From Apple to Metal: Sid Parihar leads UX Design

Sid Parihar brings a wealth of experience to the Metal Pay team. Prior to joining Metal Pay as Chief Designer, Sid spent eight years at Apple, where he helped design a range of game changing products. Now, as he approaches the brand and design of products at Metal Pay, here’s an interview showcasing his depth of knowledge, and his holistic views on design. When it comes to product design and business, Sid is focused, but he also brings levity and a good mindset on what it’s like having millions of people using your technology.

What is a brand?

Sid- That’s a great question! I think often when people talk about a ‘brand’, they don’t talk about it in a vacuum, there’s usually a qualifier attached, like that’s a good brand or that’s a trustworthy brand. A big part of what is referred to as ‘brand identity’, I think is an expression of the amount of trust you can place in a company and its products. If you establish a strong brand identity, and you’re doing things with the right values, then that translates to customers being able to place their trust in you, and that’s a big part of what makes companies successful. If your brand on the other hand is kind of sketchy or lacks a strong and clearly defined voice, then it often means people will be unable to trust or buy your product. So a brand is not just this nebulous thing, but rather an outward representation of how a company chooses to go about it’s business.

When you’re crafting a product like Metal, how do you try to establish a positive brand, and how do you look at the interface design and how that contributes to it?

Sid- The product is very much part of the continuum of trust between users and a company. I really believe that the best way to establish a positive brand is to create amazing products that users fall in love with, but there’s more to it than that. There’s a term that has become commonplace in the last few years in the design world called “UX design” or “User Experience design”. It’s a bit of a jargony term to be honest, but in essence what it’s trying to do is hint at the fact that a user’s interaction with a brand does not start or end with the product alone. It usually begins much earlier than that - It could be a billboard, could be a nice word that a friend has said about the product, and goes on long after you’re done using a product. Apple for example is famous for it’s great customer service and that’s a very big part of their brand and a customer’s desire to buy their products. If you’re doing it right I think those lines are very blurred. It’s really about all of it, the whole company, the whole brand, everything you do with your customer is the product.

It’s a very tough question of what you can do to establish a great brand. Every company out there wants to have a great brand. No company wants a brand that is unmemorable or turns off people. So the marketing and promotions folks of the world spend a lot of time on what you can do to build a good brand. The challenge is even greater when you’re building a brand from scratch. With Metal Pay, we’re trying to explain a very new, very different piece of technology to the general consumer market. You’re trying to explain to people something that they may not have any point of reference for, but it’s just on the horizon of mainstream knowledge. We know that it can do great things, and that it can change the world in a very meaningful way, but they’re just not familiar with it. So you can bring a lot of that learned knowledge that we have about building brands out there already.

At the end of the day it comes back to that whole trust issue, can you trust the brand or not?. Especially in the case of a brand like Metal Pay or in the financial tech world, I think trust is an even more important factor. I think in the realm of technology in general, trust is a crucial factor. Any technology that we perceive as mass market today, as something that is ubiquitous, was a niche idea once upon a time, and a huge amount of work had to be done to break down those barriers, I think there’s a natural barrier that people have between their present situation and the uptake of this new thing that could be of great use to them, but they don’t know enough about right now. From the point of view of the interface of the product, you can do some things to build that trust, by making something that’s elegant, simple and beautiful, and by making something that genuinely helps rather than hinders people. If you can make something new feel familiar yet memorable, something your users can love, then you’re on the right track.

With technology that is complex, how do you balance ease of use and intuitiveness while still giving access to the power of that technology?

Sid- Power and ease of use often tend to be presented as mutually exclusive goals, but I think there are examples of products that have figured out a way, not just to balance the two, but also make them complementary goals. Basically if you’re doing it right, power and ease of use don’t necessarily have to be opposing goals. I think it's the responsibility of the people who are making a product, to come together and really ask themselves, do we understand the problem well enough ourselves? Are we capable enough to explain this to anyone? Richard Feynman, the physicist and also known as “the great explainer” said something to the effect of, if you can’t explain it to someone easily then you probably don’t know it well enough yourself. When you’re in the process of making something, you have the opportunity to understand the problem very deeply yourself, but also by going through that process, you start to appreciate the benefits of that complex technology. You don’t want to obscure those benefits away from users. So I think when you’re doing it right, you can devise creative ways in which you can help users learn that complexity in a way that doesn’t feel complex. That way, ease of use and complexity can actually become complementary, and by doing that, you’re still providing that feeling of ease of use, but also unlocking the potential of that technology to the benefit of your users.

What do you think about cryptocurrency?

Sid- It wasn’t something that I initially thought I’d ever be working on, because it seemed so far removed from the kind of world I was involved in. But actually I pretty quickly realized it’s not that far off at all, it’s very much part and parcel of the technology world. Part of my job as a designer is not to think of technology as this isolated thing, it’s very much thinking about how technology interacts with society and people, because ultimately you’re designing for people.

Needless to say, cryptocurrency (or digital currency) can have a massive impact on the financial systems of the world, on the way people think about money. Money is so fundamental to how the world works, everybody understands it in some way. In so many ways - society, culture, just the human experience revolves around it. As with anything that touches so many lives, there are good aspects, and aspects that could be better. I think digital currency has the opportunity to do things in a new, and more importantly, better way, and generally move the needle on the whole concept of the monetary system. I think that’s a hugely exciting opportunity.

It’s a massive task, and it’s a huge space to be operating in, and digital currency is still at a nascent stage. It’s something we’re just barely beginning to scratch the surface of. Up until now, I think it’s fair to say that cryptocurrency is something that has been limited to a certain niche. I think it’s just starting to emerge to that point in it’s existence where it has the potential to go mass market. The way to help that process along, is to bring a lot of the thinking of building mass market brands, of designing amazing consumer products, to this problem and see how people react to it.

It’s a very exciting world, it’s something new, it’s something I’m learning about every day, and as I learn more about it, I’ll hopefully, with the help of our team, find ways to bring the power of digital currency to many more people, and make it genuinely useful to them. I think I was sold on Metal Pay’s ambition to use the benefits of digital currency to make money work for people rather than working for it, and I think that’s an awesome challenge and opportunity to be working on.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about our designer’s perspectives, and how we plan to move forward with a keen and knowledgeable team member like Sid Parihar!