Design Insights: Harsha Kakkeri, Founder DesignBoat UI/UX School

Iconscout got an opportunity to interact with DesignBoat founder Harsha Kakkeri. Harsha has an amazing journey of coming from a small town in Karnataka to founding one of the best EduTech startup DesignBoat UI/UX School in Bengaluru. Iconscout team members Dalpat Prajapati and Varun Trivedi interact with Harsha at DesignBoat Bengaluru HQ for our design article series ‘Design Insights’.

We would like to know about your background a bit and what inspired you to be a part of the designing industry?

First, let me thank you for coming, it is a pleasure to have you here. I have been following your design insight series and I find it very inspiring.

Harsha Kakkeri, Founder of DesignBoat
Harsha Kakkeri, Founder DesignBoat

I come from a small town in northern Karnataka. Since school days, I was disinclined towards my studies. So, never had I thought to pursue designing as my career but as fate would have it, the series of incidents that happened directed me towards it. I was a drop out of 12th grade, making secondary school my highest qualification. One of my father’s friend was the owner of a printing press. Not having anything to do, he offered me a job at this press. This is where it started, the job I had accepted merely as a need has transformed into my passion and my last 17 years in this industry is the smoking gun to that.

In this 17 years, you have had a vast working experience. Can you list some of the companies you have been associated with?

As inferred from my previous answer, I did not learn to design as an academic course from any institute, it just came to me from experience. I believe every team and every company has something new to offer, making me practice job hopping. Every year, I would join a company, contribute to its product and learn from it and them move on to some other company. Overall, I have worked in 13 divergent companies and interacted with varied personals — entrepreneurs, workers, founders, co-founders, designers and the list go on.

I have worked with Lumium — a UX based agency, TechJini for 3 years, Sourcebits, and lastly Head of Product Designer at Filter and many others.

What triggered you to work for the corporate world and commence DesignBoat (DB)?

While working in different companies, I realized that India is in a dire need of quality designers. With the aim of giving back to the design community, a year and a half back, we founded DesignBoat. So, basically, you can call it a one-year baby.

DesignBoat Team
DesignBoat Team

I am extremely passionate about it, plus it has a huge scope in industrial design. As design industry is still in its embryonic stage in India, we have diagnosed gap in the thought process of designers. Hence, our target is to overcome it by guiding and teaching the correct design knowledge and hiring appropriate talents for start-ups, hence acting as a bridge.

Being relatively new, there are some minor challenges, but we are doing great and are planning big for the future.

How did DesignBoat get its name from?

While naming the organization, we wanted to ensure that it also delivers our vision, it made us think deeper and it took a while before we finalized this name.

If you look at the logo, along with looking like the characters D and B, it also looks like a propeller of a boat which rotates. It symbolizes our idea that is someone is travelling through our boat, we assure them that the carrier is transported safely from one end to the other, hence making us act like a bridge.

How many contributors the foundation team comprise of?

Our foundation team is of three people — Akshay, Chetan and me.

From left to right - Chetan, Harsha, Akshay
From left to right – Chetan, Harsha, Akshay

Initially, we trained, especially in UX/UI. So, when we started, the mentor to student ratio was 3 to 1. Akshay taught students effective and efficient ways to build portfolio and profiles. He also focused on body language and communications, primarily for interviews. Chetan looked after the hospitality of students, bringing them onboard and managing accounts.

Our hard work paid off and soon we received recognition. There is a course for mentors which is of a short span of three months Later, we trained them for nearly nine months and then hire them. Currently, we have 12 people, 10 of whom have been trained at our Bengaluru headquarters and 2 at Pune’s branch.

In which cities have your company marked its presence?

DesignBoat UI/UX School students
DesignBoat UI/UX School students

The headquarter is in Bengaluru and we have one branch in Pune. Our first-weekend batch has already started, we have planned to start another in July. For Puneris, I can say that they will witness much collaboration in the coming days. We are ready with resources and plan to strike Delhi soon. We also have plans to expand our empire in Hyderabad, Kolkata or Chennai, we have not picked any location from it yet.

How many courses are you providing and how you train your students?

We just offer one course — UI/UX designing, but we have different modules. We have one premium plan and other Elite. The premium plan is for those have fundamental knowledge in design, we believe they are not the ones requiring out assistance. On the other end, Elite is a job-oriented course with a guarantee of 100% refund if our candidate is out of the job after the course completion.

