Gaurav Bradoo: No black turtlenecks required
ID alum Gaurav Bradoo (MDes 2016) discusses humility, kindness, and how design can and should permeate the entire enterprise in an interview with Kristin Gecan.
From electrical engineer, to management consultant, to product manager
1. How did you find your way to ID?
I was born in India, brought up in the Middle East, and went to New Zealand for college. I majored in electrical engineering and worked in that field for three years, doing electrical building services design—lighting and power for large-scale, complex buildings. Then I worked in management consulting for a few years. I loved many aspects of these roles, but I realized that I wanted to work more closely with end users and combine that with my passion for consumer electronics.
So I looked into business schools as a way to transition into the industry—that seemed like the more traditional route to take. But then I decided I needed to step back and get into a creation state. I began to consider career and educational opportunities where I could learn about human-centeredness in a more fundamental way.
I started to look at design schools that were geared toward non-designers, and ID was at the top of that list. But what really sealed the deal for me was when I visited ID in 2012 and by happenstance met Marty Thaler. I was blown away by how humble Marty was, how passionate he was, and how willing he was to help me out. I wanted to see how I could be more like that. This was all especially inspiring, considering the common perception of designers—that they’re driven by ego. The conversation at ID was strikingly ego-less. So I ended up auditing a class and thinking, all the while, this is perfect, this is where I want to be. This is the type of design I want to do. This is the type of designer I want to be—no black turtlenecks required.
So I decided to apply at the end of that year. I remember the day that I got in. At the end of the day, Chicago time, and I had nothing. An hour later, I got the email. Dear Gaurav… I was mentally preparing for rejection. My sister was with me, and she convinced me that I should actually read the email. When I found out that I was admitted I literally did a happy dance.
I started at ID in August 2013.
The ID experience
2. What was your experience at ID like?
Foundation, my first year, was everything I needed to have the skills and language to talk to any designer. After that, you’re no longer afraid to design—the tools are no longer inhibitors.
Then we got into higher level thinking; the strategy, the implementation, the analysis and synthesis. I focused to make sure I took every single design course with Marty, a lot of digital courses as well and the rest were all courses that I felt I needed so that I could get the sort of work that I wanted.
I still religiously use my course materials.
3. Did you participate in recruitID?
I did recruitID twice in person. The first time was when I’d been here for literally two months. A lot of the conversations I had at that time were connected to my management consulting background and lined up with design consulting. The second was in spring 2014 when I spoke to Moment Design and Logitech.
That year I decided I wanted to focus on UX and Moment was kind enough to have me as an intern. I had just come out of a semester of fundamentals of digital design, and then I got to practice it right away at Moment. It didn’t feel like it was simply an internship; I really felt like I was contributing. The phenomenal experience sealed for me a practical understanding of user-centered UX design.
A year later I went out to Logitech for my second internship. I knew I wanted to be in the Bay area after this. Through that internship, I met so many people—including my current boss.
4. What are some lasting lessons that you learned?
ID showed me that people who are masters at what they do are also kind. I no longer had this notion of titles, of seniority. You either have an idea or you don’t.
You learn every interaction is a prototype. Everything that I do since ID is an iteration. I don’t just apply prototyping to physical or digital products, I think, ok, this meeting was good, how can I use this learning for next time? Emails—I will think through, then tweak the next time around according to the response or feedback that I get. That notion that I can prototype every single thing in life, that it doesn’t just apply to certain things, that you’re always improving—the visceral understanding of that has been critical. Then prototyping becomes muscle memory, you’re always doing it.
A kindness in practice was something that I felt here at ID, it’s in the DNA of this place. And it’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a point of view or stance, or that conflict doesn’t arise. It’s just that it can be done in a constructive way—a way that’s not look at me in this turtleneck.
5. What’s different about ID?
People would ask me, why are you paying rent? You live there [at ID]. ID was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But no one was telling us to be here, we were here because we wanted to keep working, keep learning. I wanted to have to work hard every single day and see that there was improvement along the way and ID gave me that.
ID demystified design. It was no longer this mystical black box. ID looks at design as something that can be taught and learned by anyone.
We did as much learning about the theory of design as the practice of design. The faculty here are rock stars in their fields. And I was able to form close bonds with many of them.
And finally, there’s this bond I have with my classmates. I ended up thinking of most if not all of them as family. You love them, you hate them, you don’t want to talk to some of them, but you know they have your back and you have theirs. We had a rule—no one left behind. If even just one of us was still working, somebody would stay until they were done.
The MDes outcome
6. Can you talk about some of the most rewarding moments of your career thus far?
When I see customers are happy and satisfied with the product that we’ve made, when I read a review or listen to a customer talk about how what I’ve helped create solves a problem for them—that for me is the highest level of satisfaction.
On the internal team side, I feel happiest when we overcome a hard concept, something that we’ve been struggling with—when we collectively come up with something that everyone feels proud of.
What's next for design
7. How do you see the role of design changing?
Our leadership at Logitech has demonstrated support for design as a function and within the broader company. Everyone is designing within my team; it’s imbued within the company culture. And that means that we not only have a world-class design team that designs amazing products, but that design is in everything that we do. This is shaping my view on design.
This notion of having designers who are functionally designers—the makers of the objects or experiences—that will always exist. You need people who are masters of that. However, some of the best masters of design, in terms of people who I respect, are the ones who can step outside of just thinking of their work as being the production of the item. They are the ones who can step in and say, I understand why this can’t be made this way. Designers who give to the other functions are the best ones to work with. It’s not about them, it’s always about the person they are designing for, not relenting when it doesn’t make sense, and challenging the other fields to push harder.
But then design should also be integrated into every aspect of the organization. The iteration, the thinking, the ability to expand beyond your own known biases and come back in looking at the needs of people—that should be inculcated into every role. Embedding that thinking into each role is critical in the future.