Detroit, Michigan 🇺🇸
unmute
#026

Naman Mandhan

Design Researcher & Strategist

Hi there! I'm Naman, Design Researcher & Strategist from Dubai, UAE. I love photography, spending time outdoors, playing tennis, and you'll always find a book in my hand!
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Where are you based as a Design Researcher & Strategist?

For the past 5 years, I have had the pleasure of calling metro Detroit, Michigan, USA my home.

What led you into Design Research & Strategy?

While academically trained as a Mechanical Engineer, there were a few pivot moments that put me on a trajectory towards my passion for Design Research & Strategy.

First, I conducted a Master's thesis on how to democratize design and provide access to designers with resources that will help them bring their ideas to life. This opened my eyes to how individuals make decisions, and helped build my curiosity on deep empathy can lead to human-centered service solutions.

Second, I read Creative Confidence, a book by David and Tom Kelley from IDEO. It was a wonderful introduction into the world of design thinking, and helped me understand how I could bring together my interest in research, design and engineering for the betterment of mankind.

Third, I moved to metro Detroit and had the opportunity to take on roles with OpenIDEO, as well as a few other volunteer opportunities with local non-profits. Stepping into these roles gave me a birds eye view of how impactful good design –– when applied in a human-centric way –– can be, and it set me on a path to understanding how we can use empathy and design to create a deep impact in our world.

Why are you a Design Researcher & Strategist?

I think that the power of empathy is a core force in our understanding of the people that inhabit the world around us. It opens our eyes to new perspectives, and allows us to uncover truths that we didn't even know existed. Moreover, knowing that as a designer, I have the unique opportunity to not only understand people, but actually creating solutions that can impact their life. This is such an immense privilege to have, and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to wake up every morning and think about how my actions are going to change the world around me through my work.

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What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up at 5:00 AM to work out with my incredible gym community. After that, it's breakfast in the car, followed by an early start at work. Given that I work for a fairly tiny organization (we're less than 30 people), each day is very different. Some days, I can spend the entire day building out product and service roadmaps; whilst other days I'll be doing project management, website designs, scoping research projects, product testing, or designing client presentations.

Despite all the variability, I do enjoy ending every day reading a book on my couch, and when the weather is nice, going on bike rides or playing tennis with friends after work!

What is your current desk setup?

I have a pretty basic desk setup –– my 2016 13" Macbook Pro with a 1080p Dell monitor. However, I'm looking to upgrade to a 2021 iMac with a 4K monitor sometime this year!

What work are you most proud of?

Back when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, I was laid off from my job at the time and started volunteering as a UX Researcher and Designer for a non-profit. Despite not knowing much about UX/UI Design at the time, I was able to design the front-end for the non-profit's website, which went live for hundreds of thousands of users within two weeks of the start of the project.

While it didn't look amazing or was the best design, it provided a platform for people in low-income communities to access financial resources during a trying time, and I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to facilitate that for them.

What challenges do you face as a Design Researcher & Strategist?

Advocacy. I am a fierce advocate for human-centered design, and a lot of times, I run into situations where it is incredibly difficult to show individuals and businesses the power of empathy and design. Getting stakeholders and clients on board is always a challenge to start, but I have found that listening to their needs, fears, and concerns is always a great way to establishing a mutual understanding of how design research and strategy can prove to be beneficial in the long run.

What tunes do you listen to whilst designing?

Three suggestions for budding designers?

  1. Be open to widening your horizons –– you'll be surprised at how much your designs can evolve once you get comfortable with looking at them from different perspectives.
  2. Form connections –– constantly interacting and communicating with people is a great way to build your network and learning from the experience of others!
  3. Be comfortable with rejection –– more often than not, it means that you're doing something right.

Thanks for reading my story!

Detroit, Michigan 🇺🇸

Naman Mandhan

Design Researcher & Strategist

Fancy a coffee?

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