At MMID, every designer works within one of the following five Fields of Expertise: Functionality and Systems, Producibility and Assembly, Electronics and Software, Look and Feel, and User eXperience. In this series of interviews, we speak with MMID designers of each of those Fields of Expertise to give a small peek into our work and culture. For this week’s peek, we interviewed our colleague Aman Dalal, one of our Functionality & System designers at our office in Delft.
How did you go from being a student to a F&S designer at MMID?
Going all the way back, I studied mechanical engineering in India. During my bachelor’s degree, I developed interest and skills in graphic and product design. I wanted to go abroad to pursue a masters to push myself out of the comfort zone and welcome new experiences. I decided to go to the Industrial Design Engineering faculty of the TU Delft, where I did the Integrated Product Design MSc course. I chose this one particularly because of the practical study approach and the opportunities they offer to work in teams for real clients. Also because it was a fantastic blend between engineering and design. I wanted to still use my technical background and combine it with my design aptitude and skills. I chose the Netherlands because I love the work culture, the lifestyle, the cycling infrastructure, and I could see myself happily living here in the future. In my elective space, I did an internship as a Functionality Designer at MMID. After this, I did not leave fully, I worked as marketing support for MMID for one day a week. When I graduated, I decided to come back full-time as a Functionality and Systems Designer.
What do you say when someone asks what kind of work you do?
You know how designers come up with fascinating and futuristic concepts and engineers make them a reality? I represent both sides. My expertise is product development and I love designing products that function flawlessly throughout their lifetime, look and feel remarkable, and are optimized for usability. I am interested in products that really benefit users, make sense for the future, and are designed considering their impact on the environment.
Why did you decide to work for MMID?
During my studies, I was mostly looking for a place where I could apply the technical knowledge I developed during my mechanical engineering BSc as well as the practical exposure I had during my IPD MSc. I came across MMID near the station in Delft, saw them in the IDE faculty a couple of times, and had heard about them via others, so I decided to get in contact and ask what opportunities they had for me. I was introduced to Scott, a functionality designer at MMID at the time, and discussed what would fit my interest best. We found together that a functionality internship would be ideal. I started my internship in summer 2019 and was immediately very involved in the projects. Even as an intern I felt that I could contribute a lot and was valued by the team. My main reason to come back was that I loved the company culture and the kind of projects we do at MMID. The focus on personal development and the amount of learning from experienced colleagues is phenomenal, which is also extremely important for me.
And now, what are you doing within MMID?
Currently, I am a Functionality and Systems designer. My field of expertise is such that I usually contribute quite early on in projects. My role consists of designing how products function. With the team, I think of ideas by brainstorming and exploring to address a particular design brief, question, or topic. From these explorations, we take ideas forward depending on the clients’ vision and user needs.
We often co-create with the clients and users, which I enjoy a lot. Sometimes a project could be about improving the function rather than creating something totally new, which is a challenge of its own kind. What I like most is to prove that ideas are possible (or not possible), for example by making physical models in the workshop, doing calculations, making drawings and CAD models, and so on. After making a concept choice(s) we need to make a proof of concept, which could be later integrated with producibility and look and feel input.
This is quite a long process where you are involved in a lot, what do you like most within this?
I like thinking about different and innovative ideas most and to find the boundaries of how far you can go. When you start with a project brief, it is often rather open. You can think out of the box, play around with ideas, and I think this phase is where the magic happens and clever ideas start taking shape! Next to that, proving that certain ideas can really work is very rewarding. The fun thing about this is that even when it is a not working model, this is as important as working models. The answer “no” is also a valid result in product development and often one from which you learn a lot.
What does your average day look like as a Functionality and Systems designer?
Usually, I walk into the office quite relaxed but excited. I like the projects I work on and I like the dynamics of the work sphere. I like the rapport I have with colleagues and new faces in the office always give me a boost and new inspiration. I can’t really describe what I do on an average day, since every day is different, depending on the projects I am working on. Some ideation and brainstorm sessions, model making, building in the workshop, CAD-modelling, 3D-printing, sketching or even taking up initiatives such as development of VR skills for the team. Now and then there are learning activities and meetings that push forward my personal development. It can all vary a lot, but that is exactly what brings me joy!
What do you do next to your work?
Next to my work, I am constantly learning. I simply cannot stop myself from trying to understand things around me and broaden my knowledge in various directions. I used to be a graphic designer, which I still practice by teaching at the IDE faculty where I give IDE academy workshops for Logo and Graphic Design. More recently, I wanted to increase my knowledge about sustainability and circularity and how we can practice this more proactively in developing products. To explore this topic, I am now making a website that contains a collection of learnings to make a database for students and professionals.
Besides work and learning, I am doing a lot of cycling on the weekends. It was one of the reasons I wanted to come to the Netherlands. Especially last year I developed a passion for road cycling and my goal is to be as good as some of the other fanatic MMID cyclists, so I have some way to go. Last summer I was proud of having done a cycling trip starting in Holland, riding along the Normandy coast, with the Arc de Triomphe as the final destination! I do play a lot of sports – badminton, table tennis, football, you name it. Recently getting more interested in bouldering and padel. We have a nice ping pong table at MMID, want to challenge me? 😀
If you would describe MMID in 3 words, what would it be?
Supportive, Openness and Structured-flexibility.
And why those words?
Supportive; I find the way we work and interact with each other super supportive. We really want the best for our team, our clients, and the users of our products; always supporting each other to provide value in the finest way possible. Also personally, we support each other on our journey to become better designers and human beings. The “growth mindset” we have is key to achieving great things.
Openness; We are direct and ‘Dutch’ about everything. Feedback doesn’t always have to be pleasing but if it can help someone improve, learning and growth will be naturally faster. Critical feedback in a positive way helps the project, also being open and honest about what you think and saying what you know is good for everyone. I appreciate that among colleagues when someone doesn’t know something, they are honest about it and not ashamed. It is taken as another opportunity to learn and this is such a beneficial mindset.
Structured-flexibility; I think this one is set by our LUCID development process. We always have a structure in our projects and milestones. We have an excellent structure in the way things are organized, with documents and sharepoints. There are always files or documents that answer your questions. For helping interns or new colleagues, timelines, meetings, guiding/academy documents, etc. are already predetermined. But we are a small company, so we can also affort to be flexible in a way that helps us. The structure is there to support us but gives us the room to play so we won’t become robots. Flexibility is there to be used when we need to. With the last two unusual years, this “structured-flexibility” has helped us perform optimally.