“People have understood the power of design, especially when it involves the users directly”, says Sudhindra V, Experience Design Director, Sapient

In conversation with Mr. Sudhindra V, Experience Design Director. Digital Experiences Strategist, Sapient

Could you please tell us a bit about your background and your role in your current organization?

sudhindraI have been in the world of User Experiences for a while now – 17 years to be precise. And have loved every minute of it because design removes monotony and routine of a job. And you feel responsible to do something that no one has ever done before.

In my organization, Sapient, I lead the Experience Design practice in India. My role is to ensure quality and standards of the designs are world class and award winning. Besides, I am responsible for hiring the right talent and providing them with necessary training and opportunities to enable their potential. I also work closely with clients to define experience strategy and vision for their organization, help them navigate the much-misunderstood world of digital and act as their point of contact for anything creative.

How has your previous work prepared you for what you do now?

Each and every job prepares you for the next. One’s career needs close attention and design thinking helps realize the potential and take it a long way ahead. And also it’s important that one has a holistic view and is absolutely honest with oneself of what is needed to grow in their career.

I had learnt the importance of consistency and standards in my work at Emirates that stood me in good stead when I worked for a large client in HFI. HFI taught me the processes and their importance, which is a great learning to have. Initially in my career, working extensively with the technology teams helped me pull off designs that were not only creative but that could also be developed.

I see each of these as stepping stones that one has to climb to be on the step one is at a given point in time.

How do you think your work has changed from early in your career till now?

It has changed quite dramatically. When I started out, design was more of an after-thought. The world I worked in was ruled by technologists and a lot of them were good in their work. But the general feeling was that design was at best a beautiful cover and at worst, an overhead. Gradually, people understood the power of design, especially when it involved the users directly in the process. Designers were able to convincingly establish the business value it generated and that kind of generated a lot of buzz.

Because of this, early on, I had to deal with several set of skeptics, each one with a view on the design. It was left to the technologist with the loudest voice to judge the quality of design and that proved counter-productive.  Because of the way design was perceived, it was not accorded the right amount of time or effort.

But now there is a lot more understanding of the value that design provides. So clients listen to designers, provide weightage when the work requires higher level of effort. There are bigger design teams today and most importantly, the designer has a say in the decision making and a seat on the table. You can see a lot more C level executives with the titles of Chief Design Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, and Chief Experience Officer etc. that allude to the importance it now commands.

What are the different tools that you use for designing?

We use InDesign and Axure a lot for designing. They are packaged into design deliverables either in illustrator or PowerPoint. Adobe Photoshop helps visual designers create awesome graphics. Newer tools such as Muse help in creating new age styles such as parallax effects.

Innovation is a very widely used term now a days- what does it mean to you?

Innovation is a widely used and often widely abused term. As one design leader remarked, when they say innovation today, they actually mean design. Because design, design thinking and the expansive nature of it really aims to push the boundaries of the known world, so it is nothing but innovation.

For me it’s important that-

  1. Every single product/project/system attempts to break an existing boundary, however small and
  2. Provide a meaning hitherto not explored to the people who use them.

I believe we owe the people even better ways and means of experiencing their worlds through the products and systems we create.

How can someone maximize their learning at a UI/UX design workshop?

These workshops serve as a networking opportunity with peers – so informal groups and clubs can be a wonderful platform to share their designs and learn from each other. Also for a keen observer, the workshops provide a glimpse of how the world is today and what are the things they need to watch out for in the future. More interactive they are, the more they gain.

What has been your most satisfying project to date?

All my projects are dear to me. But the project I worked on for Citi Innovation Labs in Singapore – which won the most innovative project of the year award – was special simply because it was a domain none of us had any expertise on.

Financial applications have great ability in number crunching and technology but their front end and the ability to pack pleasure with performance has been lacking. This project attempted to bridge that gap and create something that was unimaginable in a financial space.

The multi touch digital wall, all of 132 inches, gave us unique challenges in interaction design. Additionally, the visibility it had from Citi, upto the board there, added enormous expectations to this project. All in all, to come out of this while creating something special was a truly remarkable feat achieved by the team.citibank financial wall

What ‘rule of thumb’ would you give to young designers who want to work in design?

Be true to yourself. Develop your personality along with your design skills. Because the quality of thought in creating design is as important as quality of communicating that thought. Design is about creating a world much before it exists so it’s a responsible job and at the same time, highly fulfilling.

About Sudhindra

Sudhindra is a Certified Usability Analyst, with over 15 years in various roles and capacities architecting User Interfaces. He leads the Experience Design for Sapient Nitro in India and is responsible for client delivery and standards. 

At his previous organizations, he has conducted trainings on User Experience and is also a regular speaker at local conferences and events. He has authored many articles and stories that have appeared in the recently published book “UX Story Tellers” as well as local newspapers. As a volunteer, he heads the Asia region of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) and is a prominent activist in the Bangalore UX scene, having been one of the core organizers of World Usability Day events in the past years.

He is an advocate of Emotional Design and is passionate about aesthetics and usability. His interests include exploring and developing interfaces that shape behavior and habits and that enhance the quality of everyday life.