The first thing I ever designed.

“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:

  1. 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.
  2. Don't hesitate to bring the change, even if you're just a fresher or an intern in the company.
  3. 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.