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Tarun Kohli
Tarun Kohli

Tarun is the founder and CEO of Quovantis, a product design and development company. Quovantis works with leading product companies and innovative startups and helps them realize their vision to create compelling products. Tarun is passionate about User Experience Design, Technology, and building products that leave a positive impact. Recently, he shared his learnings in a book he wrote about UX Design Principles.

I am often asked this question – what advice would you give to aspiring designers who are just beginning their career in Design? 

And the question makes me overwhelmingly anxious. What advice can I possibly give? I am still learning new things every day! 

So, in order to sound smart, I answer this question in a way Buddha would do. I make a serene face, speak in a calm voice and utter these magical words- 

“Learn from other people’s experiences.” 

Okay, I lie. We all know Buddha would only give one piece of advice – “Be your own Buddha”. But, I like to think he really wanted to say – “Be your own Buddha (and well if you need a head start, learn from other people’s experiences)”. I totally see Buddha nodding in nirvanistic contentment on my interpretation. 

Ah! How I digress! 

Coming back to the point, there is absolutely no doubt that learning from other people’s experience is a great way to get the necessary thrust to take off the rocket of your design career. Even if you don’t have a formal background in design. 

You see, to become a designer, you don’t necessarily need a degree from a design school (though that always helps). You just need a creative spark in your eyes, the discipline to sustain that creative spark, an ability to understand things deeply, and a burning desire to learn to truly make a difference

How does one learn all these skills? 

One of the best ways to develop these skills is to interact with a lot of other designers. As the popular quote says – “We don’t have to waste our time learning how to make pastry when we can use grandma’s recipes.” 

Ryan Holiday does that too. He is an American author, marketer, and entrepreneur, and has a peculiar habit. Every time he meets a successful or important person whom he admires, he asks them this question: “What’s a book that changed your life?” And then he follows their advice and reads that book. He says it’s a habit that he picked when he was in school and this habit has helped him cut through a personal dilemma – “which book should I pick next?” 

And that’s what I suggest to aspiring designers – never feel restricted by the scope of your knowledge or years of your experience. Seek out every opportunity to learn from people around you. Even the exceptional writers like Shakespeare were inspired by the classics they read. Yes! It’s true. “How The Classics Made Shakespeare” is a book that gives a fascinating account of how Shakespeare became the greatest playwright as we know him today. 

So go out and meet designers whom you admire, ask them a question about their journey, their struggles, their success stories, and their failures. Ask them what inspired them, what helped them wade through every challenge. Try and learn about what books they read, where they write and whom they arduously follow. Discuss the problems and challenges that you face and ask them for their help. Ask them if you can collaborate together on a project. Ask them to be your mentor. 

I use the below conversation starters when I meet a designer whom I admire: 

– Which books do you read over and over again?

– Is there a person/role model who greatly inspired your thoughts?

– At any point in life, did you really felt like giving up but then something/someone changed your mind?

– How to overcome the creative block?

– Which platforms are best suited for aspiring designers?

– How can I showcase my work and get critique from others?

– How do you take critical feedback and use it to improve your designs?

– Which meetups, events and conferences do you attend? 

Needless to say, you also need to act on the advice with great discipline if you really want to improve your craft. There is no way you can gain experience without actually working. So, be it freelancing or working with an organization/design studio, make sure you always put your best foot forward. 

I hope this advice helps you in becoming a Good Designer. And if it doesn’t, remember this quote: 

“We are limited only by our imagination and our will to act.” — Ron Garan 

Tarun Kohli is a part of our Design Titans Jury Panel for NASSCOM Design4India Design Summit & Awards 2019 “Embed 3.0: Unleashing the Power of Design Disruption”. Join us as we explore bleeding-edge conversations that are reshaping the future of design.

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