Data & Design - It’s a Match!
[Scroll down for transcript of the episode]
Rasagy Sharma is an Information Designer with a focus on making data-heavy products easier & engaging to use. Rasagy was amongst the first batches at BITS Goa, where he did engineering in computer science. He went on to do a Masters in Information and Interface Design from NID. For the last decade, he has worked at the intersection of data & design. He has worked as a designer at multiple places — leading design at Gramener, consulting at Barclays, Microsoft, Mapbox. He is currently a Product Designer at Sundial. I love his attention to detail, his clarity of thought and his communication. We discuss a range of topics including getting started with designing, products that Rasagy likes (and doesn’t), the importance of diversity in the design community, the “engineering mindset” and lessons he’s learnt along the way. Listen in to our full conversation!
Going back to the drawing board
A common pitfall engineers are prone to while designing products — assuming everything wrong with the world can be solved with tech, be it climate change, poverty or sexism!
If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Solutionism as a way of thinking is the biggest trap engineers fall into. The urge to build things takes time away from brainstorming on the why and how. We need to think more about the problem, the people, culture and ethics. The issue of not thinking about who is solving for whom is magnified especially given the builders are typically educated, urban, upper-middle-class, men.
Tech does not have to be the only way to solve all problems.
The second pitfall engineers tend to fall into is being limited by the tool. Good engineers try to go deeper into the problem without thinking of the platform and framework, and think from the first principles.
Dimensions of designing: form and function
Design is as much about analytical thinking, problem solving and system thinking as it is about everything visual and aesthetic.
As a designer, it is important to have good taste, whether or not you’re working on the graphics side.
As someone working on the analytical side, he has often noticed it is easier to improve the visual craft, once the functionality is hit right.
Finding the fuel
Rasagy emphasises on the importance of doing things outside of the day job.
Side projects often give the freedom to learn different things, feel a sense of purpose by working on ideas you closely associate with, and fuel in terms of creativity.
A project of his that I’ve loved — world wisdom map — which he worked on during covid, brought together stories of hope, inspiration and wisdom from across the world beautifully.
The design community is very welcoming, which helped him get started with getting started, so he feels a sense of belonging and responsibility to give back.
How do you look at success?
He continues to be able to seek a balance between different activities, which partly comes from consciously choosing the race you want to be a part of and being aware that you have a choice.