We have classified our course into two categories — knowledge-based and job oriented, providing everything required for a novice. In the end, it depends on the choice of the student. One thing that we assure is, at the end of the course, everyone will come out as a design pro. Along with the technical aptitude, we also encourage them to speak up and groom their personality.

Design is not just about creating interfaces, it is also about solving problems.

What are your future plans?

We believe in our platform and vision. Thereby, we have planned to add additional courses like micro-interactions and illustrations soon. We also desire to add courses for designing for variables such as apple watch.

Future is we want to bring this curriculum to colleges. We want to be an umbrella for students who want to join startups, who want to hire designers, colleges who are passionate about design. Future is we aspire to change the design education system how it has been taught. We have that passion and energy to see this change.

Coming to your personal life, what are other activities performed apart from designing?

Apart from designing I like to spread awareness among people. So, when I am not working in Bengaluru or Pune, I give design-related talks to students who don’t get exposure to this field. Apart from this, cricket is something I am passionate about. I hardly get time to spend with my family. So, whenever I get free I try to spend more time with my family. But I can’t run away from designing.

Whom do you look up to in design world?

Steve Jobs was someone to whom I keep on following. He made sure that designers have some value. He is the father of designers. Everything was developer oriented. When he released iPhone that is when people started noticing the interface designing, guidelines, experience, solving problems that is when value increased. Not just me, many people followed him. I also follow few agencies from Sri Lanka which is a press designer. I follow agencies like Balkan Brothers, Ramotion, Focus Lab, Studio-JQ, Netguru where they have made amazing kickass apps. Those are my inspiration for me.

What advice do you want to give to young designers?

There are few things I tell to students who join the course.

  • Follow your passion irrespective of your platform you have. It can be fashion or photography or anything. Just follow your passion so that you won’t regret it later.
  • You can be good at one thing. For me, designing was the main thing. I don’t know to code but I know how things work. So, when students come from different background. I ask them to focus on one thing rather than many.
  • Be honest. Initially, it will be difficult.

Also, share your knowledge. That is something a designer must know. As a designer, you must tell to other people so that they can learn from you. You have to keep away your ego too. You cant keep your ego and build a name. there are certain things which I have to learn from students and I have to accept it. If you want to grow as an individual, as a designer then ego is something you have to keep aside and learn from your mistakes.

Its good to make mistakes and learn from them. Don’t make repetitive mistakes. If you are trying to learn something new, mistakes will happen but try to learn from it.

Youngblood always thinks of entrepreneurship or startups. I get many questions about dropping out. Students come and ask me if they should drop out. But drop out is something which is not planned but rather it happens unplanned. Education has its own value. I respect it. In my case, something else happened. So, if someone asks me about dropping out. I suggest them to complete the education and get a degree. This has its own value. Not all dropouts are successful. These are few things I would want to share.

Anything more you want to add?

DB has one vision. To give the right education, to help new startups, to get the right designers, to simplify the hiring process. To spread awareness in colleges, not just tier1 cities but also tier2 cities from where people are coming from. I don’t want people coming from tier2 cities to tier1 cities and getting this course. Instead, we want to reach to tier2 cities directly.

There are so many things on which we are working. Hopefully, 2018 will be the target where we want different aspects to spread out, making sure students get more benefit.

You cant do marketing in education field. You cant sell what you have through marketing here. It has to come with the trust, belief and reference. It is what we are trying to achieve and what we have as our vision.

What do you think about our article series Design Insights?

You are doing an absolutely amazing job. I have been following few articles which you have written. That is something which our generation designers need to know. What I have seen in this generation is they see some design, change colours and call themselves a designer. Instead, they should know the real work of the designer and your articles reflect that.

We need a platform for this evolution and that is what you provide. You have taken that entry and people can connect with it and learn real life experiences of people. Your work will help many designers out there . There are many people apart from designers. You guys have created that platform for the people and sharing their experience.

We are very thankful to Harsha for sharing insights about his personal journey and journey of DesignBoat. Iconscout is very privileged to announce our association with DesignBoat. DesignBoat UI/UX School School is now official Educational Partner of Iconscout. We wish Harsha and team DesignBoat our best wishes for their future endeavour.

Do you guys have any questions? Do write them below in the comment! Also, read our recent conversation with Product design team of Flipkart.

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Also published on Medium.