UXINDIA 2016: Design Education and Skills in India


On the eve of UXINDIA 2016, India’s largest international conference on User Experience Design, we are happy to feature a Skill Talk by Kaladhar Bapu, Strategy and Chair for the event. The conference is into its 11th year and Bapu has been instrumental in creating awareness and educating the industry, academia and students about the value of User Experience Design through his non-profit UsabilityMatters.Org and several other pioneering initiatives in Design Leadership. Let’s read on to know more about how Design impacts everything we do.

Design can make or break your product and service!

Design is critical to whatever we are producing – it could be a software product, a mobile app or any physical product that we use everyday. Design is the interface through which the user interacts with the product. It creates the first impression. So, imagine if this is not user-friendly, your product cannot create the desired impact for users and your business. Hence, it’s a basic necessity that we think about design and do it rightly.

Design education in India

When you compare the ratio between Design Schools and Engineering Colleges it is just about 1:1000. This show how little we think about Design and how lopsided our education system is! We don’t believe that we can design, create and innovate, rather we are more focused on supplying software developers to the global industry. We’ve positioned ourselves as implementors of design rather than being designers. So, our innate capabilities haven’t been identified and nurtured in terms of what we can design.

This is where we need more evangelizing and awareness to build a case for Design Thinking through formal and informal education. One of them could be the private-public partnership (PPP) model where the industry and academic collaborate on grassroots level projects. We have done this through UsabilityMatters.org, a non-profit that has been working in User Experience (UX) space for 11 years now. Our focus is to share knowledge and expertise in order to educate people and engage them in the design process. When we are able to convince them, there’s a positive response as they get to see the results of good design. We’ve conducted several workshops and industry-academia exchange sessions that has brought together UX practitioners, thought leaders and business leaders.

uxindia-2016Catch them young

It’s very important for design education to be an integral part of the school curriculum. We also need to train the teachers about the perception of design and what it means. We need to tell them that design is not a pattern on a piece of cloth or an artwork or craft. They need initiation into Design Thinking and career options and professional opportunities in this field. And, it’s quite a daunting task to bring about this change in the mindsets of parents who push their kids into the Engineering stream without exploring other course and careers. This is a change that will take time, but we have to make a beginning.

Design skills and process

The general perception of design is something we get to see in the form of a product interface or an output. But we need to remember that this is just one aspect of the entire process. Design involves skills to think, reflect and solve a problem. It’s as simple as that! The process of design has three major steps.

Research skills: This is when you identify the problem with an existing product or a service, or look into the pain points of the users of prospective products. Then, you need to explore what are the ways to improve the user experience. This can never be an afterthought; it has to be taken up proactively and built into different stages of product design and development.

Conceptualization skills: Your ability to conceptualize and design comes next. Now that you have all the points from your research and analysis, you get down to create a concept and visualize it. You need to explore different approaches and come up with alternatives before you decide on what could be the most helpful and user-friendly concept.

Execution skills: Your conceptualization process should end in a prototype and this should be executed well by taking care of all the requirements. In other words, you are not ready to implement your design through multiple iterations and reviews till you get it right.

Ways to promote Design Thinking

I’d like to reiterate that Design Thinking needs to be promoted at the grassroots level. We need to realize our potential through systematic interventions in facilitating improved user experience. Remember, how as children, we always came up with creative ideas and solutions. We never thought twice before sharing our ideas and never hesitated to show our creativity. This is because our schooling and parenting hadn’t interfered with our creativity. As we grow up, we become more conscious of our surroundings, environment and our urge to meeting social and parental expectations. And the social pressure to conform with the dominant ideas makes us even more slavish to the prescribed curriculum. So we need to create the right environment and give space to hone creative and problem solving skills. It is the creative interpretation that brings alternative solutions to problems and pain points of users. The challenge is to overcome predefined constraints.

We need to tell people how UX Design touches our daily lives. This can be triggered off through workshops, books, talks, presentations, mentoring using different media, particularly digital medium. When people are convinced about the value of design in our daily lives, it is easy to spread the message.

About UXINDIA 2016

Our mission is convey the message that UX Design is a necessity and an imperative and it’s not a choice. And, to a large extent, we’ve been able to successfully drive this message in the business and academic communities. Throughout the years, we’ve been consistently creating awareness about how every person involved in the process of product development should own different stages of design. The workshops have played a big role in changing perceptions and making people at management level appreciate design. Of course, initially, it was difficult to spread the message and we had to struggle for several years to bring people to this forum. Now they come on their own; the response is overwhelming. People are excited about sharing their design stories; experiences and how they’ve impact lives. Over the years we’ve built an international community and this event too has a range of speakers and participants from different parts of the globe.

Business leaders have seen for themselves how design focus and inputs have improved their products and services and enhanced the value. Moreover, they have also realized tangible business results as Design Thinking has contributed to process efficiency, reduction of wastage and smart utilization of resources.

So, this year, we look forward to spreading the positive impact as we bring more and more people into the Design fold and reach more milestones.

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