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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Nazim Iqbal, Founder of HUDE Studio

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Nazim Iqbal : During my journey of 20 years in the digital industry - I have seen the digital evolve from the days digital footprint used to be just a bundle of scrambled HTML pages to a time when digital now powers every process of the organisation functioning and every touch point of its customers.

Along the journey I have, for long, felt a silent human disconnect that has crept in with increasing digitisation of processes and business functions. Increasing automation has ensured standardisation, availability of data points, and an improved revenue for businesses. But for the users and for the organizations as well increasing automation has meant less and less human interaction. For most organisations, digitisation and digital transformation has meant more and more adoption of technology. But for technology to be successful, design is central to make it usable and to add an experience layer to it. Without these two, technology with increasing digitisation will continue to deliver greater cognitive load to the users. I call it the “Digital Debt” and the organisations will be forced to pay it back sometime in near future. Digital till now has ridden on the technology crest without putting mindscape to the ‘digital debt’ that it is creating by delivering technology that demands more and more from users to remain relevant.

But if you look at it, digital is no longer limited to the fulfilment of functional needs of users. The users subconsciously expect, during their interaction that apart from fulfilment of their functional needs, the digital interface and interaction should respond to their emotional needs as well. This is a latent need, but as digitisation increases further, the emotional needs will evolve to become a key set of needs that digital will be asked to fulfil. I am increasingly noticing this among the users and citizens who constantly interact with digital. More so with the generation z, for whom digital services are an integral part of their lives.

The good development is that some of the meta brands and organisations have started to realise this. And they have started to give design a key chair in their digitalisation roadmap and digital transformation journey.

We are already witnessing the big shift from semantic text and visuals to more emotionally rich content like voice and catch-my-mood videos in user generated content. In fact, across the age categories use of voice command is rising and in some age categories it now owns upto 51% of the share

Second most important thing I have noticed, especially in digital communication & social space, is mis-contextualising. Not understanding the users, business objectives and framing the communication approach with vague understanding of users categories and behaviour. Or on the other end becoming too obsessed with data science. Data without emotions consideration will continue to build functional relationships. All this has meant that users vis-a-vis brands continue to have mis-matched expectations between what they expect and what they get from the digital presence and their outreach programs.

From the digital service providers perspective, this is a matter of ethics and it is binding on them to invest in understanding the ever-evolving digital landscape, the expectation of the organisation, aligning with their goals, the emotional landscape of the users before setting expectations. Bundled with this is the rising awareness and concern about mis-information, fake news, misuse of personal data and sustainability - so you now have a very different dimension of digital which is emerging.

From being the poster boy in the organisations’ growth and strategy - it now pulls in corporate governance, business ethics and even CSR with circular economy coming into play.

HUDE Studio (HUDE is an acronym of Human Design) was conceptualised against this background - to be a design studio that will use design to make technology usable, services more user-friendly and humanise the digital presence of organisations and brands. In short, prepare organisations for the future.

Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by HUDE Studio

Nazim Iqbal : HUDE Studio is a pure play experience design studio and we offer design and experience technology services that respond to the brand and human experience needs across the digital ecosystem.

The team carries an experience of building digital platforms starting from a single line brief to doing ground work that involves carrying out field research, developing new digital playbooks, and conducting fusion workshops with business stakeholders.

Our services range across from UX audit, conversation design for bots, product design, mobile applications, web presence, digital branding, communication design, UX-led SEO and interaction design for digital IOT interfaces. Importantly beyond the digital presence and digital transformation is the ongoing narrative which will continue to be owned and driven by content.

For us, content design is a big engagement space and we are excited about the emerging opportunities. Businesses are realising that tons of semantic content is not taking them anywhere as far as active user engagement over the life cycle of the product or service is concerned. It is here that the emotionally rich content has filled in - but designing emotionally rich content requires an evolved design acumen. But above all these, we offer to bring a human touch to the digital transformation journey that an organisation or brand is undertaking. We are human design specialists and we ensure digital continues to retain human relevance contextual to the organisation and transformation.

Great Companies: What makes HUDE Studio different from hundreds of other similar service providers?

Nazim Iqbal :

We are more than a UX and UI company - we bring our understanding of human emotions, experience technology, digital branding, content narrative, search quotient and empower the services we offer with these insights. The leadership team experience of more than two decades across digital verticals, positions the organisation to deliver design value at every vertical and at every juncture of the digital ecosystems.

With our team’s experience across branding, product design, service design and digital communication - we offer a relationship to a brand or product across its journey from MVP to digital outreach program.

Importantly, our operation and delivery credo of co-creation means our quest is to team up with clients as partners. We make an extra effort to team up with our client project team - to map their business needs, to continue to test the solutions iteratively with their users and to encourage them to pool their business problems and ideas.

We operate both as a consultancy and as a digital design studio. This gives us the agility and flexibility to orient ourselves in an engagement as the business scenario demands. To some of our clients we operate as an extended design studio - taking care of design and digital needs across the board.

Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?

Nazim Iqbal : We believe we are a leg ahead - in our quest to deliver business value of design. Apart from the top product companies, most of the organisations still continue to view design as a visual dress job or to the most, a process design job.

It will take a few more years before design is seen as the most vital factor for the success of the product or the business in the digital space. Technology across sectors is fast becoming a commodity - so it is a design that can impart a differential factor, build a brand quotient and induce an emotional bond for an organisation.

Since we continue to be small and are committed to deliver the business value of design - there are few organisations who are open to engage at a wider level. As against the recent proliferation of UI and UX companies - design is still now mostly equated with templates design and product roadmap.

Whereas design has different roles to play at different junctions as the organisation or the product grows and matures. For instance, I am conducting a design workshop for the team members of a technology led product company. Since it is an organisation staffed with technologists - a design consciousness higher up will reduce the design iteration toward the end. This if you look at it - is a project cost optimization, reduces the iteration towards the end and saves them the drag in delivery.

HUDE Studio wants to represent design in the digital space that is seen as a business value for today and investment for future - an investment that will yield dividends beyond the interface and build human quotient for the brand.

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Nazim Iqbal : The pandemic long tail continues and we now have the Ukraine-Russia conflict. So economic conditions will continue to be tough for at least a year and half. So it is important to adapt and survive.

Two things that have been true in the past will continue to hold more true now - focus and persistence. Add to that the circumstantial need to be prudent and frugal.

To the design fraternity - design has a social role to play which is far more significant than just running a business. Design is a god-like act albeit to much lesser degree. One creates something which does not exist. Design practitioners also identify latent needs of users and try to fulfill them, much like god. The role requires a degree of spirituality, demands honesty and needs an evolved consciousness of human ethics. What we create influences not just the revenues but shapes moods and triggers emotions. In more than a way, it is not

just a role, it is a responsibility.

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