March 5, 2021 Tong Shares What You Need To Win Design Challenges – The Topcoder Nation Show #1

A production by the community members for the community members, The Topcoder Nation Show started its first episode with the TCO20 reigning champion, iamtong. He gave us interesting pieces of wisdom to put into practice in challenges.

Best practices, good UX, graphic execution, and answers to the design problems. You need to have these basic elements and you need some luck to be able to guess what the client will like, or why they will pick your submission to be a winner.

iamtong on what it takes to win design challenges

The champ has participated in over 1,000 challenges in his career, winning more than 500 of those, and is the current leader of RUX victories. In a few words, he is a legend in the competitive design community, respected for his astonishing accomplishments and his humble personality.

We discussed his early times on the platform, his education background as a computer engineer and how that influences his thought process, what it takes to keep his winning pace, his retirement, and much more. His journey and his advice offer up a high quality of knowledge. I tried my best to compile the highlights from the first episode of The Topcoder Nation show so you don’t miss anything. Enjoy.


These lessons, tips and advice captured my attention, they may also help you:

  • For design inspiration, he browses trending designs on Pinterest boards.
  • For design education, he spends time on tubik’s blog. They publish educational articles and case studies.
  • All his designs (UI) follow the eight pixels grid rule.
  • Design faster using software shortcuts instead of the mouse.

Topcoder Nation Show #1 is up on Youtube. See timecaps below for a summary.


  • Learning design from scratch: 11:35 – 14:00
  • Handling the pressure of competing onsite at TCO: 16:09 – 17:00
  • The best part of attending a Topcoder Open event: 17:13 – 17:42
  • Justifying design decisions: 27:44 – 29:04
  • A/B testing in design competitions: 31:00 – 32:15
  • The best advice for every designer who wants to win: 32:50 – 33:43
  • His retirement: 46:33 – 47:28


We held an AMA (ask me anything) with Tong. Curious members from the community asked him questions for him to ponder on. Watch the video from 19:00 to 53:50 to check out the replies to questions such:

  • How do you keep up your winning pace at Topcoder?
  • What are the tips and tricks for understanding the brief so you can win a challenge?
  • What makes your design outstanding and how do you do that? 
  • How do you find a solution for the user problem? 
  • From all the ideas/solutions you find, how do you choose the best solution to do high fidelity design?
  • What are your daily habits to improve your UI/UX skills? 
  • When do you plan to retire?
  • Why do you use the eight pixels rule?
  • How do you organize your life for the competition lifestyle?

Peace out.


Are you living the gig economy lifestyle at Topcoder? Want to join fellow members? Share your story, your travels, and experiences about the ultimate goal of working at Topcoder; the freedom, the flexibility, and the earnings that make it happen! Join Topcoder Nation.

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