I started this site with the intention to share whatever I have learnt over the last 10 years about design, bootstrapping a business, running small high-output teams and enjoying the journey each day. The first post I wrote was about how I don’t have a degree in design. This post is about how I made my way into being a designer.

1. Copying

Yes, you read that right. That’s how I learnt to design – by copying websites that inspired me. This was for my own knowledge on spacing, alignment, colors, typography. Of course I didn’t share it out saying this is my creation. It was to learn by recreating every minute detail. Today it’s even more easier to start designing with amazing tools and mockups that help you jumpstart the process.

2. Inspiration & Context

Design has a purpose. To solve something or make something easy or useful. My first boss always pushed me to read about startups and observe how they were tackling a problem. He told me to download the top 15 apps in the App Store. Go to their website and see how they positioned and pitched their app. Then open the app and observe how they onboarded users, how they worked, how they charged money. Still do that till date. Because I get to see so many solutions, I am able get the context and connect dots very quickly - between the problem and possible ways on solving it.

3. Remix

Which brings us to remix. Every problem has the solution. If you understand the problem well, the solution reveals itself. And now since you have the context and the inspiration, you can give it your own spin. Your own unique way of solving the problem. When we made ‘Water’ there were a thousands apps reminding you to drink water already. But we gave it a remix of being minimal, beautiful interactions and simple gamification based on your goal streaks. It got featured in the App Store. But it was a remix. It doesn’t matter who did it first. What matters is who did it best.

4. Ground up

When you have spent time copying(learning basics), connecting dots for problems/solutions and remixing things – you start getting the confidence of building something from the ground up. You see things in everyday life differently. You question the flow of things. Why is this being solved like this - it can be more impactful if solved with this flow that you have running in your mind. Then you research, look if someone has solved it already, and bounce it off against your solution which feels better or has a better value proposition.

There was a great point in Sam Altman’s post

YC once tried an experiment of funding seemingly good founders with no ideas. I think every company in this no-idea track failed. It turns out that good founders have lots of ideas about everything, so if you want to be a founder and can’t get an idea for a company, you should probably work on getting good at idea generation first.

It has to be a pain point that you identify with best and know everything around it. Then you try to solve it from the ground up. I think the work we are doing at Kabadiwalla Connect is a hard problem we are trying to solve and easily falls in this bucket. Designing the solution here is super challenging since there are no reference points. Everything is from scratch, by talking to the different stakeholders in the entire waste management supply chain.

5. Document & Share

Austin Kleon says it best

Whether you share it or not, documenting your process as you go along has its own rewards. You’ll start to see the work you’re doing more clearly & feel like you’re making progress. When you’re ready to share, you’ll have a surplus of material to choose from.

I think this step is very important as a designer. Show the world how your solving problems. There are different ways to share things - Research, references, drawings, prototypes, diagrams, mind maps, notes, interviews, photos, videos, collections, stories, user feedback. You will be just amazed by the amount of work you do each day when you document it. Share it consistently or whenever you feel like, and build your own style and identity.

Hope you enjoyed this quick read. If you like to read more such posts do subscribe. I write about bootstrapping businesses, design, cool products and service, side projects and everything that i find interesting related to startups and shipping things.