A Determined Designer: In Conversation with Rio

Rio Andrew M Purba (riopurba) joined the Topcoder Design Community in 2014. For a while, Rio was struggling to win challenges at Topcoder and gave up on competing out of frustration. However, he came back stronger than ever last year. As part of the ongoing Design Month, he agreed to share the story of his turnaround and what motivated him to give Topcoder another shot.

1. How did you find out about Topcoder ?
I learned about Topcoder from my brother, fajar.mln. He has been always spreading news about Topcoder on social media! In 2014, I added him as a friend on Facebook, and I saw so many posts about Topcoder in his timeline. I have been taking part in online design contests since 2012 on other platforms. So when I saw posts about Topcoder, I was very curious about that. I talked with Fajar to know more about Topcoder. And he asked me to meet up and discuss it. Then I also invited my other friends to join us. That is how it all began.

2. How was your Topcoder experience so far?
Like I said before, I’ve been in the online contest environment since 2012. And when I joined Topcoder in 2014, it was so different. I learned so many things here. I learned how to read and understood the brief on a deeper level. I’m competing with the best top designers around world. It was pretty amazing. But, the end of 2016 until the middle of 2017 was the difficult time for me at Topcoder. It was the first year of my marriage and I didn’t win any contests for months. I was very frustrated by that time. You know? I almost gave up. I decided to stop joining any contests at Topcoder. I tried to find another way to survive in life. But wait! In May 2017, Adam directly sent me a notification email about 2 LUXes and Daniela (DaraK) also sent me an email about participating in the Topcoder Design Newsletter in the same month. These emails made me contemplate my situation. I said this in my mind "Look Rio! This community cares about you. How can you give up just like that?". Guys it was true! Then I replied to Adam’s and Daniela’s emails and told them my situation. Then they tried to motivate me. And it changed my situation directly. Then I decided to learn more about UI/UX, how to design better, and etc. Then I went back to participating at Topcoder, joined any contest, and slowly but surely I started winning. I have won 2 RUX contests. Everything is going well right now. So, thank you Adam and Daniela! 🙂

3. What type of challenges you like the most – concept ones or production ones and why?
I like the concept ones. For example, there are two challenges. The first one is Designing a Beautiful Landing Page, and the second one is Designing a Concept for Retail App. Then I will choose the second one. Because it is so challenging for me – how to design a unique concept, unique features for that, how customers will use this app, etc.

4. What tools do you use for designing?
If you are referring to software, I’m using Sketch App for designing in Topcoder. If you are referring to physical tools, I’m using Macbook Pro, Loud Speaker to listen the music, and the foremost things are Pen and Paper.

5. I saw you recently became a RUX champion by winning the RUX – 72H Credit Portal UI Design Challenge. Congratulations! What was the secret to winning it?
The secret is just completing all the client’s needs. It is good to design a beautiful app, but if you can’t complete what the client needs in the final round, you cannot win that challenge.

7. Do you have any strategy or habit when designing?
I always build my positive mood before designing. I can achieve it by praying or listening and singing my favorite song.

8. Is there any favorite challenge you particularly liked working on and why?
It is my first RUX winning. I like to work in this challenge because of the client and their brand. It’s a huge, recognizable brand!. And I designed an app for them. WOW, that was pretty amazing, alright!

9. What do you do when you’re stuck creatively?
When I am stuck, I stop what I’m working on, and try to relax by doing something else like watching a movie, or going outside, or making videos for my YouTube channel and other activities that can improve my mood. Then I get back to my work. This usually helps me get out of creative clogs.

10. Is there any designer in the Topcoder design community you admire?
Yeah. Abedavera, Yoki, Tong, Ravi. They are great designers. Great fighters! They can think and create something unusual that cannot be created by the other designers.

11. I saw you are very popular on YouTube within Indonesia designers as the video you recently made has so far receive over 13K views and has 223 comments. How did this passion start – was it the wish to make money or to help new members?
Hahaha! I started my Youtube channel in 2016. I really like sharing my experiences as a freelance designer, talk to young designers on how they can grow their career as a professional designers, etc. I’ve also written blogs about freelancing and designing since about 2011-2012. And in 2016, I tried a new platform, it was a Youtube Channel. Mostly, Indonesian designers create a Youtube channel for sharing design tutorials like how to design a modern or vintage logo, how to use photoshop to design a web, etc. Yeah, most of them are tutorial channels. So I tried to create something different. I act as a Designer-Vlogger or Designer-YouTuber, or whatever you call it. So instead of showing the tutorials of designing something, I choose to speak about design; I choose to show my design life: how I got a project, how I got a client, how I won a design contest, how I got my monthly earnings as a freelancer, how I sell my fonts or design products in any marketplaces, etc. And I realized that Indonesian designers really love my channel. I already got 25K subscribers, and it’s a huge following for a Designer-YouTuber in Indonesia. So this channel is not to make money, but to sharing to new members and new designers how they can grow their career.

12.  What are the things most of the new designers want to learn about Topcoder? Do you promote Topcoder to them and if so, how do you convince them to register and compete?
Since I posted my previous video about how I won $2000 in Topcoder, many designers in Indonesia sent me an email or Direct Message from Facebook and Instagram. They really want to know about UI/UX. They asked me why there are so many challenges about UI/UX in Topcoder and why there are so few challenges about logos, etc. Yeah, most of them begin their career as a logo designer, joining design contest on other sites. Similar to who I was. And they said that if Topcoder is really promising, they are really interested to learn about UI/UX. So Fajar and I worked together to create a custom link via bit.ly to register in Topcoder, and I share that link in my previous video. Then We promise them if they register to Topcoder via that link, I will make 6 documentation videos about how I won a RUX challenge from the beginning: how I read the brief, finding inspiration, sketching process, understanding the client’s feedback, and submit the design in the final round. I promised them to provide those videos so they can learn from my experience winning the RUX challenge. And guess what? There are 2500 people clicks the link from my video, and about 1560 people registered to Topcoder from that link by Tuesday, May 22. And I am pretty sure that the numbers will grow up right now. You know? Sharing something is my passion. I really love sharing my experience to the others. Fajar and I also have visited several colleges in Medan to promote Topcoder and we shared about UI/UX to the students. If Topcoder needs me to grow our design community in Indonesia, then I’d love to do it. 🙂

13.  What advice would you give to a new member to win on Topcoder?
As a new member, you will find it difficult to win the main prize. Yeah, you’re right. Nothing is impossible. But you have to be realistic. So what is my advice? If you want to win in a war, then you have to know well your battlefield and your enemy. If you do already know your battlefield and your enemy, then you can win. Same with winning a challenge at Topcoder; you have to learn your battlefield (it is Topcoder). What Topcoder is, the type of the contest, what the UI/UX is, how we can design a web or mobile app, what the checkpoint prize is and how to get it. That’s it! You have to learn your battlefield. Then you have to learn about your enemy (the other designers in Topcoder). Who the top designers are, as a new member you may avoid joining the challenges that the top designers are joining in. For example, there is a big challenge and a small medium challenge that run in the same time and will be ended in the same deadline. You see so many top designers are fighting in that big challenge, so as a new member it is good to choose the small one that has less competition. But if you feel that you already have enough knowledge about your battlefield and your enemy, you can compete in any challenge you want with confidence, and competing the top designers every time you want. And this is also the design month. You can join the fun challenges to learn more about your battlefield environment and your enemy 🙂

Thank you Rio for answering our questions and for being an amazing asset to our design community. We hope to see more big challenge wins and videos in the future!