How a Newbie Designer, ankit.passi, Won Jessie’s Design Month Dash Challenge

To celebrate Design Month in May, we ran an exciting challenge that was all Jessie’s idea – and was named Jessie’s Design Month Dash. The challenge consisted of three rounds of design and at the end, not one, but three designers won a trip to TC019. One of the winners was ankit.passi, a designer who is not an active member, but joined this challenge and nailed it, so of course we wanted to get to know him better. A full stack designer, 3D artist and soccer player – he’s got it all!

Hi! Please tell me a few things about your background.

I was born and raised in New Delhi, India. I finished my schooling in Delhi itself.  After that, I completed my Bachelors, majoring in Computer Science. I have been working as a UX Designer in TEKsystems Global Services, Bangalore, India for the past year.

How did you hear about Jessie’s Design Month Dash Challenge? I see you are not active on Topcoder.

I joined Topcoder in 2017, but due to hackathons, college projects and other things, I was not able to give my full attention to Topcoder.  But due to my current schedule, I found that I had some extra time to spare, in which I wanted to work on some projects and enhance my skills. So, since March 2019, I have been participating in some design challenges for the sake of working on new challenges and problems.

I did not know anything about the Design Month Dash, I thought it was just another Design challenge. Therefore, I just signed up without giving it much thought.

How do you feel about winning the awesome trip to TCO, that so many designers are trying to qualify for?

When I first joined Topcoder, I heard about this big competition that Topcoder hosts every year: TCO. And I read the blogs and newsletters and came to know that it really is a big deal to be a part of this event. Only the best of the best global challengers can qualify for this event.

I always dreamed of being a part of TCO. I tried everything in my power to qualify, but it was too overwhelming, and I am nowhere near as skilled as some other designers competing for this event. Therefore, winning this trip to TCO is literally a dream come true. To be among those people whose names and images I kept on seeing on TCO banners, blogs and newsletters is a big deal and one of my life goals.

What was your approach in those three rounds of challenges that took you to the top?

I am well versed with time-based competitions because of my experience with hackathons, but even in those events the time frame allotted was a minimum of one week. To be able to complete all these challenges in 72, 48 and 24 hours was a challenge I’d never taken on before.

The approach I take on all design, regardless of the competition, is that I do some basic research about what exactly the USER (not the client) wants from the design and how I can provide it to them.

In addition, I do a lot of basic paper sketching before starting with anything.Then based on timeframe, I go for low-fidelity or directly with high-fidelity design.

• First Round – 72 hour round

The task was actually straightforward: redesigning the Topcoder profile page.

Honestly, I never liked the Topcoder profile page so this task was right up my alley. However, redesigning is not an easy task. To ensure that best usability practices are being implemented thorough research must be done. Content prioritisation must be done properly to provide the user with the data they really want.

In these challenges, we had a limited colour palette and two random items that had to be a part of the design itself – and all of this in 72 hours.

I started with my usual design process, that is noting down all the required and important data first and talking with some people who know about Topcoder or related applications. I researched more about the data they usually want from these type of profile pages. Then I made my pencil sketches for design, created an overview layout of the design, presented them with it, and took their comments.

After getting an assessment, I started with a low fidelity design of the same so as to know if the design was feasible or not. It took me two hours to get a low-fidelity design. After that, I started working on a high-fidelity design with the given colour palette. Moreover, tried placing the components in their intended positions. I was able to complete the first iteration in 20 hours. After that, I did some usability testing and got users’ views on the design. Minor changes were suggested and some layout adjustments were proposed. I implemented those and filled in some extra information into the design. This finalisation process took me around 24 hours straight.

On the third morning, I finalised my design and created a design explanation note. I was able to submit my design six hours before the deadline, which is a pretty big deal because I had never worked on such a short deadline.

• Second Round – 48 hour round

The task assigned was creating an Event Scheduler app for iPhone.

The task seemed straightforward but when I created my requirement document, I came to realize there was too much content available for this app and I could not fit it all in a single screen. Therefore, a proper content prioritisation had to be done so that the user would not feel overwhelmed with the content and would be able to use it in a busy environment. I iterated through my requirement list many times between designs to keep consistency with the design and requirements.

I went through the same process as in the first round; I did my research for prioritisation of content and did my pencil sketch for an overview to get the gist of the design I was going for. However, since this time the deadline was short, I had to skip the low-fidelity part of the design.

I started directly  with the main design. I created design guidelines and started creating all required components based on those guidelines. I went to a friend for usability testing and then rigorous iteration – this cycle went on for three iterations in total.

At last I was happy with the design which satisfied most of the requirements I gathered when I started. Finally, I was able to submit my design one hour before the deadline.

• Third Round – 24 hour Round

The task assigned was creating an Educational Hub for Topcoder Members.

It was an interesting task to get started on, the gist of the task was to create a social media where Topcoder community members can share educational content from all over Topcoder. The target platform was the web.

The main constraints were time, which was 24 hours, and the colour palette, which was repulsive for most of the users, including me. I aimed to start the project as early as possible but due to some commute issues from work to home I had a three-hour delay. So now, I had 21 hours to get started and finish my design.

I skipped over the user research part for this level.  I created a requirement document based on the content I (as a user) would want to see on a website like this. I created a draft of requirements needed for the website and type of content available for me to display. I also created a really rough and quick sketch for the design (I cannot skip this part, it helps me to visualise the design I want to work on).

The first iteration of design took me around six hours to put together. There was no time for testing the design that I created for this. But still, this is an important part of any design process so I called up a friend of mine and did all the required testing for two hours straight.

After testing, I came to realize the things that were missing from my design and created another iteration with changes in four hours. Overall I was able to complete the entire design and submit it two hours before the deadline.

That is when I came to know that these rigorous challenges each week helped me to increase my decision-making skills and speed up my entire design process.

PS: I did not sleep for even an hour for each challenge timeframe. Not healthy, but necessary.

Do you think of competing now as a regular member?

Yes, I am now trying to compete in at least one challenge over the weekend. In addition, I compete as a regular player. The rest depends on the time I can allot to Topcoder. However, definitely I am not leaving Topcoder again.

What are your hobbies?

Apart from design and its related work that you can see more of on my Dribbble account, I love to 3D Model and Level Design using Unreal Engine 4.

I am also a skilled soccer player (left winger and secondary striker positions). In addition, I am a hard-core gamer.