Peeking into our Fields of Expertise:

User Experience!

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 Nathalie Korbee, who started working with us as a UX designer in the summer of 2020.

Let’s start at the beginning. Could you tell us how you first got to know MMID?
During my last year of studying Industrial Design at the University of Eindhoven, I was looking for an internship with a pragmatic approach. During my studies, there had always been more of a focus on developing concepts, rather than building products that will eventually be bought. Therefore, apart from wanting to experience developing concepts in a company setting, I was eager to learn more about the consecutive stages of product development. MMID does it all, and I loved the active and pragmatic vibe of building solutions towards products that last. There was an interesting match and I got the internship, and needless to say, it turned out well!

You were a Functionality and Systems intern, how did you end up being a UX designer?
That is right, and although I still like working in both fields of expertise my focus is now in the field of UX. As for the internship during my Industrial Design studies, the field of Functionality and Systems was a more logical choice. However, I also have a degree in psychology, which makes for a great combination to work in the field of UX. In fact, the combination and interest in the field were what made me decide to start studying Industrial Design after my Psychology masters.

I like to see UX (or mostly Usability in my case) as the place where Design and Psychology meet each other. It is all about understanding the potential user to design a product or system that works for them. To get there, we do a lot of research in numerous ways and test assumptions and prototypes as we go along. An important thing for a designer to be aware of is that you are not the user. You may look like one, but unless you are designing for designers who work on the exact same project, you are not. We will always act or think differently on some level, even if it is just because we design the product. That means that apart from trying to understand the user group as well as we can, we perform tests with more relevant participants. We always learn from them.

Can you give an example?
Take, for instance, designing a product for elderly people. We would put on our Elderly Suit to experience some typical physical characteristics of elderly people in relation to the topic of the project. We would also do some literature research to gain information on relevant topics and use cases. To get more information from the target group directly we could also set out a questionnaire or diary study. Methods like these give us pieces of information to build up an understanding of the user group, but we have never been elderly people. We, therefore, need testing and talking with them to make sure that we design what they need. We involve our users in the design process because they are the most real experts in their world.

If we would live a day of your life at work, what would it look like? Would we be testing and researching various user groups all the time?
No, I am happy to say that my work varies a lot. When not in lockdown, my day starts with a 30-minute bike ride to work. I turn on my computer, have a little chat with colleagues, pour myself a cup of tea or coffee and start working. Sometimes indeed that means that I dive deep into Google to find out as much as I can about a specific user group, but sometimes I need to ideate, brainstorm, or make prototypes in the workshop and fill my day with sawing and glueing. I write out Usability topics and I frequently work with CAD to make digital models. I am also happy to say that we strongly believe in working together, both internally and externally. We work with a wide range of interesting clients and users to truly come to concepts that meet the need, and colleagues from all Fields of Expertise work together to design products that work on every level.

That sounds varied indeed! Is there a project that you are especially excited about?
I can not give too many details, but one current project is a particularly nice challenge because it requires me to use so many different skills and make them succeed together. I am working mostly on the function and producibility sides of it, and have been testing and adjusting prototypes for months to get closer and closer to the desired results. We have a passionate and pragmatic team and client, and we are building together towards an enormous assembly that must work with the precision of tenths of millimetres.

Would you say that building and designing has always been your thing? Say if we would go back to primary school Nathalie, would we see the future designer in her?
Haha well, I do think I was always busy drawing and creating things, so maybe there was a little designer in there already. The joy of creating did not change. In my leisure time, I like to do some drawing, build things, or do crafts. After my recent move, for instance, I build my own murphy bed, mezzanine and closet with stair function to get to the mezzanine. I specifically like to give things an extra function or use existing products in another way than intended.

So, after work hours you are still designing, what else do you like to do besides this?
After work, I like to learn practical skills. For instance, I currently follow a short welding training and I attend goldsmith classes. Also, I like doing sports such as surfing, running, cycling and bouldering. I do not only do these things in my free time, as we often do sports together within MMID. Examples are the Thursday lunch runs and our occasional boulder sessions. It feels good to be fit at work and to get to know colleagues in another way!

If you were to describe MMID in 3 words, what would they be?
Pragmatic, collaborative and passionate.

Pragmatic: We do everything with a purpose. We are going for the goal and are very aware of our process towards delivering a product that we fully believe in. Every design process needs loops to get better results. We aim to have our loops early in the process to be the most time- and cost-efficient.
Collaborative: As I said, MMID believes in working together both within the company and with our projects’ stakeholders. Working together and acknowledging everyone’s expertise makes for a more efficient and successful process.
Passionate: People at MMID show a passion for what they do. Typically, they are designers both during and after work, and many of them have (ambitious) building projects at home. We do sports together, help each other out with projects and share inspiring information on a regular basis. At MMID, we truly work together to get there.