Competitions @

My biggest project ever which started in 2017 as a pipe dream and never ended. I saw euphoria, bankruptcy, lakhs of users who found what I created valuable and much more.

A compilation of all screens on UNI

Fact Sheet

Before we begin

I joined UNI as its first employee and within one year was pushed to managing positions during a financial crisis, eventually being promoted to be the director after 2 of the 3 initial founders left. My role evolved from being an individual contributor, to a design/content manager eventually looking after entire system of design, content, support and operations of the platform.


UNI started out as a portfolio and discussions website at first in 2017, where competitions were just an optional part of the entire story. Primarily like a content feeder to the main platform. These were optional pieces of the experiences that only connected to the product - which eventually grew out to be the main value proposition over the coming years.


The original vision of the product was to be a discussion forum for designers and architects world over. Our founders saw it as a forum where people can discus not only final designs but processes, WIP and questions around it.

Fun fact - UNI was called SPARRO early on, because of a workshop we used to run in 2015 themed around SPace ARchitecture RObotics.

The first version of made on slides by Abhishek Sorampuri (Founder - CEO,

How project came to existence

When launching a certain competition - initially briefs took about 3 months to curate write and launch. In terms of content this period was long enough to setup custom websites that did not communicate to the main product at all.

However, this long prep time for the only cash source made things hard for an already broken financial model. Eventually the earlier business model of having an architect's social network that can run by ads collapsed leading to financial crisis within 1 year of failed fundraising.

Here's where the idea to scale competitions as the only cashflow generator began and we started rewriting UNI again.

A picture of two of my colleagues emptying our first office in Delhi to move to a bigger one, as new hires weren't closing in an office this small. (Nobody likes getting clicked.)


This project started in May 2018 and went on till December 2021 until the point I left. There are many layers in this project however I will cover only two primary elements that are fundamental in the initial phases.

The first part is competitions experience and second is the content/propagation pipeline to run these. There are several marketing and ops level layers that happen to lie in between however we're not going cover those in this presentation.

Pricing models, competition uploader, evaluation dashboard, analytics, leaderboard and support features will be skipped out and will be posted as separate projects in coming few months.

Timeline of UNI competitions.

The Team

I worked as a design manager under the founder (Abhishek Sorampuri) on this. 1 UX Designer (Vaibhav Gupta), 2 Visual Designers (Bhrigu, Sashank), 1 Front End Developer (Bhupesh), 1 Back End Developer (Raj), 3 Interns (Omkar, Smaran, Dhruba) 3 Ops staff (Divya, Pradeep, Imtiyaz) + 7 content contributors (Anushka, Rashmi, Anmol, Vedanth, Renuka, Vaishnavi, & Sanjana).

Problem cards dealt in the beginning.

My role and responsibilities

Build a sustainable competition launching and creation pipeline that is financially viable and builds stable cashflow in the company. The challenge was also to handle multiple ongoing competitions based on several categories, starting from launching 10's to 100's to even 1000's. The product level goals were to build a scalable experience for competition pages to grow into other parts of product like tag pages, feed, profile and so on.

My role was also to build, re-structure and hire designers based on these lines to run this on the volume we aim to handle in future.

150+ customer support emails/per day taught me a lot about users.

Who are the users?

The users are architects and designers who are interested to upskill and test their mettle in architecture, furniture, interior design, graphic design, urban design and product design. The users are mostly internet and software savy - and are do-ers by nature. I happen to know this because I participate in more than thirty competitions as a student in my university days.

Product design brief

To design a competition feed, and a competition detail page, payments and checkout experience. To create registration handling flows and integrate this with OLD UNI project uploader first, and then to the new UNI project uploader.

Brainstorming and Research

Competitions generally are managed over emails and using codes in general world. There are several websites in the architecture segment which handle architecture competitions through websites, but there is no integrated posting, payment and submission model that is fully automated end to end managed on a dynamic website enabled by user accounts.

