After having explored different modes of design as a field for the past six years through branding, graphic, print, and product design — around October of last year, I decided to invest some time into crafting a portfolio & resume which showcases my interest in UI/UX.
After reaching out to a bunch of people in the industry, getting replies from about ten percent of them, and finally interviewing with a handful of companies over the course of three months — I had a decision to make. ?
Here were some of the objectives I wished to achieve through my first internship:
- Platform to interact with experienced designers
- A healthy balance between product ownership and mentorship
- Chance to go behind the scenes of a product I respect and use
Eventually, I chose to spend my summer at Cleartrip as a Product Design Intern working in Bangalore, India!
Here are some of the lessons I learned:
The true meaning of design
I had read in numerous articles that design is so much more than the wireframes/screens that we create, but I never really realised what this meant. In one of my projects, I was tasked to work on a B2B app. Unlike the B2C app, this wasn’t a sector where I could presume the intent of the user — simply because these weren’t actions/tasks I’ve ever had to perform. It was a challenging experience, which made me realise the importance of working with product managers (PMs).
Starting the project based on a simple set of requirements, I brainstormed the basic UI/UX of the app with my manager and subsequently moved on to the low fidelity wireframes. After a few iterations, I got in touch with the PMs, and it was in those meetings that I realised the importance of communicating across teams.
Design shouldn’t be looked upon as an isolated task in the process of developing a product but as the journey of building it through multiple iterations while involving all stakeholders.
Even though I had the set of basic requirements, the PMs really helped me put them into perspective. After those in-depth conversations about the goals that the user wanted to achieve and how we could make the task flows simpler, a lot of the initial interaction patterns I used had now changed, simply because I now had a much better idea of the user’s behaviour. While the product team’s insights definitely helped in refining the app, it was still my call to choose which interaction pattern worked best and making them understand why it’s the one we should go with.
At every step, you need to have the answers to questions such as:
- What is the purpose of this feature? How does it help the user perform a certain action?
- Is this the correct mental model for it? Is the information hierarchy easy to consume?
- How much value does it add with respect to the resources required to build it?
- How important are the edge cases? How are they being handled?
Towards the end of my internship, in a conversation with my manager, he similarly pointed out that when he started, he understood that design isn’t just about creating the wireframes, but also the process of communicating with all other stakeholders and getting their approvals, some of whom may not understand the nuances of design, yet ensuring that they’ve understood what you’re building and why you’re building it. In short, a designer must be good at selling their work (highlighting the value being added).
Pick up projects & see them through
There’s only so many pre-defined tasks your manager can have for you. As an intern, it’s important to not wait for work to be assigned to you and identify tasks/problems. One way I did is by paying attention to the daily stand-ups and getting a sense of what everyone was working on. I then reached out to the people where I thought work could be delegated, and the next thing you know is — I’m working on another exciting thing!
This was a great way to get to know my team members, because it gave me the opportunity to work alongside them, understand their design process, and learn from it.
It’s important to realise that not all of your projects are on the list of top priorities for the company. However, this shouldn’t stop you from ensuring that they’re completed. People are busy, but if you want your work done — you need to follow up (even multiple times in some cases). For projects that involve multiple teams, getting all stakeholders on board is another challenge. Usually, they tend to have longer timelines, but as an intern — I knew I didn’t have that luxury. So it was quite normal for me to be running back and forth between floors, getting feedback, approvals, and implementing the designs I had worked on.
I’ll be honest, it’s easy for an intern’s work to go unnoticed. To combat that, my manager ensured that we had the chance to present our work to the heads of various teams. It was a great experience interacting with them, and getting their valuable feedback on everything that we’d been working on.
Always aim to exceed expectations. Stress the little details, know your work inside and out. Anticipate questions and possible issues, and figure out how you’d tackle them. You may think people don’t notice, but they do. Nothing impresses people than knowing that you can be trusted to go one step ahead of what was asked of you.
Imbibe knowledge and experiences
One of the best parts of working at a company like Cleartrip was the people. The design team had people from all walks of life — engineering, design, marketing, and even finance! The fact that I could spin around my chair in any direction and learn so much from everyone around me was a big plus.
Right from working with them and understanding their design process to the conversations we’ve had over lunch, they make up for some of the best memories and learnings I’m walking away with.