I recently had the opportunity to interview Nina Mistry, the co-founder, and chief product officer of Artistic License Creative. She has been connected to the UX filed for more than two decades and my interview goal is to gain insights about what drives this profession today and her understanding of technology within our social realm. Artistic License Creative is a start-up that is driven by social change and innovation through the medium of digital technology. While the company is based in Toronto we met on her recent visit to New York where she shared her views on the UX field and social concerns surrounding it.
I had prepared a set of questions to structure the interview and almost all areas of interest were covered. It started with sharing details about herself and how she landed in the UX field. She is originally from Mumbai, India where she completed her undergraduate education in textile design. She graduated in the year 1999, a year where the internet had landed in most of our households. She believes that it was the internet that helped people become entrepreneurs overnight. “It made the whole world become your market,” says Nina. Her first job was as a designer at a small scale e-commerce company in India. After this, she went on to work with the software development team of interactive television that revolutionized live voting in India. She has also contributed to the design of the Target app and continues worked on many such projects even today.
Nina believes the whole idea of UX truly came to life when Apple launched its iPhone. She believes that the Iphone’s scroll user experience with the pinch and scroll and embedded keyboard scroll were game-changers in the field of technology. This is when design moved beyond its aesthetic principals and become an interactive experience. Her company Artistic License Creative (url in references) emphasizes on delivering content and experience(i.e. ways the content is consumed. Her company collaborates with people and works on projects that are driven by a cause. Whether it’s making documentaries, e-learning platforms websites or mobile applications they are driven by the purpose of making a difference.
Nina believes that it’s her curiosity and love for simplicity that makes her a relevant UX designer today. She thrives on the fulfillment derived by watching users use, react and cherish her designs. “Watching my vision materialize into an experience is the best feeling ever,” says Nina. The field design experience today seems to be divided into two distinct fields the User Research and User Experience field. When asked about this categorization she expressed that the main goal of a designer should seek solutions and there should be no distinct dividing lines in the process. The research process builds curiosity and sets a solid foundation for the design process.
Her research process mainly includes interviews and observations. Nina says “Sony conducted a focus group for their boom box. When asked about the color preference 70% picked black with 30% picked yellow. At the end of the session, participants were given the boom box as a gift for their participation and had to pick it up on their way out. All participants picked the black one. When people are observed they behave differently. It’s usually not what they say.” This relates to McGrath, “Methodology matters” reading which discusses the limitations of research. The article talks about how the limitation of one method can be covered by another and how using more than one research method would help in more realistic insights. For example, Sony’s interview flaw was coved by observing the audience making a realistic choice in person.
Furthermore, her design process is driven by the AGILE method which involves quick sketching, user testing and validation followed by multiple iterations. She says “more than a design process, it’s a co-creating process. It’s not just about user opinions but you think like the user.” We then moved on to discuss any specific experience or innovation that has caught her eye in recent times, she stated that a big influencer to determining this is how ethically the product is made and functions. When further asked about unethical innovations of technology today she discussed the emotional impact of Instagram’s need for maximum likes for validation leading to anxiety to FaceBook’s “fake news” targeted at psychological warfare. This connects to our discussion on Vaidhyanathan’s, “Anti-Social Media” which suggests only a limited online newsfeed for it’s its user. Nina re-iterated Vaidhyanathan’s take on users being oblivious to counterclaims taking away the reality of the situation.
She states Aza Raskin, the creator of the infinite scroll says that he “regrets creating it in the first place.” Elaborating more on the infinite scroll she states the user is targeted with ads and news aimed to change their opinion. And the common user is taken for granted and exploited for their lack of awareness. Nina states Google having all our information from our bank accounts to our heath records is unethical. And stresses that the “I agree to the terms and conditions check-box that people check is the biggest lie, as if you read the terms you would probably not agree.” This again connects to Shoshana Zuboff’s “surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization” which discusses our lack of privacy as a price we pay or collateral damage for using technology.
When asked about threats associated with design in the future Nina mentioned that the biggest threat with artificial intelligence and machine learning replacing human jobs. What kind of jobs would humans do it machines do most of what we do today? How will we adapt to this change? Would third world countries even have the infrastructure to adapt? She predicts that there will come a time where there will be no jobs leading eventually leading to an economic setback.
To conclude, speaking to Nina was a great way to validate all our class discussions associated with technology and social concerns. Nina was open and thrilled to answer all the questions. She made it a fun discussion where we both were sharing our views and adding on to each other’s arguments. Overall, she concluded with saying as a young aspiring design professional one should always have the wonder and curiosity along with seeking ethical solutions. “Be less motivated by monetary gains and more motivated by social good.” She concluded.
- Vaidhyanathan, Siva. Antisocial media: How Facebook disconnects us and undermines democracy. Oxford University Press, 2018.
- Zuboff, Shoshana. “Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization.” Journal of Information Technology 30, no. 1 (2015): 75-89.
- McGrath, Joseph E. “Methodology matters: Doing research in the behavioral and social sciences.” In Readings in Human–Computer Interaction, pp. 152-169. Morgan Kaufmann, 1995
- Artistic License Creative. Accessed November 19, 2019. https://artisticlicensecreative.com/.