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UI and UX design go beyond aesthetics, finding their place in the very functionality of products. It weaves together ease of use, accessibility, and efficiency into a single, cohesive user experience. It’s not just about making things useful, it’s also about crafting interactions that resonate on all levels.
When it comes to brands, such design is pivotal. “For a company like CRED, this commitment to design excellence is not just an edge, it’s a necessity to thrive in the fast-paced fintech industry,” Harish Sivaramakrishnan, chief of design at Bengaluru-based finance unicorn company CRED, told AIM in an exclusive interaction.
Sivaramakrishnan, originally from Shornur, Kerala, is not just the design head at CRED but also a celebrated singer with a Carnatic music background. He co-founded and is the lead vocalist of the popular progressive rock band Agam in 2003. Agam has carved a niche as a trailblazer for creatively blending classical Indian compositions and folk melodies with modern rock elements
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His journey in design began at BITS Pilani, where he studied chemical engineering and went on to hold important positions in UI/UX teams in companies such as Adobe, Google, Snapdeal and more, before joining CRED in 2018.
CRED’s Design Philosophy
CRED’s design journey has undergone several phases, beginning with Topas’ minimalistic performance focus, to Fabrik’s card visuals, and Copper’s adaptable features, CRED evolved to NeoPOP with its dynamic, art-inspired interface and community-shared framework.
The latest, Charcoal, streamlines the user interface, segregates financial and offer sections for clarity, and revamps navigation for ease of transactions. “At CRED, we believe that beautiful things last. For us, it is just as important to offer an aesthetic experience to members, as it is to be efficient and easy to use,” said Sivaramkrishnan.
CRED’s design philosophy, characterised by its minimalist and intuitive interfaces, has evolved over the years with Charcoal. This latest design evolution is showcased on the homepage, where the emphasis is on enhancing user interaction through a reimagined structure, streamlined navigation, and improved features.
The page now presents a clean separation between the finance management section and a dedicated space for exclusive offers, optimising ease of use and engagement.
In contrast, the principles behind the company’s design strategy highlight the balance between artistic expression and practicality, with an initial emphasis on creative freedom that later incorporates necessary constraints. This balance is essential for maintaining user-centric navigation and interaction.
A prime example of this is the introduction of the vehicle management platform CRED Garage, which adapts to the changing desires of users by providing realistic visualisations of credit cards and automobiles, demonstrating a deep understanding of member preferences and behaviours.
“Balancing the needs of different stakeholders certainly plays a role in design decisions, however, they should not overshadow the importance of empathy, creativity, and intuition in the design process,” Sivaramakrishnan said.
Measuring design success involves a blend of quantitative, qualitative, and emotional signals. The team aims to continue creating inspiring and user-centric designs, integrating cutting-edge technologies, and ensuring that design decisions contribute to the overall success and inspiration of their products.
Music Meets Design
Despite lacking formal design training and extensive Photoshop skills, Sivaramakrishnan believes that his engineering background helped him to develop a foundation in design. For him, the qualities of creativity and innovation are central to both music and design, and his musical pursuits have significantly bolstered his design work.
“I draw from my passion for rearranging traditional music to create more appealing formats, mirroring my approach to design, where I aim to innovate and craft attractive, user-centric solutions,” Sivaramakrishnan commented.
Talking about how music and design are intertwined realms of creative expression, he said, “My time in music has honed my attention to detail, empathy, and understanding of the audience – skills that I use to design meaningful user experiences”.
He admires the human-centric product designs of companies like Airbnb and Uber, which prioritise creating a community and a sense of belonging.
As the creator of some of the most popular songs, like Veyyon Silli and Oru Vanchi Paattu, Sivaramakrishnan finds the true essence of design in its ability to forge connections and communicate effectively with users, much like a resonant piece of music.
Open Source, Open Collaboration
CRED’s previous UI framework, NeoPOP, was made available to the public, allowing developers everywhere to incorporate its designs. “Opening NeoPOP to developers yielded an exceptionally positive response, surpassing our expectations,” said Sivaramakrishnan, talking about how developers actively engage and provide constructive feedback that has been integral to CRED’s learning and development.
The team views open sourcing as crucial for tapping into global talent, enhancing their own code, and promoting their team’s growth and competitiveness. The principle of giving back to the community is a core value for CRED.
Open-sourcing is part of their commitment to community enrichment, fostering innovation, and allowing for wider experimentation with their design philosophy. This approach is aimed at driving collective advancement in design and showcasing CRED’s dedication to contributing positively to the broader community.