On Friday, November 13, in duPont Library’s Torian Room, Sewanee had the honor of hosting Fahd Arshad (C’02). Arshad, who majored in computer science at Sewanee, has worked at Bloomberg Business since 2007 as the head of user experience (UX) design for financial products. This includes supervising user research, prototyping, visual design, and other aspects of UX design. He presented a fascinating lecture about how innovative thinking improves UX and maintained a casual and upbeat atmosphere, encouraging the audience of comments or questions. After an introduction by computer science professor Lucia Dale, Arshad began his presentation on UX and UX innovations. He explained that UX design is the effort to make a product—whether an architectural space, interactive system, hardware, etc.— more useful to and suited for the consumer. Arshad noted that UX design is concerned with building a product around a consumer rather than training the consumer to adjust to the product. For example, early piloting systems, due to their complexity, were difficult to master; designers have to adjust piloting systems to fit humans instead of the other way around. Arshad applies this to his UX design efforts at Bloomberg, thus connecting consumers to its networks in a user-friendly manner. Arshad applies this concept to computers and seeks to intertwine the human experience with technology without the need for rigorous training. Bloomberg strives to provide a bond-trading platform, so Arshad must understand users. He quoted Steve Jobs—“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them”—which means that one must observe people in their craft to discover what would be useful to design and then introduce it to the users; user interfaces should cater to users’ intuitions.
While inspiring laughter and questions from the audience, Arshad encouraged innovative thinking and demonstrated how UX design can be a productive and efficient strategy. He credited his ability to think creatively, communicate and present ideas, and build consensus to the liberal arts education Sewanee provided him. Arshad ended by honoring Linda Lankewicz, Sewanee professor of computer science emerita. After his presentation, Arshad received a beautiful framed picture of Spencer Laboratory and Spencer Quad, and a reception full of conversations and hors d’oeuvres in Harris Commons followed.