Rourkela – The Illustrated Journey Into The Life Of The City Around India’s First Public Sector Steel Plant

A new type of history book about a city ..600+ illustrations, 270 pages , about India’s first public sector steel plant and a city around it… legends, facts, figures..about tribals, their life, about the British Raj and post modern Indian scenario..about how the steel industry came up in the remote area and how the city got into Narendra Modi’s smart city list..

A new type of history book about a city ..600+ illustrations, 270 pages , about India's first public sector steel plant and a city around it... legends, facts, figures..about tribals, their life, about the British Raj and post modern Indian scenario..about how the steel industry came up in the remote area and how the city got into Narendra Modi's smart city list..


Completely illustrated narrative about Rourkela, a city that become one of the iconic industrialization urban symbol in post independent India. A remote village of the ‘Roulia’ tribe, surrounded by dense forests and hills amidst India’s one of the mineral rich valleys, got selected by the makers of modern India to host India’s first public holding Steel and Iron company Hindustan Steel Limited. This story is the the journey of becoming one of the founding stones of modern industrialization of India. “History of a less travelled yet one of the cult cities of modern Indian town retold disguised as a compelling and gripping story through pictures” Explore the fine details about the place, it’s aboriginal, the migrant population, the culture and the impact of urbanization in social life. An unique experimental book of it’s own kind.





Specstra 2.0 : My Experiments in Cloud Based Design Process Automation

Specstra 2.0 : My Experiments in Cloud Based Design Process Automation


“Automation” is one of the trending phenomenon of the current technological world. Manufacturing industry has been pioneering it for decades. Other verticals are following it. In software development , testing and deployment field, automation is popularized by Dev OPS and Continuous Integration (CI) that helps speed up the software development life cycle (SDLC). But the SDLC is not only about the So what about the software design industry? What about the design phases of any SDLC? While design is getting more and more recognition across the entrepreneur world and many industry efforts like ‘IBM Design Thinking’ and similar frameworks and associated methodologies are trying to create a synergy between the ‘Agile’ approach of SDLC and the “Design Thinking”, it is an interesting crossroad in time, that can show ways of developing more usable and meticulously designed software and similar products. So when everyone is trying to bring automation to speed up process and speed up delivery, it is really interesting as well as challenging to come up solutions and tools that help in automation of designing phase of SDLC.

In context of Software industry I always see “Design”  as an intersection between creativity and the technology where both shape each with the help from user needs and blending of these results into successful products. This also is the reason automating designing process is a lot more challenging than building solutions for automation of purely technology driven process. I accepted this challenge 2 years back during my short stint at an R&D center at Bangalore, of a leading mobile  brand, I was part of a large design team, where almost 70% of the crowd was visual designer and the rest belong to user experience and research team members. And many of these visual team who worked on different projects, complained about certain phases of the design process that involved creation of style guide of the app that they were working on. Every app project used to be developed for different flagship phones models with different resolutions as well as screen densities. And being developed in native languages for Android view-ports, designer used to develop each style guide for each project separately for each model of phone. Each style-guide has to be detailed to pixel level which the designer has to calculate and define taking calculation of the view port pixel density(PD). Many designers have to maintain different versions of the mock-up and the create specs for each version, which was more like a “drafts man’s job” with lesser creative moments for expressions and innovation than the previous phase where the designer has to follow the wire-frame and come up with pixel perfect mock-ups of the app screens.

Almost all the designers tried to grab their hands on the creative part of the job, getting engaged with the stake holders and
The senior designers prefered to avoid working on the style-guide, though they would love to review one. The not so seniors worked on the the drafting of the guide and churned out the specs document, yet do the crying that it is less creative even though it is one of the most critical part of the design process.

