Can you explain your design career thus far and how your journey has led you to your current role?
Automotive design was one of the first motivations that got me into the field of design. My inclination towards designing and modeling physical objects lead me to apply and admit to the Bachelor’s program in Industrial Design degree at IIT Guwahati. During the course of four years, I realized that there was an emerging field of interaction and user experience design which interested me more. This was back in 2007 when the first iPhone was launched and an abundance of interactive technology emerged. Learning about the app ecosystem, Microsoft’s Surface Table, and tablets lead me to work on a lot of small fun projects conceptualizing interactive devices.
During the summers, I completed internships that gave me valuable industry experience. I wanted to continue my learning momentum and decided to apply for a master’s program. I got admitted to Carnegie Mellon’s Master of Human-Computer Interaction program which is recognized as one of the best.
I had an amazing learning experience at Carnegie Mellon. I can confidently say that it is one of the most rigorous HCI programs out there. I got to work with Bank of America on a capstone project and that gave me a real-life experience of working as a User Researcher and an Interaction Designer. After graduating, I worked for Kohl’s and Lenovo designing their e-commerce experience for various platforms and currently, I am working at Cisco, leading the design on one of their business communication software products.
What do your day-to-day interactions look like as a UX designer?
My day-to-day interactions are with a lot of stakeholders of the product so mostly my project manager, design manager, designers, and engineers. There are times when I engage with the customers. I work closely with the project managers to understand and build the scope of the project, understand the product challenges, define product features, and understand what our customers want and their difficulties.
My usual workflow involves building concepts and reviewing them with stakeholders. I work part-time with the user testing and the QA folks to make sure that the designs are working well and get ideas on how we can improve over our designs.
What is the value in making digital interactions more accessible and easier to navigate?
The value in improving the flows for a user is that it helps the user to stay focused on the task they want to achieve without having to learn the system or trying to figure out how the product works. We help our end users be more effective in their jobs.
How can companies strive for innovation despite upper management that may create roadblocks due to unfamiliarity with newer technologies?
I think the key to getting the projects working smoothly is communication with upper management. I, along with my team constantly strive to bring clarity to our process. We communicate that with the upper management and prove that the process that we follow delivers value to our product. Getting them involved, communicating with them, aligning them on the business goals and bridging the gap between customer requirements and business requirements helps us to achieve our goals.
How important is prototyping/wireframing when working to design around UX?
Prototyping and wireframing is the core tenet of any UX design process. It allows us to create multiple iterations of a product user experience without having to spend a lot of resources in terms of time and development.
It allows us to explore various methods of how we can make our products useful without having to wait for development to develop the product and then test it in the market. It also allows us to be more flexible and nimble in the product design process.
In your opinion, what is the most impactful principle of UX design?
The most impactful component of user experience design is being closer to the user and being more user-centered. Understanding our user is the most important aspect of user-centered design. Without knowing what kind of user you are building the product for won’t help you achieve your goal. We can create an amazing product but if we don’t know what our users are like and how they use our product than the UX will fail.
What is something that has surprised you since beginning to work in this space?
What has surprised me is the acceptance of the market. Companies have started to realize the importance of user experience, not only in technology but in services. Nowadays you realize how much effort has gone into creating a delightful user experience.
Nowadays, you can hear people using the term “User Experience” quite often when they define the parameters they use to judge any product. Pretend you’re comparing smartwatches, for example, one would say “smartwatch X has a better user experience” and that was something that wasn’t talked about maybe five years ago but now, that is pretty common.
What is a new design trend that has caught your attention in the last year?
Minimal design still is the most apparent design trend for me even in the last year. You can notice this trend not only in the web design but also on the physical device design. For example, the TV remotes these days have lesser buttons. Some Smart TVs are going beyond and not having remote controllers rather you just use your smartphone to control your TV.
The overall theme is to make the systems more intelligent and rely less on the end users to configure or figure out what the best way to use a product is. Going forward, we will continue to use more and more data to design better systems. We will be able to build stronger logic in the product and let the product do the heavy lifting and not the user.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, I’d like to invite you to take a look at some of the other installations in the Design the Future interview series.
Also published on Medium.