Design is all about learning every day!
Arun Kumar, Product Design Manager at BYJU’S, breaks down the learning process for us as he takes us through his journey in the field of design. He maintains that whether or not you come from a design background, you must be willing to ‘learn and unlearn’ constantly to be a successful designer. “I did not have a formal education in product design. In fact, what I studied was Animation and Multimedia. But I would say that my design career, which started in 2013, has been fruitful because I kept learning from my mistakes.”
Arun joined the BYJU’S Product Design team in 2019. Having taken the entrepreneurial plunge before joining the team – he co-founded Taskmario in 2017 – he also brings to the table the experience of running a startup. And thanks to his time at the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF), a community of over 2,600 designers, as a Community Leader, Arun is quite well-versed with the design community as well. He says, “At BYJU’S, we don’t just develop apps and other products but also build a whole design ecosystem.”
In this edition of People Who Make BYJU’S, Arun shares more about the design community, the ecosystem at BYJU’S, and his role in inspiring creativity.
What is your typical day at work like?
On a day-to-day basis, I get to manage different situations as well as people for various projects. My team is quite dynamic and multi-talented with most people bringing diverse skills to the table. So it’s quite interesting to interact with them. I have felt that the challenges that we get to solve here are not something you get to see anywhere else. Here, we have an ecosystem to build. So the opportunities are plenty and ambitious at the same time. It’s a rollercoaster ride, but we figure it out every day.
Let’s rewind a bit. Tell us about the experience of working as a community leader with The Interaction Design Foundation (IDF).
I started working with this community in 2017. Back then, The Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) was at a nascent stage. We had less than 200 members in the community, and no one was keeping in touch. So, I started doing some offline events like catching up over coffee, conducting casual discussions on trends and problems we face. Over time, it grew to bigger talk sessions and workshops.
This was when I started learning more about the design community. For instance, did you know that imposter syndrome is quite prevalent in this community? Designers and a lot of creative people often find it difficult to accept their abilities and success. We wanted to work on that. So I laid emphasis on two values – one is networking, and the other is knowledge sharing. I made sure that something of value is being shared and knowledge is gained during every session.
What did you learn from running a startup?
Entrepreneurship is all about starting from scratch; creating something from nothing, with no model, no solid team. All I had was an idea and the passion. Some of the projects I have worked on here, went through a similar exercise. In the sense that, we had an idea but we had to build the device based on it. So for journeys like this, I draw inspiration from my startup experience.
When designing a product for children, what do you need to keep in mind?
Designing products for children sounds simple, but it’s challenging. Children these days start using gadgets right from the age of two. In a way, I feel we underestimate them. We think they are just playing, but they have a lot of expectations. They think a lot, they want to experiment a lot. And they want to learn from these experiences. To engage with these digital natives, we have to keep ourselves updated and bring them the best.
How do you think technology is going to shape and redirect our lives, especially in these times of remote working?
The pandemic has changed a lot of things and even made us revisit our strategies and approaches. It wasn’t that difficult for us to adapt to the digital tools because we are used to collaborating with people from across teams and geographies. However, we are discovering more tools to make work seamless. Earlier, if we stuck to just video calling apps, we are now using platforms like Discord which is more engaging.
Amidst all this, what’s your mantra to stay positive?
As designers, our most important tool is empathy – be it at work or in our daily lives. We don’t know what our teammates are going through – physically, mentally or emotionally. So being empathetic and understanding has helped us cope. We urge people to take breaks as and when needed and focus on their well-being. Believe it or not, with all this, our productivity has only gone up. I feel, with empathy, there is more collaboration, which leads to more productive work.
What are the biggest learnings from your role at BYJU’S?
If I look back at my seven-year career, I would gladly say that I have learned the most in the past one and a half years. Here, there is always a new challenge to solve or a new idea to crack. Yes, there will be ambiguity. Design is all about that. And this, I believe, is a part of innovation. If you already know what to innovate, there is no innovation happening there. Going through the process of figuring things out, keeps us going.
What’s your advice to aspiring BYJUites who wish to join your team?
I would say, two qualities that are essential for a designer are curiosity and acceptance. We have to be curious about new things, new trends and what’s next. The user base is ever-evolving. So, a designer should be able to have the insight to build the next experience.
A passionate writer and a compulsive photographer, Fathima is fascinated by people and their stories. Besides her brief stint in advertising, she's worked over four years as an art and culture journalist where she’s written extensively on music, theatre, and films. In love with cameras, colours, and compositions, she likes to watch life one frame at a time and hopes to tell stories the best way she can.
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