So I thought of calculating how much effort we are giving to a creative phase of creating a visual mock-up vs. a drafting work , i.e. creation of a specs document /style-guide. Roughly on average one view of a single screen to  be mocked up in something around 4-8 hours. creation of a very detailed spec. might need 4-6 hours of job. But if it is designed for multiple view-ports of an operating system with significant pixel density change along with varied resolutions, then this drafting time gets multiplied. So by creating 4 generations of phone models running different generation of Android might need 16- 24 hours. So the designer actually takes roughly one week of work for a view in this case from wire-framing stage to finished design with specs ready for the developer. Averagely an app can have 10 views , so the whole app would need approximately a month of work to be designed and be ready for 4 different models. Even though this is a very haigh level bare-bone calculation, it indicates a few things —


So in this context for a designer —
1. for the designer 1/4th of his work remains creative and gives him the scope to explore, innovate and express through his designs.
2. remaining 3/4th of his time is a purely drafts-man job.
So a designers job is actually boring as the volume of his output is not creative or inspirational.

For the organization —
1. It is paying higher fee for lower type of work. To exlain it — a creative work like that of coming of new designs is typically high paid job, where as the drafting job based on a creative guy’s is a low profile job , and should be paid less.
But interestingly this is the same designer, so the payment rate is actually based on his skill of how he performs in the 1/4th of the job where the creative juice flows and he is actually innovates.

2. Even though the 3/4th of the job is lower profile job, which could have been automated,consumes more from the delivery time. if we look at the timeline of the delivery of the design deliverables, we see that 1/4th of the delivery time is actually spent in creative way. So actually if there is a scope to automate the low profile manual work, where the designer does not need to use his right brain, then the deliverables could have been delivered in just 1 week instead of a month! Also note that time is money for industry, so the organization is actually spend 300% more than it should and that too on a higher price point.

Again apart from this there are other factor that contributed to a above problem. Being in a world of rapidly changing requirements, many industry are following “Agile” or “Iterative” approach of work. Which means in the short notice things can change even to the look and feel and UI aspect which would mean a change to the style guide if view of standard control lines are affected.This has a cascading effect that flows through the style guide work. So any change in such requirement means the wastage of effort and addition of new efforts to keep the specs aligned. Imagine, if multiple design centered projects are running on mission critical deadlines due to faster time to market needs, and such kind of scenario is happening to most of the projects. Looking at these kind of need, many design firms, keep a larger design workforce, to absorb such shocks. But that means more volume of cash burn at a higher price points for the enterprise and smaller startups do not stand a chance in such scenarios.

Another aspect that I think is important to notice here is that due to time crunch, many designers prefer to avoid granularity in the style guides. Provide common documentation and provide very high level change documentations to developers. Also in some cases there are gaps left in the document that go unnoticed, which forces the developers to get in touch with the designers during development phases. Also due to lack of a complete and meaningful style guide or specs, the software testing also gets impacted due to many blur lines among what is in and what’s out. Certain things the testers take as assumptions while completing the testing phases.

Specstra is a pet prototype that I had started working on, 3 years back (around 2013) to explore a possible solution for design related automation process.
The problem of design automation is most of the process blocks are related to creative aspect of the work the designer does. So I started with the blocks that were more aligned to less creative activity so that these blocks can be removed from the creative process flow . One of such area was creation of style guide design from the selected design where the designer has to spend hours to manually define specs.




The user can upload  Adobe Photoshop (  PSD), Adobe Illustrator (.AI), or PDF formatted exported from any design tool (Corel draw, Paint etc.) and within minutes Specstra can generate style guide which other wise would have taken the user days to complete and that with prone to error.

