“So, how did you get into design?”
“I was in my first year of engineering and we had a college fest…”
“Say no more…”
There is no count to the number of times we have heard this story. I don’t mean in it a negative way. In fact, I would argue that the number of designers a college fest has given this world are far more than any design institution.
One day, while interviewing a candidate and listening to their college-fest-logo-design story, I realised I hadn’t thought about the first thing I had ever designed. I dwelled over the memories of my first job and started making a list of things I had worked on — databases, diagrams, websites, logos, and so on. Historically, creating a list has always led me to better outcomes, and so it did this time too.
Anyway, the first thing I ever designed was an email signature, and the tools used were Microsoft Word and Gmail. No photoshop, no fancy designs; a simple email signature that helps a company appear more professional. Well, it may have disappointed some of you, but it is what it is!
This is a story from 2013 when I had joined my first company as a software developer. I was three or maybe four months into the new job, my colleagues had started looping me in the email communication, and I was also responsible for communicating project updates to clients over email. That’s when I realised that we did not have any standard email signature. Most of us ended each email with “Regards, Full name”.
I was an avid internet surfer and app tinkerer. Naturally, I had signed up for too many newsletters and trial versions of applications. Seeing all those emails may have informed me about the email experience that a receiver should get. Perhaps this subconscious learning made me uncomfortable about the lacking email signature as a business.
We had about 10-12 folks working across design, development and sales. I made a list of everyone’s name and their designation, downloaded our company’s logo from our website, listed 2-3 office numbers we had, and started designing our email signature. I remember creating a Microsoft Word doc that had everyone’s signature and step-by-step instructions on adding it to their Gmail account. Now that I think of it, it was also the first-ever Playbook I had written!
It was perceived well by most of the folks in the office. Sure, a few of them didn’t care what the email signature looked like, but our sales team and my boss surely understood its importance. My boss appreciated my proactiveness. I remember feeling powerful on that day, perhaps the first time in all those years, because I knew I could own and fix problems.
Retrospectively, this tiny initiative was my step towards becoming an experience designer and a thoughtful communicator. My immediate next project was creating a format or a template for all the external communication. Perhaps, I’ll write about it in a separate blog post.
If I want to take away a thing or two from this, and my younger self, it’s this:
- There will always be problems on the table that “don’t matter” in the glamour of bigger goals. If you have time, pick them up and solve them anyway.
- Don’t hesitate to bring the change, even if you’re just a fresher or an intern in the company.
- Take pride even in your smallest achievement. Don’t hesitate to brag about it.
Thank you for reading my article. Do you have an interesting first project that you’re proud of? I would love to know about it! DM me your story over Twitter or Telegram.