February 8, 2018 Starting Off With Algorithm To Becoming Design Champion, Meet kharm!
Please tell me a few things about yourself – where are you from, what did you study, etc.?
I am from Tangerang, Indonesia. I’m 28 years old and I studied Computer Science from Binus University. And I don’t belong to Team Apple, Team Dog, Team Nike, or Team Mercedes.
You are our 2017 Topcoder Open design champion, but when you started you were competing on Algorithm track. Why did you switch and how was the journey from one track to another?
I was a competitive programmer during High School/University. It was very common for us to train/have an account in Topcoder. But I discontinued after graduating, and then tried my hand at the Design track for several years afterwards.
Did/do you work as a developer or do you have your own Studio?
I used to be a freelance full stack developer. When I worked in a team, I was flexible enough to work as both a designer and programmer, as and when it was required of me. So yeah, you can say I am multi-functional . As for having my own studio, I don’t have one, yet.
How did you find out about Topcoder? I see you joined in 2006.
Topcoder is very popular in the Competitive Programming community. Honestly, I can’t even remember the first time I heard about TC.
You are one of the few designers who is rated in prototype (gray) and algorithm competitions (blue). How do you find the competitions in these tracks versus design?
Algorithm is the hardest one. Most of elite competitors are already International Rockstars since High School.
UI Prototype is quite comparable with UI Design. It needs more discipline and endurance, whereas UI Design needs broader knowledge (imnsho) and creativity.
Actually I only tried UI Prototype once and it didn’t go well. Haha! I changed the stylings (margin, font size, etc) to fit my own taste. My designer instincts told me to polish the storyboard. However, since it was a Prototype contest, being different with the storyboard actually got me a pretty bad scorecard. So I stick to UI Designing rather than improving my messy code. However, sometimes it’s tempting to improve my prototype rating.
What made you switch to design? Are you a self taught designer?
Algorithm can’t cover my living cost. And from the other tracks, design is the most suitable (and fun) one for me. Yes, I am self-taught.
How is the learning curve on Topcoder design challenges?
I don’t think it’s hard. In fact, it is fun!
What part did you find most difficult and how did you overcome it?
I was beaten multiple times and didn’t have any clue how the winning designs looked like. My confidence was deteriorating, and I couldn’t see the distance between my solution and the winning one. It felt like I can’t reach my goal, no matter how hard I tried.
The Design Newsletter section that show screenshots from some winning designs (and other contests that show the winning designs) helped me to regain my confidence. Even when I lost in the overall score in a challenge, I could see that I did better in some other part. It was not a complete loss and I could see myself actually having a chance at winning. My hopes were raise, and propelled me to keep moving.
Do you have any advice for members from other tracks who want to become great designers?
The good thing to start on UI Design track is everyone might have an upper hand based on his/her unique experiences. If your Father is a farmer, most likely you will have a better understanding developing a concept for Farming Apps than others (and there are a lot of Design Concept Challenges on TC). From the UX perspective no one starts from scratch! We already learn about UX indirectly through our daily activities.
So I think, you just need to learn how to pour your idea well into the screens. No need for fancy typography or illustration at first. Practically here is my suggestion to begin.
Sketch & icons8
1 Learn Sketch – 4-8 hours Youtube video should be enough to cover the basic.
2 Recreate 1 screen daily for 1 month – Go to Dribbble, pick one screen (mobile/desktop/etc) with more than 200 likes. Recreate this in your spare time (should be around 30-90 minutes/screen).
Once you get the basic, you may hone your skills one by one on each special topic like Typography, Grid System, Form Design, Data Visualisation, etc. Also, knowing more about specific topic made me appreciate the little things that I overlooked before.
The last one is start early.. Your sense needs time to grow. Good luck :)!
DaraK is an enthusiastic designer, is passionate about improving the customer’s online experience, likes to travel, and learn about other cultures.