They say necessity is the mother of invention, and, in the life of User Experience architect Bapu Kaladhar, it was his mother’s necessity that propelled him in the direction of taking up product design and user experience as a profession.
“When I was a child, I saw my mother struggle to lift a gas cylinder to know whether it was empty or full. That was when I realised that it was a badly designed product and there was no way of knowing the level of gas without lifting it,” explains Bapu Kaladhar, who later studied Industrial Design at IIT-Bombay before embarking on a journey centred around making products usable.
While UX (User Experience) is usually thought of as something that pertains only to digital products, according to Kaladhar, it’s not restricted to just software.
“Every product that an individual uses has a user experience towards it. And while so much thought and effort go into designing software that provides an intuitive usage, it isn’t done usually in the case of our common objects. Take a TV remote or an electrical switchboard for example; there’s no human factor involved in their design as the user is expected to specifically remember the action of the buttons or switches,” he says.
“In fact, most of the time, we unconsciously feel that it is our fault and we are unable to effectively use a product while it is a major design flaw. When many products are designed, only their purpose is taken into consideration with little focus on the usability of it,” he adds.
In an attempt to ensure the involvement of human factor in product design and to raise awareness towards bad design, Kaladhar started UsabilityMatters.Org, a platform that showcases bad designs and conducts competitions for people to call out bad designs in products that they use on a daily basis. In its 15th year now, the organisation is planning a conference in Hyderabad later this year.
“We plan on involving many engineering students in this, as students are very creative. If we give them just the right push and enable them, they can come up with brilliant designs,” he explains.
Kaladhar also aims to promote design as a far bigger career option than what it is just perceived as now.
“People just see design as something related to art or drawing. You just draw something and it’s done, but, it is way bigger than that. Literally, every product that one uses has various aspects of design that go into it. The chairs that we sit on, one just can’t draw a beautiful chair and fabricate it as it has to be comfortable too. Now, the other aspects of design come into play here,” says the man who is also an avid caricaturist.