Typical Pain-points of manual approach of style-guide or a specs document creation are:

  1.  Tedious process
  2.  Lots of manual work
    no creativity – draftsman-ship work is not fun for designer.
  3.  Time & effort consuming activity
  4.  Not scalable
    there is limit to how much a single designer can do
  5.  Comes with cost
    Creative guys are paid to do these non-creative tings – however charges   remain the same.
  6.  Threat to agile projects
    last moment changes in design can impact the software delivery


Specstra addressed all of these along with some additional benefits —

  1. Completely Cloud based
    o software to install
  2. Not restricted to Adobe software solution
    Can support non adobe software
  3. Minimal user intervention is workflow
    Design automation is possible
  4. Quick to Delivery
    Reduces the designer time to delivery by 99% or more.
  5. Saves $$$$
    Saves money by 50% or more.
  6. Supports creativity
    Designer can save more time for creative stuffs and is saved from draftsman-ship.
  7. Multi-language support
    Helps a global team
  8. Supports Agile SDLC
    Quick iterations and design changes will not delay the time to development as style guide can be ready in a few minutes.
  9. One click User Experience
    One click GUI guide makes the workflow super easy.
  10. Automatically handles multiple device resolutions and screen densities.
  11. Scalable for any volume of works.
  12. No need to pay to reserve people for the work .


Overview of Features: Design file support:
Outputs from Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw, In-Design, Gem  to be supported.

Super easy to use dashboard:
Dashboard that is easy to use and aligns with the design workflow.

Customized report builder:
Editor to add and remove details, renaming etc. 

Detailed Report:
Font, Shape, Color, Grid, Absolute, Relative positioning. In every iteration the report  is complete in all respect. minutes delivery  :
All reports will be generated in 5-10 minutes of upload.



Feature #1 – Complete details of the objects


  •  Supports text/font, shape, image objects
  •  Resolution dependent (Screen Pixel) units
  •  Resolution independent (Point) units (Auto conversion based on target pixel density of the device ) – example iOS Retina, Non-Retina, Android (LDPI, MDPI, HDPI, XHDPI, XXHDPI, XXXHDPI etc. ), PC Screen standard web resolution  etc.
  •  Font formatting information – size , family, style, color,


Feature #2 — Complete details of color, shapes, images & font

  • Supports text/font, shape, image objects
  • Font formatting information – size , family, style, color,
  •  Web safe / Non-web safe color analysis






My Article – Consumer dynamics benchmarking enterprise software market

In the present era, the partnership stories like Apple+IBM are enough to prove how consumer devices are impacting positively for enterprise business process re-engineering cases in core industries like retail, healthcare, Insurance, manufacturing, aerospace and entertainment sectors.

Consumer dynamics benchmarking enterprise solutions is much more relevant in the Indian context where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised in making the technological innovation benefit common man through the Digital India initiative that aims to transform India into digital empowered society and knowledge economy.

Read the complete story here

Consumer dynamics benchmarking enterprise software market



Rourkela: The Illustrated Journey Into The Life Of A City



The “Rourkela:  The illustrated journey into the life of a city ” book project is an unique attempt to stitch to weave a canvas of experience about a place through illustrative medium — it’s more about travelling through time and space to witness the growth of a city and it’s culture.

India’s  first ever integrated steel plant under public sector ‘Rourkela Steel Plant’ facility was established in Rourkela 1954-55. Post independence the then leaders wanted to set up a steel plant to make India self-dependent in iron and steel.Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India wanted to make India an industrialised state. Iron and Steel was the basic requirements of the people at the dawn of the independence. Finally the leaders of the nation selected Rourkela for a steel plant.

So what is the story behind this? How was the city selected? What was the history of that place before? The book tries to explore this fascinating story in with the vivid illustrations. It

aims to include those little little things that makes help understand the place better – including the flocklore of the place to actual historical linkage to some part of the place that typically go unnoticed due to the fact that the place is less written about in different books and magazines.

– See more at:



Specstra: My Experiments in UI Automation to Extract CSS, Assets from Design Files

This is a proof-of-concept /experimental exploratory project I was spending my weekends during 2013-15 to come up with a cloud based tool that allows designers & developers in quickly getting assets, CSS and element details like position, dimension, shapes, raster, text formatting info etc. from the design file/screen mockups easily without them required to have installed Adobe Software suits like Photoshop.

