UX Designer to Watch: Meet Design Student Viba Mohan

by The Adobe XD Team

posted on 10-29-2019

Viba Mohan is one of Adobe’s UX Designers to Watch. The list, unveiled on World Interaction Design Day (September 24), features up-and-coming designers who are breaking creative boundaries. Follow the Creative Cloud blog and @adobedesigners to meet more UX Designers to Watch throughout October.

Viba Mohan has never been one to shy away from a challenge. This emerging UX designer contributes to design discourse on Medium, organizes regular UX design meetups, and still finds time to balance schoolwork as she finishes up her final year at PES University in Bengaluru, India.

Naturally enterprising and curious, Viba found her dream career in product design, which allowed her to combine her love of art and visual design with creative problem-solving. As a soon-to-be new grad, she is actively looking for full time and contract opportunities.

With her passion for product design and impressive work ethic, we’re excited to see what Viba does next. We talked to her to learn more about her career goals and what she’s learned in her UX design journey so far.

Thanks for joining us, Viba. How did you get started in design?

As a kid, I loved visual art and problem solving – I’d spend hours a day solving brain teasers and exploring different art mediums. In fact, when I was 15 I was certain I wanted to become an artist.

But I soon realized it wasn’t fulfilling me. I realized I needed a harder challenge. And that’s when I found out about product design. It let me solve problems and put my visual design skills to use. It was a perfect fit. Product design seemed like a natural choice by the end of my first semester at college.

Sounds like a great fit! What is your favorite project that you’ve created so far?

About a year ago, I worked as a consultant at The Solar Labs. That was a very interesting experience for me.

Firstly, because I was instantly drawn to their mission – they were working to accelerate the growth of solar energy in the country. And that’s a noble goal.

Secondly, because I was constantly pushed to do better and to do more that allowed me to grow. It was an exciting and challenging project that dealt with a real world problem with real people. I had a great time there.

How else do you get involved in the design community?

I actually co-organize a design meetup called UX Brunch here in Bangalore. We structure the conversation around a topic and we invite two experts to lead the discussion. It’s led me to some incredible people and I look forward to seeing where UX Brunch goes in the future!

Outside of work, what hobbies do you pursue?

I read a lot and I run and exercise often. But I also try to pick up a new skill when I can. In the past, I have taken a month off work to meditate and swim. I also tend to dedicate large chunks of my time to being a better writer.

Credit: Viba Mohan

Let’s chat more about your writing. How did you get started writing on Medium? What are your favorite topics to write about?

Around the end of my first year of college, I felt like my course wasn’t challenging enough and I wanted to learn more. I started writing as a way to document what I learned and it just made sense to polish that up and publish on Medium. Luckily people were very supportive of this so it was easy to continue and so I have stuck with it.

My favorite topics vary over time – anything that captures my fancy in that moment and sends me down a rabbit hole. A passion topic, however, is to design for good and to build products that don’t “hook” people as much as they help them.

What other topics are you passionate about? How do you incorporate these topics into your work?

Sustainability and health are two topics I find myself constantly going back to. They are projects I find engaging, important and challenging.

So far I’ve been lucky since most of the job offers I received are health and environment related. I hope that trend continues and I hope to be able to influence a real change someday.

Credit: Viba Mohan

Who or what are some of your top inspirations for your work?

Jony Ive and Daniel Burka are old favorites. Akshay Verma and Pragati Mehotra – my mentors from obvious.in are newer additions to that list.

But I also turn to several non-designers for work-related inspiration. Namely Hank Green, Tracy Chuo and Saikat Chakrabaty. I’ve seen how they consciously chose to do good and use their influence to positively impact people and organizations. That is something I’d like to do when I graduate.

Books have also been a constant inspiration. “Dreams From My Father” by Barack Obama is one of the most insightful books I’ve read to date. I find myself re-reading it to remind myself to work on the right things and with the right people.

Have you encountered any challenges in your career? How did you overcome them?

When I was in my second year of university I was accepted as a graphic design intern at Chumbak – one of India’s largest lifestyle brands. But the caveat was that I had to start work immediately. My finals had just begun and would go on for two weeks. I knew I’d regret passing up an opportunity like Chumbak so I decided to just go for it. I’d spend most days at work and would finish my portfolio when I could. On days that I had an exam or submission I would complete my test and rush back to Chumbak to get work done.

That hustle is part of the reason you’ve been named a UX Designer to Watch. What does that mean to you?

It comes as a pleasant surprise. But more importantly, it shows me that I’m on the right path. It shows that following my heart and doing what I’m passionate about is paying off. Professionally, it’s also an indicator that good things are to come. I’m about to graduate in a year and this feels like a great start to my future in product design.

Speaking of the future, what are some of your upcoming career goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I’d like to help build a product and a team I’m proud of. Right now I’m focusing on understanding what a great team constitutes of and the best way to build a great product. I look forward to growing as a designer and building something I’m truly passionate about with people I respect and admire.

In the short term, I’d like to give a design talk, join a company I believe in and maybe work abroad to witness design in a different cultural context.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career so far?

The best advice I have ever received is to play the long game – to make short term sacrifices in terms of money and name for long term gains such as a better education. It’s why I have in the past turned down opportunities with large companies, in favor of working at smaller companies where I knew I’d receive the kind of mentorship I needed.

And the worst?

The worst is to play by the rules. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been scolded by college professors and school teachers for doing things unconventionally. They’d tell me to stop questioning things and do what I’m told. In reality, nothing will ever dent your career as much as unquestioning obedience. I’ve always believed that you need to judge for yourself what your journey is going to look like.

Check out more of Viba’s work on her website, and meet the rest of the UX Designers to Watch here_. As a final year design student, Viba is currently looking or her first post-college job.

Topics: Creativity, Design

Products: Creative Cloud