Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Published in May-Jun 2021

Adventures in Design

Day in the life of Hasan Habib, CEO & Founder, Designist.

I find that having a morning routine can set you up for success to conquer the day. I wake up at the crack of dawn and say my prayers. On good days I usually conduct Tamarkoz (a form of Sufi meditation) or swim for 30 minutes. I enjoy taking long warm showers (even in summer) and think about what I need to achieve for the day. I wear a white shirt every day of the week as I like to keep it simple and not think about what to wear. I do, however, jazz it up by wearing a pair of funky socks. Once I am ready, I grab a quick bite of breakfast, usually a banana, and head to work.

These days, we have a lot of flexibility, which enables us to work from anywhere, anytime as long as we get our work done, so I either work from my home studio or the office. On Mondays at 9:30 a.m. sharp, we have a meeting with all the team members. We share how we are feeling and what we will be achieving for the week. This allows team members to empathise with one another and be on the same page regarding what everyone is up to and how they can support each other. Prior to the meeting, I have the majority of my week planned out on my iPad. I set an intention for the week and goals that need to be achieved. I like to have things planned, as it gives me focus and control over what needs to be done.

Our work at Designist is to design meaningful experiences that people have with products and services, digital or physical, using a human centred design approach. This is essentially putting ourselves into the shoes of the end users, empathising with them, and designing products that are not only aesthetically pleasing but usable and useful. We design services and digital applications.

This can only be achieved by conducting in-depth research in understanding human behaviour. A lot of my day goes into directing, coaching and supporting my team. My personal goal is to enable people in our country to be able to understand and apply both facets of design; design as a practice of problem solving and design as practice of creation. I aim to make sure that the people around me are always learning and having fun.

My day is balanced between practising design and exploring new opportunities. When practising design of mobile apps, we go through three phases. The first is about going out into the field and gathering insights about the challenge our clients have presented us with. The goal is to speak to people and understand where they are coming from. This is done through observing people in their context and conducting interviews. We then come back to the office and pull up a mural board (digital workspace) and start putting our insights on sticky notes. We gather them into themes and prioritise which insights would work best to create solutions. We map the journey of the people we have spoken to in order to understand where their pain points are to help us focus on where our design intervention should be.

The second phase is the most fun of the three. It’s about brainstorming, generating ideas and creating prototypes that we can test with the end users. Based on viability, feasibility and desirability, we prioritise which ideas we think work best. However, design is not about us. It is about solving the needs of others, so with our prototypes we either go back out into the field or invite relevant stakeholders to our usability lab to test what we created. We put the application into their hands and observe how they respond to what we made. Once we know what is working, we then move towards the third phase – the creation part of design.

You can consider this phase the tip of the iceberg. The part of design that people interact with. All the things that attract and delight end users. Branding plays a huge role here. This is where the client is most involved. We establish what is important for the brand. The values, beliefs and personality it stands for. Meticulous art direction is established to create a unique look and feel for the company. We take pride in the art we produce. We design everything from scratch and this is what sets us and the client apart from the competition. Once our designs are ready, we ship them to the client or a development team to produce the final output.

Design is not about the people who produce it. As a designer I am merely a facilitator of change. I try to take an existing situation and make it better than what it was before. If I have managed to make even one person’s life easier I feel like I have done my job.

Once the day-to-day operations are done, I explore opportunities for new collaborations, and these days I am exploring how to design for equity. This way I am not just a vendor but a partner. When you have a bit of skin in the game, it is not about one job after another, but how you can grow with your clients. These days I am enjoying working with Mux Life, a home and office automation company and RemoteCare, a home X-Ray service. For both companies, we are designing in real-time for continuous improvement and growth.

I strive for a work life balance. Work usually ends six sharp, at least for the team it does. As a business owner sometimes it feels like you are always working, as you are constantly thinking about the next thing you want to work on. In my free time I usually doodle a lot or make silly loop animations. This helps me reconnect with the artist in me.

Once a week I teach service design at the Indus Valley School of Arts. Enabling future generations to have a broader design skill set is my goal. I strive to equip students with the ability to research, think and design. They are going to be the change makers of tomorrow.

Before Maghrib is tea time with dadi, which I would not miss for the world. I enjoy the most amazing desserts she makes. I often complain about getting filled up and have a tough time eating dinner. I have dinner at 8:30 p.m. with the family followed by mint tea. I go to bed around 10:30 p.m. and usually watch or read something to unwind. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I am sound asleep.

On weekends I try to cut out from work completely. In winters I hike the hills of Bhit Khori near Mubarak Village, followed by snorkelling in the coves. In summer I am chasing pipedreams trying to surf some waves at Sandspit. I am always in search of the next adventure.

Hasan Habib is CEO & Founder, Designist. habib@designist.io