Pune Design Festival (PDF) has been organized every February since 2006 by the Association of Designers of India (ADI) Pune Chapter. It has been the pinnacle for design learning, exchange of ideas and the most powerful networking platform for industry professionals, design houses, design institutes, policy makers, media, design students and the design user industry. Over the years, the ADI PDF Battle of Design Project Award has become one of the most coveted awards for students of Design in India. This year, Ratul Upadhyay and Nilanjan Chakravarty, students of MAAER’s MIT Institute of Design (MITID), Pune have won the second runners up award under UX / UI Category.
Ratul and Nilanjan share a common story – they both chose a career in Design after graduating in a discipline not in Design. Ratul has a Bachelors in Information Technology and Nilanjan, a Commerce graduate, was a CA aspirant once. Post graduation, they both realised design is the field of their calling and decided to pursue it at MITID. As students of Communication Design, they participated in PDF Student Design competition to explore the uncharted territory of User Experience design. Their work was a classroom assignment that became a live competition project because of the fortunate coinciding of the timelines. Ratul, also a co-founder of a company called Four Pedestals, was working on India’s first gaming / entertainment hub that will revolutionize how we perceive gaming in a physical space in our country. This UX/UI project encompassed creating a communication strategy, experiential design elements and a prototype for their mobile app that will aim to facilitate their business in physical space and bring their whole community together in virtual space.
The duo spent almost 80% of their whole time with this project in researching, prototyping and user-testing instead of working on the visual language, which is what they are good at. It took more time for them because, as students of Communication Design, they had no prior experience or knowledge about User Experience Design. Their biggest enemy in this whole project was time. They had to finish processing all information available, research, prototype, develop, wrap the project with confetti, deliver it for user-testing and get feedback to improve the overall functioning of the app, all within the period of one month.
We knew from the beginning that just getting an ‘A’ on our grade sheet won’t cut it for this project, and we’ll have to skip out on our gaming sessions, to sit down and dig deep into the world of UX/UI, material design, design thinking and Business Model Innovation.
Many said the way you are approaching this assignment is against your learnings so far, and you might not be able to complete this assignment at all. It was high time we proved them wrong.
The duo studied numerous methodologies, trends and strategies used by developers and designers for UX/UI to make it work. Luckily, Ratul had attended a workshop on ‘Hacking Design Sprints’ conducted by Anshumani Ruddra (Chief Product Officer at Cuemath) at DesignUp conference held in Nov 2016, right when this project got started as well. Developed at Google Ventures, the Design Sprints methodology presented during the workshop gave them exactly the direction they were looking for, that focuses on Ideation and Prototyping above anything else. They followed the methodology to the T, and didn’t even think of graphics or visuals until the last week of this project. This ensured that it was all about function over form, and their app was an intuitive platform that puts users’ experience above everything else.
I’ve always been a designer who’s also a techie by heart, so getting an award in UX/UI design is kind of like the best case scenario for my soul right now. And this award kind of reassures my belief in working hard towards the ideologies of Design Thinking and Human/User Centered design.
By the time results were announced in the month of Feb’17, Ratul had started interning at NASSCOM, Bengaluru and Nilanjan at Invest India, Delhi. The duo’s work was selected from approx 500 entries in their category for the competition. It was a tough contest considering there were people participating who were academically studying UX/UI design and so had better chances in the category. When they came to know about the award, Ratul, the less expressive of the duo, celebrated by making a few phone calls to his parents whereas his partner Nilanjan was absolutely over the moon and made sure that there was a party to conclude the award ceremony.
We would firstly really like to thank our professor for this course, Mr. Bipin Daftardar, who let us experiment and play around as much as we wanted to come to our own learnings / conclusions from this project. And secondly, to all of our faculty members, Prof. Ranjana Dani, Prof. Utkarsha Malkar, Prof. Rajendra Thakre, Prof. Sugandha Gaur, Prof. Siddharth Raje and Mr. Harshit Desai, who over the last couple of years gave shape to our creative process and helped us evolve our creative multiverse to reach this far.
Ratul Upadhyay and Nilanjan Chakravarty
The event has helped them, more than anything else, in realizing that if you really work hard at something you don’t know about, with right intent and with right process/methodologies, you can reap rewards for the same in very unexpected ways.