Co-Founder at And/Or Design
Previously the experience designer for Adobe Flash, Milind co-founded And/Or to work on independent projects. A post-graduate in Interaction Design from IIT Bombay, Milind has worked at Adobe, Samsung and Trine Games.
“Ideas come dime a dozen. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that ideas are valuable. It’s everything that comes afterwards that matters.”
What do you do?
I’m an interaction designer. I run a consultancy called And/Or Design in Bangalore that I co-founded with my wife. We do mainly mobile and web based applications design. We also do some branding, illustration and graphic design, when needed in conjunction with the interaction design projects. Although commercially what we do can be described as designing mobile and web based applications, we define our work more as a bridge between a business idea and its execution. We design systems that make sense from the user’s view point, and hence, are of better quality and have a higher chance of quicker success in the market.
Can you tell us about the path you took to get where you are now?
I completed my computer engineering bachelors in 2007 from Nirma University. Then, I completed a masters in Interaction Design from IDC, IIT Bombay in 2009. I worked at Samsung R&D Bangalore for 3 years, where I did a lot of user research based projects in rural India and healthcare. Then, I moved to Adobe Systems, where I handled experience design for Adobe Flash Professional, Edge Animate and Adobe Playpanel. Since the past one year, I’ve been running And/Or Design with Pratibha.
How do you stay up to date with trends in the field of UX and in the industry you are in?
Through a lot of different sources. Believe it or not, Facebook is one of the important ones of them. The best I can describe my process of staying updated is “being online a lot”. I use Digg Reader a lot — I’d been a very dedicated user of Google Reader before it was unceremoniously shut down. A lot of reader apps sprung up at that time — and I think I created an account on almost all of them. Digg Reader was, however, the best one of them all — no frills, no unnecessary bling, just a reader, pure and simple, meant to replace Google Reader. Whenever I have some free time, I go to Digg Reader and catch up on my reading. I have subscribed to all kinds of feeds there which reflect, apart from my profession, my personal interests. Facebook is a good source because, being a designer, I have a lot of friends in the same profession. So at least half of my feed is filled with things these people post which are relevant news for me. Apart from these two, I keep going to Verge, Gizmodo, etc on and off. There’s also Quora, but it is not very good at keeping me updated. It’s actually more of an avenue where I can dig deeper into some news that I came upon elsewhere. I used Twitter for a while but it’s just too overwhelmingly filled with junk for me to cope, so I’ve stopped using it.
Top 5 applications or tools that you use as part of work.
Adobe Illustrator is the main bread and butter for me. Apart from that, I’d say the next most important application is, of course, Google Chrome :). I find myself organizing my Font Book on my Mac a lot, so that’s third. I use Flash Professional for prototyping and animations on and off, so that’s fourth. Lastly, an important part of ideation often for me is a whiteboard, a sketchbook or the Paper app on the iPad — especially since I bought their Pencil to go with it.
What does your workspace look like?
What does your typical day look like? How do you structure it?
This is a very difficult question to answer! A typical work day starts whenever I can sit at my computer and begin working. Usually, that varies between 7 and 9 AM. Mornings are the most productive, and the time till 1 PM lets me achieve a whole lot of work. Lunch break often lasts at least 45 minutes, after which, there are either meetings (or calls) scheduled in the afternoon — usually these are new, potential clients wanting to discuss a project with us. If not, more work hours follow. Evenings almost always are booked by calls — most of our client-syncups are scheduled for evenings. These are usually at 6 or 7 PM and last at least an hour. On a typical day, the end of this call marks the end of the day — which would be around 8 PM. On a stressful day, more work hours might be crammed in after dinner — anywhere between 1 to 3 hours. We have a strict weekly rule of spending 2 hours on every Sunday to plan the entire week.
Why do you do what you do? What makes everything worth it?
I do what I do because I simply love it. I am truly one of those lucky bastards who found a way to make money by doing what they love :). Yes, there are highs and lows, but even when there are lows, it’s the people involved in the work that are usually bringing things down — not the work. Even at its worst, I have still enjoyed the actual work that I did. I like puzzles, problems and logic. There’s a pretty deep misconception that design is all about creativity. It actually depends on what you mean by ‘design’ and if you mean interaction design, it’s as much logic as it is creativity. It’s a perpetual exercise in developing a perspective on a proposition and then following through on it. It has its share of out-of-the-box ideas and all that, but at its core, it’s a profession meant for smart people to be smart. And I like that a lot. When the job description for your work says solving problems, there can never be a dull moment.
There’s a moment in every project when our work, our decisions, our designs get implemented and we get to stand back and watch the wheels turn. It’s like you design a Rube Goldberg machine, set the first ball bearing rolling. Then you stand back and feel the tingle as every single piece falls in place, and the whole thing runs exactly the way you thought it would. That’s the moment when it becomes clear to me that it was all worth it. These moments in my work come when the business owners and users come back to us and congratulate us on our design because it was exactly what they wanted, and they didn’t even know that they wanted it.
What is the greatest piece of advice /wisdom you ever received?
I was once talking to my project guide and professor, Prof Athavankar, at IDC towards the end of my 2 years there. Without going into the context of the conversation (because it is largely irrelevant), to paraphrase what he said to me was this: Ideas come dime a dozen. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking that ideas are valuable. It’s everything that comes afterwards that matters.
This has helped me a lot because it unlocked this weird stamina inside me — no amount of rejection of ideas tires me down anymore. You could reject a 100 solutions I give you, and if you give me a good reason for every rejection, I’ll give you the 101st solution with the same zeal.
What advice would you give to a junior designer or someone aspiring to become a UX Designer?
The above is obviously a really useful piece of advice! Apart from that, there’s one important thing I’d like to say to all the designers fresh out of college right now. Design is about great ideas, sure, but that’s just a small part. More importantly, design is about solving problems, and solving problems involves a lot of listening — be a good listener, understand everything — your user, your stakeholder, your developer. Don’t profess, converse. Don’t be high-handed, don’t be bogged down, be a peer.
Which phone do you use and what are your favorite mobile apps?
I use an iPhone right now. I don’t think I have any favorites in apps as such. One of the apps that I was truly happy to discover was Carousel by Dropbox. I use it to keep my photos backed up and my phone memory free. It’s quite well designed — by that, I mean, it has all the features you’d need and they’re exactly when and where you would need them.
What Indian website/app or service do you think is well designed and why?
I respect Zomato and PayTM in today’s Indian tech-startups or websites or apps or whatever you call it. Both of them have satisfactory design superficially — and that level can be achieved very easily today. What I respect is that, as services and systems, they’re both quite inspiring. Zomato is probably one of the very few Indian startups that has expanded its service so tangibly and effectively beyond the country’s boundaries. I respect PayTM because they seem very alert and aware about their ecosystem and adapt very, very fast to become who they need to be to stay relevant. All of this requires a very tight relationship between business, design and development. That’s why both these services are quite inspiring.
Who would you like to see featured on IndianUX’er?
CEOs of successful startups like Zomato, Ola, PayTM, Flipkart, etc. Their perspective is very valuable for designers. A designer can always have access to more designers talking about design. It’s the business acumen that most designers are slow to acquire and I feel if that process becomes faster, the quality of interaction design in India will improve by leaps and bounds.