In conversation with Pragati Kapur, Assistant Manager- Design Research and Strategy at LG Electronics
Can you tell us a bit about your professional & academic background? What brought you to this field?
I am an industrial designer by profession, an alumnus of the Industrial Design Centre, IIT- Bombay and completed my undergraduate studies in architecture.
In my 4.5 years of professional experience, my work portfolio ranges from exhibition to lifestyle products, packaging, consumer products, some independent design work. Currently I am working as a design researcher & strategist.
I discovered the concept and existence of design at an early age due to my sister being in the same profession and ever since have wanted to do just that, so I went after it.
What are the most important principles an Industrial designer needs to keep in mind in order to be successful?
Like any other field there’s no fixed formula for success. It’s a combination of varied factors and one’s path may not necessarily work for other.
Technically, a few things like, in depth understanding of design driven innovation, a grasp of user empathy and keeping them at the center of the entire process are a few things one needs to acquaint oneself well with.
In this field, emotion, instinct, intuitiveness do have more space than pure logic and linear reasoning, but that too requires a lot of in depth work and of course one can’t be compromised for the other.
Other than that, one should just be well aware about the industry, keep updating the skills, like one has to do in any other field.
For people thinking of getting into this field, I’d say, one shouldn’t get into it just because of the ‘different’ factor, because it is quite a bit of hard work, contrary to popular belief, so rather I’d say don’t get into it unless you’d die if you didn’t.
Also, an honest, sincere and serious assessment about one’s professional ability as a creative individual and as a maker is important.
What kind of products do you work on?
The projects I work on are mostly in the domain of consumer durables, electronics and home appliances. I work with the research and strategy team for developing new ideas and products for the Indian market.How do you incorporate usability into the design and testing process?
Usability has to be in the DNA of any project, because what do you do with a product you can’t use? It is an important and a very big factor in taking a brief to a positive & definitive conclusion.
Usability is incorporated at each and every step during the design process. There is no specific method for it, it’s just an inherent part of the whole process, and it’s like your subconscious, always at the back of the mind at every step. With usability testing, it’s about, well what does one do if the product fails in appeal to the user or technical glitches like breakage before time or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do? Of course there’s a lot more to it, but yes we try to cover all the usability aspects from design & engineering perspectives because although it doesn’t always happen with any product but we really aim at creating successful & useful products every single time, irrespective.
What other roles in your company do you collaborate with on a regular basis?
To be a fairly good designer one has to get a grip about and be involved in all aspects of the organization of which design is just a small part. My role goes beyond just designing the physical appearance of products. We need to look at the product’s viability in the market; researching trends and bench marking products of other companies, so we need to work with various stakeholders like marketing team, production team and of course partly with the management team and so on.
Then begins the actual design phase which involves ideation, sketching, rendering, and then moving into the development phase. Source- UX booth
Why should a company invest in user research? What are some common mistakes that companies make while approaching research?
The design process begins with finding the need to be addressed and research helps to do that. If you don’t invest in research, you won’t have relevant products. User research plays an extremely vital role in the process of design.
It is absolutely necessary for all design firms to invest in design research and it should be made a practice to incorporate it in all projects.
Projects that adopt user research practices are more likely to come up with successful products than the ones which don’t. Common mistakes that companies make while approaching projects is that they do not take the role of research in innovation seriously and hence fail in ending up with strategically successful and conceivable products.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your work, your current role, or design research in general?
Design as a profession is very explorative, fascinating and fulfilling but at the same time is a very challenging field with comparatively minimal returns. It’s much more hard work than it sounds and there’s very little glamour in it. Thankfully my current role is a well-balanced one where I get to explore quite a few facets within research and innovation space so that’s pretty exciting.
Some more Matter for your Grey Cells
- “A Product Manager is expected to drive different sets of people towards a common goal”, says Sagar Megharaj, Ex Product Manager, TaxiForSure
- “Be the ‘friendly monster’ but when required, put your foot down”, says Rajarshi Ray, UX Designer, Microsoft IDC
- “Practice Design Thinking and work with users and their real pain points”, says Richa Sehgal, User Experience Designer, IBM
- “Relying entirely on gut-feel and intuition can’t take a startup too far”, says Prasant Bhattacharji, Data Scientist & Product Planner, HackerRank
- “People have understood the power of design, especially when it involves the users directly”, says Sudhindra V, Experience Design Director, Sapient