It was lucky bumping into Neeta Khanuja (interaction designer, post graduate from National Institute of Design) just a few days before a trip to Ahmedabad, where she’s based. We had been connected on Facebook since a while (thanks to eChai) but the chance conversation allowed a quick meeting and I was blown away by her cheerful presence. Design has always fascinated me in all its applications, and UX/UI had been increasingly relevant to what my work is. In her, I found an expert who is quite modest about her skills & insights. While she laughed away a question with “I do not plan..”, her desire to work on inclusive design in this country (where we still do not care about many a right things) highlights a clear vision. Meet this delightful lady through a short interview.
What does Neeta do?
I am an interaction designer and at Algo Design Studio, we work on User Experience design and User Interface design for screen based interfaces. That involves designing interfaces for web applications, mobile apps, websites and visual communication design for brands.
What made you choose a career in design?
After engineering, I worked as a software professional for an year. As an IT professional, we focused on how to program to execute a particular feature and integrate it in the system, but I wanted to know more about how exactly the decision of what needs to be done comes from. And then I got to know about IT integrated design courses in NID. I was then introduced to design process and what role it plays in products and services.
What is UX & UI design, and how is it relevant? For whom?
Every product/service development starts from identifying a problem/opportunity. That defines the core idea of the project, which is then followed by analyzing it from business perspective. If it really makes sense to invest in the problem or not. Once that is finalized, it is time to find out a solution. All this is done by the client and they prepare a feature listing that works for them and for the business.
It is important for everyone if their intention is to come up with solutions
that people would use, would want to use and would love to use.
- Now the role of UX/UI design begins, where the listing is analysed to understand if it fits in, to what user’s needs. This feature listing is drafted based on a designer’s perspective.
- A designer advocates a user and the client advocates business but then a balance has to be worked out for both these requirements to make a product/service successful.
- Once the feature listing is in place, it is followed by information architecture, low fidelity and high fidelity wireframes.
- Then the final screens are made with required look and feel and pixel perfect interface ready to be used by the developer.
- Also a scope of refining the design based on developer’s feedback has to be considered while coming up with the timeline for the design phase.
This is the UX/UI design process that we follow for screen based applications, and there are some steps like creating storyboards, persona creation and building user scenarios, that are included in the project based on the timeline and scope of the project.
In general UX/UI design is all about knowing the target audience, their requirements, their likes/dislikes, trends they follow, their acceptance to technology, their behavior and their skills, and designing products/services that would work for them.
Tell us about your experiences at NID.
Learning design has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. But one thing that made most of difference is the faculty and mentors I got there. Some great people to learn from and guide me through. I am still in touch with them and seek guidance when needed. Also, NID is a place where you find amazing talent.
NID has been a turning point.
Looking at others work inspires you to do well and NID is full of such inspiration. After NID, during my internship in Experiential Design lab, I got to work with some brilliant people, very accommodating, friendly and inspiring. I have been lucky to always be around people who believed in me and my work and they played an important role in my learning.
What are your thoughts on socially relevant UX design?
One of the aspect of socially relevant UX design would be to design an environment which is barrier free and satisfies the needs to people with special needs and elderly.
Inclusive Design is generally treated as an add on.
It is thought of after the design of a product/service or facility is done, rather then being included in initial steps. I am sure there would be some practical concerns that needs to be taken in account if a space has to be made accessible to people with non-ambulant, semi-ambulant, visual, hearing and cognitive challenges, but that does not make the problem avoidable. I would invite everyone who is interested in learning more about barrier free environment to get in touch so that we can collectively come up with ideas and solutions to deal with this issue.
Your quick advise to students pursuing design courses in college?
I don’t think I am successful enough to advice anyone. But one thing I would like to share with students is, it is okay if you feel your work is not good enough, but it is not okay if you are not getting better. Keep in mind that it is your journey and it is okay if you don’t match steps with people you look up to. If you keep working on yourself and improving, it will lead you where you want to be.
What do you like doing in your free time?
In my free time, I draw, doodle and make illustrations. I have not matured that field to an extent to be called an artist or an illustrator. But making illustrations make me happy and also, there can be nothing wrong in a drawing so there is no stress about right or wrong.
Neeta inspires focus and bubbling joy. When she says “there can be nothing wrong in a drawing”, she also subtly reminds us to be accepting of who we are, the way we are. When she shares her curiosity of knowing how a decision is made, she recommends a certain hunger to go deeper into the experiences we have. She inspires a liberating flight.