The major challenges I faced were in reading the Adobe proprietary file formats like PSD to extract separate information on design elements specially the fonts and getting formatting information without using any of the Adobe technology available. Invented many workarounds and implemented them in an assembly line kind of architecture (i.e. chain of responsibility design pattern) to ensure that multiple design file uploads (each one having file sizes from few hundred MBs to 1 GB ) are processed successfully without crashing or over burdening the cloud system. Also the implementation required the necessary image processing tasks to achieve certain goals like creation and export of assets in specific resolution and rendering the red-lines on the fly.

The technologies used were: PHP, MySQL, Python, Perl, Ruby, Shell Scripting, HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, Canvas & Node.


Extract design info from a PSD comp to use with HTML & Native App projects like mobile and desktop designs, with Specstra.

Cloud based – Single dashboard to manage all design files.

Export design elements / assets e.g Raster (PNG,JPG) , Vectors (SVG), CSS

Dynamic selection of design elements/assets from the file.

Detects nested vector shapes, text objects, images/raster from the design file.

Detects color palette from the design file.



What the failure of Google Glass teaches about UX?


In mid of January I saw the headlines making official announcement of the detah of Google Glass. I was not surprised. I knew lot of issues ave to be addressed before Gass could make it to the expectations. Many of them are issues related to UX. All of them related to an grey area of UX space, which was never given the prime consideration when designing a seminal product like Glass and many other legends.
Back in 2013, I had wrote a few posts on the usability in context to the social aspect of Google Glass that was being ignored. When I read now the article saying “privacy concerns” is one of many reasons of failure, it certainly louds the many of the design approach concerns I had raised.

Google Glass is not evil product, everyone agrees. Even all agree that it has immense potential. However, it certainly needs a facelift from product design point of view — and there by from UX point of view.

We saw, the raise and fall of Google Glass carrying it’s pattern where we can notice how with the emergence of Google Glass, the topics related to devices infringing with personal privacy became hot cakes for tech-debates. Many social scientists, human rights activists had started to see the ‘Glass’ as the evil that reminds them with George Orwell’s ‘1984’. The fear of a ‘Google Big Brother’ controlling the major shares of the information world is seen as the intruder to private aspects of ‘the public’. The “Glass Hole” incarnation of the Glass is equally seminal as the product “Glass” it self, due to bring out the topics like “user privacy”, “social context” and certainly what I believe as the “Context of the Other”.

It is not the case that Google has not spent money on user research and usability aspects before going ahead with the concept of persons using glass that may change the way we interact with systems in our daily life. Usability wise, it is definitely a super gadget that has the potential to catapult the device industry into next century. But the new features and interaction methods implemented in the device in a manner that is actually a decade old approach that is only fit for human-computer-interaction (HCI) in case of smart phones and tablets which have less tendency to hurt sentiments of those who do not directly interact with the device when the user might be performing some actions in a certain socio-cultural context. These sentiments could result in the fear of losing privacy , cultural distrust and humiliation among the second-hand users of the device who are impacted indirectly in some way by the device actions in the context.

Historically, the product design process while following the check and balances with heuristics and usability models, has never given prime importance to the user’s relationship to the ‘Other’ in his environment. And this is the missing piece that needs to be re-discovered and fit into standard usability matrix when Google might give “Glass” a face-lift to bring it back with a new incarnation that is more friendly and less intruder to user’s privacy and is compatible with SX model (Socio-cultural Usability Model) which I had proposed earlier.

Socio-Cultural User Experience (SX) – the missing piece in UX

‘Socio-Cultural User Experience to represent the aspect of Usability Design or User Experience (UX) that deals with usability aspect of products/ software in a social context. This is the same “Context of Other”

Considering the ‘Others’ in the User’s Social circle:

The existing UX model does not analyze the need beyond the current user and his ‘type’ to do a usability test — it never considers how it is impacting the other members of the society while the target user set is using the app/system.
For example, using car horn is a safety measure, but using it near a hospital or school is considered as unsocial and disturbing. There are many social check points that bar users of any system from using it in special socio logical context.

