August 21, 2017 5 Big Mysteries In Our Design Community — SOLVED

Humanity has dedicated time to answer questions related to the concerns around them. When we find something we can not find an answer for we call it a “mystery”. There are so many, at least for me, such as what happens after we die, how many planets are out there, is it true [jmpld40] owns an unicorn; that’s not something you simply find replied on Quora.

I consider myself a very curious person, I like mysteries but to be honest, I don’t think I can get a reply to any of those questions anytime soon, so I’d better dedicate my time to more feasible mysteries. That’s why I temporarily turned into Sherlock Holmes to start solving some of the biggest mysteries here in the Design community. And as usual, if you have 5 spare non productive minutes, bear with me to enlighten your knowledge the same way humanity did during the 18th century.


Back in ancient Greece, a summer night at 29°C … No, not that far, wait. Only 12 years ago, back in 2005, Topcoder was in a sweet moment integrating development track to the fairly small wallet of services they offered by then. Remember Topcoder started only as an algorithm competition platform, now it’s part of the crowdsourcing software development industry.

Topcoder started fooling around with the idea of design competitions, called “Contests” by then. There was the need of creating a fancy logo for the 2005 Topcoder Open, they had the brilliant idea of launching a competition to see what they could receive. It’s fair to say that this event marked a before and after for the design track, since it started a series of competitions that then turned into a separate track called Studio, familiar right?

The winner was [kristofferrouge]; the very first person to ever win a design competition in Topcoder, sending him straight to the hall of fame. He stayed active in the community for the first years and you can actually see him in challenges from time to time nowadays, from freaking 2005 until today!

I couldn’t miss the chance to ask this hero a couple of questions, of course 🙂

Why did you join Topcoder? How did you hear about it?
To be completely honest, it was something that I just stumbled upon. I was looking for online design contests that I could join at that time. I was encouraged by a friend to keep on looking and joining after I won my first web design competition in High School.

Did you ever think Topcoder would have a dedicated design track with such an amount of projects?
I never thought it would blow up (design track) to be something as big as it is now. I’ve been with topcoder for more than a decade – I grew with it, and I’m so happy to see all the great changes that it has undergone.

What does it feel like to know you first ever stepped the moon? 🙂 Being the winner of something you didn’t know what it could become in the future (now)?
It’s life-changing. It gave me the confidence, and the reason to believe that I can accomplish more that what I think I could do. It opened up a new world for me. I’m also quite grateful because of what TopCoder has given me – monetary prizes were a bonus, but the biggest prize TC has given me are the skills and the friends I made along the way.

One of the most memorable moments in my life was when I was invited to be a judge/review board member at TCCC07 in Orlando, Florida. I had a blast, and realized how hard it was as there was a lot of great works to score and rank! – see page 48 😉


It’s a known fact that the majority of the wins in design competitions come from Indonesian members. In fact, Indonesia is the country that brings more design competitors to the community, 10,518 members in total!

It’s not just about the numbers; this red-white flagged country definitely has a lot of “teman teman” who certainly like to design at Topcoder. It’s true their population is very large, however, it doesn’t mean everyone should develop a magic interest for design just like that, there should be a reason for this Indonesian source of design super powers. Maybe it’s the spicy food? Maybe it’s their insanely huge hearts (very lovable people)? It’s just a divine gift?
My first serious thought is economy, that could be a good reason, but my limited knowledge capacity doesn’t allow me to solve this mystery by myself, so we need to do P2P research. I definitely learned something new after raising this topic to many members.


I think the main reasons are creativity, curiosity, self-learning, and education (which are related). Let me explain:

  • First, our education system is one thing we can’t be proud of and this has a huge impact on some people who need more schooling. Design theory is one thing that we didn’t get to in school, so many of us learn by reading, copying, or trial and error until they succeed in design.
  • We also have a huge curiosity to try something new. See how Indonesian is the number 1 user of Facebook?
  • It is hard to get proper knowledge or lessons if you want to be a professional in Indonesia. So it’s common to see a self-taught professionals who have no degree do a better output than the one who has a degree.
  • Indonesian is also known for creativity in copying-modifying-and-creating something new from their process.
  • Freedom. We love working from home, the freedom to stay at home and work, the payment also is usually better rather than doing a regular work/job.


I think there are two reasons basically, the economy model and the community. The prize at Topcoder Design is interesting for us in Indonesia (I think).

We have a lot of good designers in Indonesia who do not know Topcoder but our own Indonesian community grows due to the workshops held by great designers, Yoki for instance, to introduce our community achievements.

Also, it’s more fun to work as design freelancer than just working in a company daily. With Topcoder we can work whenever we want so there is more time to enjoy life with friends and family.


I think the key is determination. We have so many hard workers, passionate people and are always learning time by time.


This is something community overall has been asking for years. We do know so far he has the sweetest voice ever (go to mark 1:23 ~, ultrasonic bug fixing speed, absolutely insane bass playing skills and anime addiction, but when we will see this handsome face?

He told me once LOTS of people asked him why he didn’t show his face anywhere (in the digital world). The reason why he doesn’t show it is simply because he is shy.

However, he has recently shared some old footage of his childhood in the Design Newsletter that we’ll use to extrapolate, do some calculations, and thanks to an advanced paleontology software we have been able to graphically estimate how he looks nowadays.


Often is normal to wonder what happens to those projects after a competition ends. Are they dropped in the trash? Well no, usually, a typical project at Topcoder would have a client building a product (website, mobile app, etc). Design happens to be one of the stages of the development process. There are other stages like prototype, code, integration, testing, deployment. You can think of it like a factory where each lane takes care of a specific task. In Design, we take care of describing through screens how the application will behave and look.

There are some tricks to track down the progress of a design, what happens after. I was always curious to know that when I was an active competitor, so I tracked them down through all the different “lanes” Topcoder offers, it was quite satisfying when I could find something I designed in a production environment, working, being used, not being just something I designed.

If you come to the Topcoder challenges page, just filter challenges per track and try to catch the name of the project you participated at, you will see that you can see the project going through prototype and code quite often. I bring today a sample website from design through development. I introduce you to Nutra Blend, designed and produced by community members:

Something I’ve noticed as a copilot, being involved in the development details, it’s very interesting to see development updates or modifications to design to fit a real production environment. Sometimes what we design is not possible to achieve or minor details are forgotten such as pagination, hover effects, error handling, how complex backgrounds extend in large screens. That could make you win some points during design review processes #designtipoftheday 😉


This feature doesn’t exist yet in the Topcoder site in a natural manner. I use a free method that sends me notifications right to my email account with 2~5 min delay, quite fair until we wait for that feature to be natural on the Topcoder site.

So here how to do that magic trick very quickly:

  • Go to Blogtrottr site.
  • In the “Getting Started” area, enter Topcoder Design challenges RSS URL:
  • Enter your email address.
  • Hit “Feed Me”, and that’s it

And that’s all for now, see you in another post fellas, peace out!


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