The Designers’ Odyssey
Darshan Gajara hailed from a small town near Nasik where he did his schooling before heading off to college. Although, an academically competent student right from the outset, the creative juices flowed in his veins which found expression through the works of art as Darshan spent a large part of his childhood sketching and playing cricket and football.
With a fairly unassuming childhood, Darshan like any other kid from a small town in India was awed in the presence of brighter, smarter kids when he moved to Mumbai after his 10th standard where he went on to stay until graduation for 8 years. He goes on to say that the experiences in these years were instrumental in transforming him from a shy kid to a confident and creative person. Like a vast majority of the engineering populace in the country, he was in for a shocker when he failed in Mathematics in his very first year, despite being a topper in Maths in his former student life. Further, he too is a firm believer of the fact that
Engineering students do everything in their college life but for engineering.
He credits his engineering experience to have been the platform which brought out the “creative kid” in him. In the sophomore year of his undergraduate course, he started blogging with the underlying motive of learning the usage of WordPress as a platform. This experience taught him how to showcase his work to a large number of people and get the subsequent appreciation for the effort. This consistent stint with blogging would go on to improve his fundamental skills such as reading, writing and even public speaking to a certain extent. He further went on to make websites primarily to put his Computer Science concepts into practice. This went on to be his introduction to the world of freelancing and designing.
By the time of his final year, Darshan was widely known on the campus as the web developer as he went on to develop websites for three councils in college. He took his skills even a step further as he along with his best friends went to create ProjectX, a start-up for designing websites for prospective clients as their final year project. All these experiences culminated in bringing out the best out of the prospective designer.
As a young graduate, Darshan started his career as a web developer in Book My Show where he went on to hone his skills as a designer as well. Meanwhile, he continued taking up projects as a freelancer as he believed that every new project contributed to his learning of the craft. According to him,
There are two approaches to learning a craft. One is the conventional approach wherein you prepare for a long time and then put it to test. The second approach is where you work and get consistent feedback and improve accordingly. I personally feel the latter approach is better.
On advising college students on freelancing, he believes that college is the best time to start freelancing as a side job because one learns a lot from the experience without any obligation. Further, freelancing as a viable career is largely dependent on creating a strong network of clients, which in turn is dependent on the quality of one’s work and factors such as word of mouth publicity.
Compared to a conventional job, freelancing provides one with the flexibility of choosing a project based on one’s own interest instead of serving as an obligation. Further, the technology according to Darshan is a money-minting industry. Thus, designers get paid a lot and money is never a constraint for them. Freelancing in such a scenario serves almost always as a learning experience allowing one to grow and excel in the industry.
As far as freelancing as a full-time career is certainly feasible for the budding creative designers these days. However, he cautions the kids against plunging into it without a backup option. He believes the best approach to becoming a freelancer is to take it up as a side job, build contacts, gain experience and create a sustainable “pipeline” of clients before diving into it full-time.
Product Disrupt, his own website, is a one stop solution for all the design enthusiasts who want a peep into Darshan’s insights and his inspiration. According to Darshan, Product Disrupt was a way to give back to the internet in the form of all his knowledge, sources of information, the tools which he had used and the inspiration for his design related projects. He did it as a side project along with his job and launched it on Product Hunt, the Google of products.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Darshan. His product was amongst the Top Products which earned him a lot of publicity thereby leading to a number of freelance project offers. According to Darshan, there is great potential inside projects.
If I hadn’t done the side project, I wouldn’t have gotten the lead. In turn, I wouldn’t have been paid Seventy thousand rupees. This is how side projects convert which isn’t measurable.
Thus, Product Disrupt was instrumental in making Darshan a known face in the design circuit which leads him to give talks in IITs etc advising the students on starting the journey as a designer.
A multifaceted Blogger as well, Darshan describes his journey as a blogger to be just as rewarding. Starting off as a blogger, just to learn WordPress Darshan wrote about his personal experiences, his travel memoirs etc but soon streamlined the blog into a haven for designers. This blog went on to provide him with a lot of clients and has been his face on the internet.
People first come to my blog and then they know what I do and everything else.
Talking about the design scenario in India, he believes there is a dearth of originality amongst the Indians as they have this bad habit of imitating everything about the West, particularly the US which applies for design as well. However, the positives of the Indian scenario is the connectivity amongst the designers as they form a small well-knit community. Further, he believes there is a lot of noise in the field of design which distorts the perception of someone who has entered the field.
His final message to the budding designers is,
It’s okay for one to be not incredibly talented but needs to be willing to improve oneself over time. It is essential that you just express yourself through your work as you put it online. You have to obviously be decent at your work but don’t chase after perfectionism as it will kill your productivity. Instead be consistent with your work. Do a lot of projects and consistently try and learn from the experiences. Consistency will eventually outplay the talent barrier.