’s accept it ), not because it’s the intersection of tech and design.

The Riders of the Wild Hunt

There are a lot of easter eggs to shows and movies in this.

I was generally, slightly, overconfident that my skills can land a job in no time. But reality hit me hard after a while that

  1. I don’t know anyone in this industry.
  2. I have no clue how an app works.
  3. My college never taught me how to job hunt.

And thus, it began, I was building my portfolio and also learning about the industry at the same time to start applying, and to be honest, I couldn’t have done this without my friend doing it parallelly. So we divided and shared to keep ourselves sane through it all. Once I completed my portfolio, I started expecting a reply in the first few days itself, thinking that I would start working next week or so.

But then came a month of cold mailing, and then a month of rejections. And a month of doing take-home assignments. To be honest I was getting a little paranoid at this point and started binging multiple shows, one of which was Clone Wars- A Star Wars show, which I consider to be the best out of the Star Wars franchise. And then Parks and Rec, which was a wholesome antidote to my high anxiety state.

The First Chance

I really didn’t think beyond the interview stages at this part of my life

Upgrad — Product Design Intern (4 months)

Of all the cold emails and Linkedin hunting, I got one positive reply from Upgrad. I have to say it now, I didn’t expect a particular product when I was searching, I was open to anything. But Upgrad was a huge deal, even for an internship. And they did take a gamble on me, exactly (not exactly) a year ago, which I am highly indebted to.

The interviews with the team were interesting and I really did vibe with many of the folks, especially the Head, Hozefa.

And that gamble did pay off, as I did have a great time learning the basics of how a product-based start-up actually works while making a few friends along the way. In hindsight, the thing I liked the most about the team was that they gave me a good amount of autonomy to experiment and learn from my mistakes (Oh psych, forgot that this isn’t about what I learnt)

But I had to move for another opportunity as a few changes in the organization level impacted the design team. And thus, my hunt began. Again.

The Orange Opportunity

Swiggy — Product Design Intern turned Product Designer (8 months)

Swiggy was one of those companies that I was intimidated to even apply to. (I actually didn’t in the beginning) But after getting to know my current manager Saptarshi through a random call, He instilled some confidence in me that I can very well go for it.

Thinking out loud

And I did when an opportunity presented itself to me. Again, it was a gamble that Swiggy took on a relatively inexperienced designer (On paper). And for me, I was mildly concerned that I might not fit there. But I did remember the works of a few people within the team, who I am still inspired by and vibe with a lot. There was also a question that my manager posed during the interview that stuck with me- If I was a specialist or generalist. I traditionally like to feel that I’m the jack of all trades, so I told ‘generalist’, and they expected the same. (Telling you, this came off as a way better moment in my mind)

It was a long process actually and I did impose a lot of pressure on myself for the take-home task. But the interviews were the complete opposite, the best part was that I was actually able to explain and debate my points for a long time without being interrupted (Iykyk)

Peace.

Then I got in. Not gonna lie, It was a good feeling to realise that I’ll work with this team.

The Present

Peace. But with work now.

I am still here at Swiggy, designing things here and there. But After 8 months of being here, I finally am going to start my personal projects also. Not that I didn’t have time, But I was just bad at time management.

And what better way than continue to 36 days of type, an annual type challenge that I have been doing for 4 years, And every year I experiment with a new skill set that I try to build up in me. So do look out for that. (Cross-promotion much?)

Also, I have taken a bold decision to go on a trek with my friend. I know it’s not that big a deal, but for a long time, I never took risks in life so this is a start to living a little. Speaking of risks, I have naturally become interested in NFTs after looking at some specific communities and how they are actually having fun creating art.

I am a firebender.

If you read this article but have no idea who I am, check out my Instagram profile. And thank you for reading this rather personal story which I wrote primarily to start writing again and mark the fact that I have completed a year as a designer! (accomplishment unlocked!)

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Gowtham Magesh

Gowtham Magesh

Product Design @ Swiggy by the day and Illustrator and design vigilante by night.