Kent State Student is World Usability World Champion Finalist

Kent State grad student Anand Gagarin Sundararaj is in Graz, Austria, this week, getting ready for the World Usability Championships. 

The only finalist from the United States in this prestigious global competition got his start watching cartoons. No, really. 

"I loved cartoons, and when I was in 8th grade, I started with frame-by-frame animation in Macromedia Flash," he explains. This led to Photoshop in order to get the images for the animation just right which ignited a love of design in general. Anand continues, "I realized that satisfying the user is the foremost thing and started shifting towards UXD. It was a chain reaction."

But what exactly is user experience design, or UXD, as it is called?

User experience design is the process of increasing the usability and satisfaction of the user when interacting with a product. When it's good, you hardly even notice it: the website or app just works cleanly and smoothly. Information is easily understood and delivered. But when it's bad, you know. You definitely know.

In 2016, Anand was working as a Senior Programmer Analyst, but he never lost his love of good design. That year he began his classes at Kent State’s College of Communication and Information's iSchool. He found the courses engaging and the faculty welcoming. 

"Dr. Paul Sherman was extremely encouraging and helpful," Anand recalls. "He shares his industry knowledge through various mediums including the weekly feedbacks and calls. Dr. Marcia Lei Zeng always goes the extra mile in helping the students and has given several useful feedbacks and suggestions."

As part of his studies, Anand worked on several end-to-end projects covering the entire lifecycle from the original idea through user feedback and ending with functional prototypes. With his skills in design and his class experiences, Anand was ready for the World Usability Congress' premier competition.

The first round saw students from over 150 universities all over the world submit their own user experience design work. Anand's 'Smart Door’ took him to the second round where he and 24 other semifinalists competed on the judges' challenge of creating an ‘Attention Management’ system.

Now he and four other finalists are competing in Graz, Austria for the top prize. They will be given two challenges that they must complete in six hours. The winner will be announced in the Grand Hall of The Messe Graz this Thursday, October 18, 2018.

To see more of Anand's work, visit his website

UPDATED: Friday, December 09, 2022 05:18 AM