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Product Design Expert on What Makes UX Work

Kaushik Macharla is a true techie, in every sense of the word. He has spent his illustrious career thus far zeroing in on Product Design and UX Design.

Right now, he’s designing financial analysis tools with Facebook. Additionally, he’s put the time in with Microsoft and Google, in various aspects and iterations of Product Design

He’s been around the block and has picked up many invaluable lessons along the way. We were fortunate enough to conduct a brief interview with Macharla to help glean and share some of those lessons.

So, without further ado, please enjoy our conversation with Michaela and his many words of wisdom.

How did you know that you wanted to begin a career in Product Design?

Macharla: I was always interested in the world of technology, but there was something about the design field that appealed to me more than any other area of the industry. I enjoyed the amount of creativity that was involved, the type of thought processes I was able to use, and the ability to work together as a team with other creative people.

Looking back on my past experiences, I’d say it’s coming up with a successful design with like-minded individuals that makes the design field so appealing. This comes with a feeling of accomplishment in creating a product that is so much greater than any one of the individual components involved. It’s a feeling of solving a problem for consumers that also works toward the greater good.

Which current brands do you think do a good job of putting design first?

Macharla: Wow, that’s a difficult question to answer. I think the world of design has evolved so much over the past few years and there are so many brands that have been able to take advantage of this to make terrific products.

If I had to limit it to just a few, I’d say the glass Coca-Cola bottle stands out, which is funny to me because this bottle predates a lot of technological updates, but it withstands the test of time. Its contoured neck makes it easy to handle, and, not many people know this, but it’s fashioned after the cocoa pod. The best thing is that it’s so recognizable. I mean, as soon as you see the bottle, you know its Coca-Cola.

The Dyson cyclone vacuum is another. That design was inspired by an industrial cyclone system in a sawmill and it has really changed the face of appliance products.

And when it comes to web design, I’d have to give a shout out to Airbnb. It’s easy to use and it offers smart features that make the user experience exceptionally convenient.

What improvements can social media sites make to ensure that users can distinguish misinformation?

Macharla: Good question. There’s a lot of misinformation on the web and I know a lot of users get caught up in it, and it can cause a lot of confusion in the long run.

What the sites need to do is employ more fact checkers to stop the misinformation from reaching the web. Once it gets out there, there’s not much we can do except to do our best to alert each other about evidence of misinformation that could be damaging in a number of ways.

Do you think that apps, in particular, are becoming better designed in general?

Macharla: Yes, definitely. Technology is increasingly mobile-based and that’s why we are seeing a lot of improvements as far as apps go.

As technology continues to expand, apps are becoming more comprehensive. There are improved smart features that are allowing for a more human approach and taking personal preferences and needs into account. The experience is easier and more convenient overall.

How are you able to keep track of contemporary design trends?

Macharla: As a designer, it’s part of my job to stay on top of contemporary design trends and the key is to keep exploring and never stop learning. Obviously, just doing my job helps me to stay current. I work with people who, like myself, are passionate about design and I often learn about new trends just by bouncing ideas off them.

There are also a number of magazines, newsletters, and websites I subscribe to that have updated information on the latest trends.

If there’s a design that I find especially captivating, I will study it to figure out what’s behind it and what type of applications that designer used to achieve his or her goals.

What do you think are your greatest strengths as a designer? Are these skills that you developed over time?

Macharla: There are certain skill sets involved in being a designer, and I often say that it’s not a job for everyone. You need to have the ability to think in the abstract, to put yourself in other people’s shoes, to work well with others, and to brainstorm and come up with ideas under pressure. I think to a certain extent, designers should be born with these skills, although they will definitely develop over time.

As for myself, I don’t like to toot my own horn, but obviously, if I didn’t have these skills, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have worked with so many great companies.

How would you explain what UX is for people who might not already know?

Macharla: UX is user experience, and it’s just that: an experience. The best way to explain an experience is to have someone experience it. If a person didn’t know what UX was, I’d put them on a computer and show them.

Do you think that the growth of the startup culture has had a positive influence on the technology sector?

Macharla: The growth of startup culture and the technology sector are mutually reliant on each other. The growth of technology has allowed for more startups, and as startups continue to evolve, technology grows as well.

So yes, I think that the growth of startup culture has had a positive influence on the technology sector, but I also think the technology sector has had a positive influence on startup culture.

What advice do you have for young Product Designers and Graphic Designers trying to get more involved in the tech world?

Macharla: Wow, I could probably write an entire article on this alone!

Product and Graphic Designers already have a lot of the skills they need, as far as out of the box thinking, collaboration, and empathy. From there, it’s just a matter of practical learning to find out more about the specific area they want to specialize in.

Even in the world of technology, there are so many different subsets. Do they want to do web design, create apps, design products that have smart features that will make people’s lives more convenient? Once they figure out what niche they want to specialize in, I advise they take classes or even do internships or apprenticeships to learn more about their desired fields.

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I'm a long time fan of tech innovation, especially its capacity to cross over into the realms of art and social justice. The paradigms are constantly changing, and we need to change with them.

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