Discussion with the Designer: Tete a tete with Shama Rasal

Discussion with the Designer: Tete a tete with Shama Rasal

Manasa Pisipati | Feb 05, 2018

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A woman with a passion for design and UX, Shama Rasal was one of the guest speakers in Roots, 2018. Currently, working for Springboard and Google as a mentor, Shama Rasal’s journey in her career as a designer is nothing short of exciting. Team Monday Morning caught up with her to understand more about her path less travelled and all the difference that it has made.

Monday Morning(MM): How was your childhood and how did it influence your passion for design?

Shama Rasal(SR): My childhood was extremely liberal and I was never told what I should do. I believe that since design is about bringing your sense and sensibility into the product, hence my democratic childhood allowed me to build myself as an individual.

Many times, when children are restricted or continuously told what to do, they end up losing their individuality but this was never the case in my life.

Unless I would ask for advice, my parents never forced me to think in a specific manner. Hence, I understood myself and my interests very well.

MM: Why did you choose to do your undergraduate studies in Computer Science Engineering and how did you realise your passion for design?

SR: When I was looking for career options before college, I knew that the typical degrees like engineering and medicine were not meant for me. But, at that time my parents and I had an informal agreement that I would do my Bachelors in Engineering and would then be allowed to do anything of my choice. That is how Engineering happened to me.

I had attempted JEE mains twice and did not do too well in it even once. On the other hand, with far less preparation, I happened to excel in CEED (Common Entrance Exam for Design) and ended up with an All India Rank of 12. In retrospect, I think I am a creative person and I would have enjoyed any fields related to creativity but for some reason, I decided to do designing.

MM: How was your experience doing Masters in Design from IIT Bombay?

SR: It was superb. But the journey was not easy at all. Before entering a lead institute, you are the best where you are. But once you enter the league, you are one among many. Adjusting to such a change is a huge mental battle. Apart from that, all I had in my portfolio were a few paintings from my childhood. and now I was competing with people who had their own architectural firms already!

Now when I look back, I feel like it was very brave but back then, every day when I decided that I should not quit and drag myself to the finish line, built me as a person and made me ready for the professional struggle.

MM: Do you think engineering enhances or destroys a person’s creative ability?

SR: I will say that engineering does neither. I believe that they are two completely separate spheres that can be used together if needed. The issue though, is that engineering is not taught correctly. As a result, students do not understand the beauty and true potential of engineering. This way, they tend to lose interest in the subject and lose their ability to think innovatively.

MM: What are the biggest challenges that designers face today and as a designer, where do you take inspiration for good designs from?

SR: I believe that design is not very well understood and people do not know how to utilise designers very well. This is currently an omnipresent problem. The reason could be because the design field is nascent and drastically evolving. It is in the process of evolution and is not mature enough to have guiding standards in place.

At one point in time, I was very inspired by nature. But, now I derive more inspiration from human psychology than anything else. You see, some of the principles with which our brains work are pretty universal. So, at this point in time, I believe that a design which is long-standing and has a sense of universality to it will always be inspired by human psychology.

MM: Considering the growing popularity of intelligent systems, how do you think it will change the current scenario of product designs?

SR: In the future, I think the machines will become more invisible because everyday objects will become more intelligent. There will be no evident distinction between a machine and an object which we use in our day-to-day lives. The designs will, therefore, become very sophisticated and efficient.

MM: A huge population in India is still illiterate. So how should designs be made in order to make them more user-friendly for such people?

SR: My graduation project in IIT Bombay was ‘Design for illiterates’. What I learnt from there was the fact that it is probably very unwise to think that we need special designs for illiterate people. I think a design should be so intuitive and ubiquitous that it should serve all kinds of people. India is a very ‘Functionally Literate’ country in the sense that people tend to learn as much as is required for them. So, if an illiterate person needs to use an app, he/she will learn to use it.

MM: How was your experience at Roots in NIT Rourkela?

SR: I never got the chance to go back to my college since my graduation. But, coming here reminded me of my academic days and I felt like visiting my college. Apart from that, I think the crowd here was very interactive which is really important for all speakers. I had done some homework regarding what talk would be most applicable to the students in this college and it makes me happy that my hard work paid off too. Also, the campus is simply amazing!

MM: Since you are a counsellor too, what is your advice to students about choosing careers and your message to design enthusiasts?

SR: The primary advice that I gave in my talk which I would like to emphasise again is the fact that,

Do not choose a career for money, because its hep or because someone else did it.

Make sure that whatever you choose is for all the right reasons and stick by your choice. We need more designers. I think India is still a design illiterate country even though we have very creative people with design sensibilities.I hope more number of youngsters are design sensitised because the design sector has huge potential to help in the development of a country.

Team MM congratulates Shama Rasal on taking up the path less trodden, and is grateful to her for sharing her knowledge with the budding UX designers of NITR and wishes her the best of luck in all her future endeavours.

Picture Credits: Team ROOTS 2K18


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