Gokul Beeda ’21 is creating the future through design

Young man outside

Picture this: You wake up in the morning and shades that were previously drawn, are now open to let in the warm sunlight. Your coffee is ready for you as you head into the kitchen and your phone gives you an overview of your day. In the short journey between waking up and sipping your “morning joe” you have your entire day organized.  You feel energized and ready to tackle it all.  Your helper is industrial design, an overlooked aspect of human interaction. Industrial and interaction design has a huge hand in human efficiency. As Steve Jobs said about design, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology-not the other way around.” Gokul Beeda ’21, who is entering his fifth year as an industrial and interaction design student at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, is doing that.

“The focus on interaction and the user experience picked up after WW2,” he says.  “Prior to that, design was more analog. Contemporary design is more digital.” Beeda’s focus, through the HAUS project which he founded, is design principles applied to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  “I was heavily interested in IoT devices and I definitely saw potential in this space.”

What started as an initial idea for a thesis became an initiative to explore his passion. IoT devices include smart home speakers like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and others. They also include smart home appliances. “For example, Samsung released a whole suite of smart home appliances from smart ovens and fridges to washing machines. They were all connected to a network which meant that the user did not have to physically interact with the machine. This increased efficiency and it’s what design stands for.”

For Beeda, industrial and interaction design is more relevant than ever, especially in the form of user interface.  “On the user experience front, there are definitely things that could be done efficiently. That’s where IoT comes in and makes life more efficient and better.”  He adds that the point of design is to make life as obstacle free and free flowing as possible.  “UX interaction efficiency is the future of design.”

One important trend which Beeda sees is home medical kits. “Bio-technology and medical home kits are the future. You see tech companies like Google and Apple making heavy investments in the space. “He cites the recent Fitbit acquisition that Google made. He believes that there is considerable space for industrial and interaction design to improve functionality. “Imagine if you have a device that can regularly send updates to your doctor instead of occasionally.” He points out the benefits of more data and how it could lead to better health and patient outcomes.

Beeda’s role model is Sydney Mead, an industrial designer turned concept art visualizer for several high budget movies like TRON and Blade Runner. Beeda especially looks up to Mead because of his accurate eye for design evolution.  He points out that Mead’s dystopian setting in the Blade Runner is an accurate and realistic evolution of present-day design. This eye towards detail makes for an elevated movie experience and it directs and commands contemporary design.  In the long run, Beeda hopes to work closely with both industrial and interaction design for IoT devices particularly for medical use-cases. “I want to do something like the Phillips brand. They are heavily involved in industrial design as well as bio-technology, which is something I’m interested in.”.

Although he is no longer pursuing HAUS as startup venture, he certainly is thankful for the experiences he had through programs like Startup Weekend which helped jumpstart his research and design initiative.  Beeda is grateful to the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by TechStars for helping him explore his passion. “One of the main reasons I spend time at the LaunchPad is that while learning design, we aren’t exposed to presenting our ideas on a regular basis. Being a part of the LaunchPad has helped me speak openly and confidently about my ideas and viewpoints.” Moreover, he also appreciates resources that the LaunchPad has offered the Syracuse University design community. “Linda Hartsock is a huge help to VPA design students.”

While industrial and interaction design may largely be overlooked compared to the aesthetic and visual aspects of a product, Beeda stresses the real significance is how impactful effective design can be in daily lives. He feels that horizon of opportunity is just beginning., and it is not a neo-noir Blade Runner future. He predicts it will be a vibrant period of entrepreneurship characterized by design innovations that will be culturally, historically and aesthetically significant. And he looks forward to being one of the innovators leading the way.

Story by LaunchPad Global Media Fellow Krishna Pamidi Photo supplied