Our competitors:

Archstorming, Beebreeders, Archasm, Volumezero & Death by Architecture.

As you may see these websites are in a way static blogs that evolved into architecture competition space and are clearly not the best examples to check how a perfect case could be.

We also looked at
Talenthouse (Graphic design - VC funded), Arcbazar (VC funded) and Bustler as a means to understand what happens outside the traditional competition architecture domains with money placed behind them. These websites helped us figure out how a competition experience could be in a different context while matching them with our few hosted competitions so far.


Competitions are diverse in nature, every challenge requires a different set of stories, drawings, pitching that boosts registrations in a way. The second biggest challenge is competition as a product never self-propagates - like the nature of business is to keep the competition we are entering as private. This is done to not increase more competition by people who have edge over the participant in a similar space and is fairly reasonable. Lastly, because the competition has proposed prize - if the registrations are lesser than the amount of prize we are giving out, it can quickly push us to bankruptcy in a bootstrapped situation.

Design postulates

The biggest difference as designers, we design things on a creative benchmark and many a times not for scale. It's because of how we interpret them to be on opposite sides of the spectrum and being mutually exclusive. The first challenge was to convince the team (any myself) that from doing 10 competitions/year we can go 100/year.

It took us a while to understand that but we did it eventually and that's how standardization for a lot of creative inputs and outputs were formalized. That also laid ground for me as a designer to set up processes that can go out to sell competition curation as a service and that laid the foundation for the UX of the platform as well.

User Journeys

There were 3 critical user journeys identified before design process could begin - viz. Registrations flow, Submissions flow & Voting flow.

Registration flow

The registration flow (1st critical journey) was directly connected with the revenue and was the most crucial flow in terms of cashflow for the company. The number of registrations were the single north-star metric we tracked as a company for most of my tenure.

Submission flow

The second critical user journey is the submissions flow where participants came back after completing their projects and were the most highly driven segment of users. Only ~40% users made it to this stage because of the sheer effort an original competition entry takes.

The final journey is of the visitor, who is invited by a submitted to vote for their entry project for the people's choice award. Only 10% of users usually invite their friends to vote.

Evolution of Elements

Some snapshots of the design process and evolution of elements in the competition feed, detail and check out pages.

The Content Pipeline

1000's of competition is a far sight someone has never achieved in the industry. The max number of active competitions one has seen on the web is 5-10. The pipeline is a reflection of how complex creative writing and design process was converted into attempts we took as a team in discovering great briefs or what people would like to see.

Standardizing brief curation with rapid idea generation, parametrizing problem statements and tracking its releases.

Standardizing brief document creation for faster delivery.

Teaching other curators on how to write competition briefs after writing these for an entire year.


Ads, email marketing, posters, social media and marketing campaigns created.

Teaching other curators on how to write competition briefs after writing these for an entire year.

Some of the posters, posts and email newsletters we created for architects who were interested in our competitions.

We created 100's of videos for these about 2-3 for each competition. I used to write and edit a lot of these videos along with Smaran and Sashank.

Building Authenticity

Juror search, listing and parternships.

Our journey of finding a network of 1000+ experts for the challenges we've hosted so far. Here.

UNI now a preferred choice for design problems in these universities and 50 more all over the world.

The Product

Final UI and content snapshot. Best briefs and their writeup. Their outcomes and jury panels.

The competition feed

Competition home landing page

Registration flow > Checkout pages

UI elements - Competition detail pages

Competition detail page / Entry card / Leaderboard

Registration popup (Top Left) / Registration entry in profile (Bottom left) / Combined jury pool (Right)

Website showreel with all its powerful features today.

Check this project live on now.


Things that I saw happen during my tenure at UNI. All these numbers were zero the day I joined.

What's next?

With competitions funnel now set, the endeavors went to building other content pockets like publications, profile, blogs, etc. and so on. The competition eventually became the feeder pipeline for all the content outlets we wanted to build on UNI. We also built a dynamic pricing module.