Getting to know Project ADAM Senior UI/UX Designer Mina Gilan

“I believe that improved UI-UX could help make commercial flight more efficient and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.”

Why did you join ADAM?

ADAM is actually my second project at Acubed after Project Leibniz, a machine-learning contract management platform. I came here to work on projects that could make a difference in an area I find totally fascinating: I love design and engineering, and flying has always been a passion. My dad was a pilot and I’ve flown a single engine plane myself—it’s an amazing experience to see cities from above and enjoy the maneuvers.

How would you describe what you do?

UI stands for user interface, which refers to all the elements that enable someone to interact with a product or service—the screens, pages, buttons, icons, and so on. UX, or user experience, is the overall interaction between a user and a product or service. That could be anything from a complex piece of software to a seat inside an aircraft cabin or a simple coffee cup. At ADAM, we create digital tools to improve design and manufacturing processes, so there’s an element of UI and UX in everything we do. I might be designing some completely new software or adding a layer on top of existing tools to make them quicker and more intuitive. In some companies, UI and UX tasks are split between different people, but in my role I have the best of both worlds.

Apart from an eye for design, what skills do you need?

Oh, gosh, so many! Knowledge of front-end development and components libraries is a must. I have to know my user, so there’s an element of psychology to it. I need to understand how they already use the tools they have and then try to imagine how things could work better in the future. I have to be a very patient, active listener. And I need to do plenty of research to stay on top of trends and technologies.

That sounds like a lot. What’s the most challenging aspect?

Getting into the head of an engineer. The tools we work on have a wide range of users—some are computer-savvy, digital natives, some aren’t. UI and UX haven’t historically been priorities in aerospace, so it can be a challenge to really engage people in my design proposals. I’ve found it helpful to show my vision for the end-user by creating click-through videos that tell a story about what we want to do: “This could be your platform. See how it’s more efficient, easier to use?” Then they get into it more and we can work on creating something together that can really make a difference.

How do you work with the other ADAM team members?

We’re lucky to have a broad range of skills within the ADAM team, from mechanical engineers and software engineers to data scientists. I rely on their expertise and vice versa. Once we identify a part of the design or manufacturing process that our team believes we can drastically improve, we sit together as a team to come up with a skeleton proposal. Then we talk to the engineers who work in that area on a daily basis. After that, it’s up to me to prepare the visuals for the first draft of a potential solution. When that’s approved, we start on coding.

Can you give us an example?

Sure. In 2019, we worked with the A320 Final Assembly Line in Mobile, Alabama, on a digital solution for task assignment and production overview, which are mostly analog. They provided a lot of valuable user input and allowed us to shadow their processes. Based on that, we came up with a system to give managers more precise insights into each assembly line process so they can manage it more efficiently. We’ve run a few tests and we’re still working on improvements, but it’s great to think that my work could impact the way we build planes.

What’s next for UI and UX in aerospace?

I’d definitely like to see them feature more prominently. We’re making progress, though: there are cockpit apps and touchscreen interfaces that will help people reach the Moon, maybe even Mars soon. I believe that improved UI-UX could help make commercial flight more efficient and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. Ultimately, the tasks we do on a regular basis should be easy and intuitive. If you can make an experience one smooth journey and bring more enjoyment and engagement to the workplace, then that’s good design.

Discover more about Project ADAM here.