Against Common Conceptions: Saptarshi Prakash
Apr 03, 2017 | Nikhil Vobbilisetty
Thanks to Roots, NIT Rourkela got to witness some of the most talented minds of this generation. Behold Saptarshi Prakash, a man who gave up a mainstream job after his engineering and decided to become a product designer.
MM: What was your childhood like?
SP: My childhood was fun. I was the only child for eight years until my younger brother was born. I had supportive parents, and they let me do whatever I wanted to. I was very different as a kid; I did not do things other kids would. For instance, I watched very few cartoons. I was always good academically. I loved drawing, and that is the only connection I get from my childhood to my current job. Other than that, I would organise functions, do public speaking, debate and actively participate. I was that known guy in school.
After my 10th, I decided to go for Engineering, and hence went to Hyderabad for my coaching. I had heard that Engineering was good, and decided to give it a try.
MM: How did IIT Madras happen?
SP: When you’re 15 years old, you’re not sure of what you want in life. I had heard that Engineering was good and hence decided to give it a try since I’m from a middle-class family and wasn’t keen on experimenting. Madras and Electrical happened by chance. I had heard that Computer Science was all the rage back then, followed by Electrical. IIT seemed like the easiest option to earn, buy me a house and settle down comfortably.
MM: When did you realise that Engineering wasn’t your thing?
SP: When I was a kid, I had a different perception of engineering. Whenever I would see a car or a computer, I would be like ‘Oh! An engineer has built it’, and hence the interest developed. But after I went into engineering, I realised that it was more of theory, the curriculum wasn’t according to my preconception. It was not disappointing because IIT has a lot to do with what I am and how I am today.
MM: When did this love for designing and animations begin? Did you know that this is what you'll be doing in the future?
SP: Back in standard 8, my parents got me a computer. I had heard from the neighbouring kids that Photoshop helps make cards, and hence decided to learn it. I got it installed, but then the guy who gave it to me said that he didn’t know anyone who could teach me (I was in a small town in Assam back then). I had to end up learning the whole thing by myself, experimenting and tinkering with it. I didn’t have the internet back then, so everything I learnt was self-discovery. They’re all in my genes now; they’re hard-coded. When I went to IIT, I had a lot of resources like LAN and seniors, and that’s where I became much better. IIT Madras had design teams for fests, and I ended up heading these teams at one point. People started knowing me as a designer. But still, I never saw myself doing a job which I’m doing right now.
MM: How did you end up at Housing.com?
SP: I sat for placements in the institute and ended up getting a job as a Project Manager at an MNC in Bangalore. For one year, I had a stable job. I was doing this job when a senior of mine from IIT Madras recommended me to Housing.com, which was living its golden days back then. They were known to have the best design team in the country. I wasn’t sure if I would do well, considering I had no formal education in the field of designing. My senior asked me to give it my hundred percent, do the task they wanted me to do and make a good portfolio. I did that. I spent a lot of time. I got selected. That’s how my professional career in designing began.
MM: How was the experience of working as a UX Designer at Housing.com? What exactly did you do and when did you move to Zeta?
SP: There was a massive lay off in housing. I was fortunately not laid off and continued as a designer for Housing.com. The team fell from 40 to 7, and that is when I realised that I had something in me. To be honest, I was still confused about my career back then, considering I left a stable job for this. After this massive lay-off, I did the best of my work for housing, probably because of the boost in confidence, I got after this. This was the turning point of my life. I was sceptical, but after this, I wasn’t. Things went well, and this is where I started using software programs like After Effects. I was the UX Designer, the person who thinks and creates wireframes and not a visual person. But this is when I started working on my creativity and designing too because someone even a bit better than me would replace me. Hence, I took up Motion Design. The year after that, a few friends of mine from Zeta started pitching in their company, and that’s when I quit Housing and joined it.
MM: Could you tell us about UX Designing? How important is being creative in this field?
SP: I’m a UX designer. Motion designing is just my hobby, and hence I do it. In UX design, when you’re building a product from scratch, it becomes more of a problem-solving job than a creative problem solving one. Of course, a bit of creativity is needed everywhere. As a UX designer, you think logically and with a clean mind. You need to think from a user’s perspective, what he/she expects and you need to handle all the problems that he/she may face. When you sit and think about it, it falls in place, because there’s a process. It is a very technical job. There’s a lot of thinking involved. The visual-creative part of the job comes at a later stage. Now that everything is in place and is functionally perfect, you need to start building it. That’s where motion, colours and visuals come into the picture. That’s where you do the creative stuff.
MM: What do you think you’ll be doing in the future?
SP: I always wanted to do an MBA. I did give CAT and get calls from a few IIMs but didn’t go. I think that I’ll make a good manager, for I feel that I have the shrewdness and skills required to be a leader and a manager. But after working as a product designer, I don’t see the need for an MBA right now. I’ll probably do one later if my designing requires me to get one.
MM: How do you think one can prosper in the field of UX, considering it’s an upcoming sect in today’s generation?
SP: You need to read a lot, not necessarily books. You need to stay up-to-date with everything, be it Softwares or innovations or news around the world. You need to develop your interests into this. Whenever you see a new product in the market, make sure that you download and check it out. Learning is a continuous process, and you need to try everything to learn. Dribble is a fantastic platform for people to post designs, and for one to explore.
(Click here for Saptarshi Prakash’s Dribble Profile)
MM: What message do you have for the upcoming UX designers, motion designers and animators out there?
Do not hold yourself back. There’s a lot of scope for everyone to learn and improve, especially engineers. Just because you don’t have a formal degree doesn’t mean that you can’t prosper. Engineers can do wonders, and an engineering degree definitely helps. You can always excel.