Criteria of a Good ‘SX’ Compatible System

Criteria of a sound usability design of an app on socio-cultural context:

1. Universal—has design elements that are universal.
2. Ethical – follows principles and approach that has positive ethical value
3. Non-racial – non biased and non-provocative attitude to user’s race and beliefs.
Socio-cultural User Experience (SX) and Social Interaction Design (SxD)
4. Respectful – towards user’s culture, social beliefs and ethnicity
5. Safety – has it’s social impact that is safe for the User.
6. Non-abusive – must not exploit the user and the environment he is in .
7. Common Sense – has geared towards common sense – behaves and reacts to the user in a sensible way
8. Protect Privacy – App’s feature and interaction must protect user’s privacy and other humans in the social circle.

Let’s take the case of Google Glass.

Google Glass is designed in a way that can act as more personal than a mobile handset, as it is a spectacle and can be indispensable accessory for the user once he gets addicted to it by replacing his conventional glass with it.
But the support for camera to take picture can pose a problem for the user to enter private areas, industrial areas, secure zones and offices where cameras are not allowed. In some places of earth, the cultural restrictions are in practice to ban cameras in certain places — most of the temples in India do not allow cameras inside. Now imagine, if the user has replaced his traditional spectacle for it , then he may find it difficult to manage without it in these scenarios.
So by following SX approach in usability design, the glass will require to have a “detachable set of camera” used in the glass so that the user can detach the camera and which would power it off and at the same time allow the user to keep on using the glass as a conventional spectacle.
This example may be just one of many features that Google glass might have, but it is enough to illustrate the approach in thought.

Points to Focus on while designing a SxD Compatible System

1. Provide multiple alternatives to the interaction methods to control the same functionalities in different socio-cultural context.
2. User should have total control over enable/disable of interaction methods for different scenarios.
3. The default interaction method must follow ‘SX’ approach.
4. Provide options to the user to switch between interaction methods with the system as and when needed.
5. Alternative mechanisms should be provided for physically challenged users. Rethink on the use of gestures and other interaction methods in the Article 508 context as everyday the new devices with unpredictable (not necessarily negative!) interaction methods and features.

Gesture and other Interaction Medium of SxD:

The ‘Social Interaction Design’ approach has the following major facets in the system interaction towards the user in socio-usability context:
1. Facial Gestures—The selection of Human triggered facial gestures (e.g. wink, smile etc.) to activate the system or trigger any action in the system must be judged based on the canonical meaning of those gestures in social and cultural context of the user where he is going to use it. For example, in case of Google Glass , the feature of “winking” (the gesture developed by Google Glass developer Mike DiGiovanni ) at someone to take a photo can pose a problem if the user is in India or Middle East countries. Even in western world winking at a lady or group of ladies (even though it is unintentional for any kind of abasement) can be taken as a negative action (e.g. weakness in character) and evoke anger and misunderstanding. So even if the winking to take a feature is a ‘cool feature’, in social context SxD will suggest the usability/interaction engineer to rethink on it to implement some options to ‘keep it disabled by default and allow the user the total freedom to use his judgment to enable and use the feature in any given socio-cultural context. Fig5: The ‘wink’ gesture developed by Google Glass developer Mike DiGiovann allows user to take a snap of the surrounding with just a wink of an eye.

2. Sound Gestures — The selection of sound gestures – the use of voice or sound pattern to control the system should be examined for different user environments. For example blowing a whistle to activate a play functionality on a portable music player, or to open an SMS on the cell phone can be an interesting feature, but on the other hand if it becomes useless in a busy street or in a meeting room where a discussion is going on.
3. Touch based Gestures – Touch, swipe and pinch are popular now a days as most of the tablets and smartphones offer this as a user friendly interaction method for the user. More devices are coming up which do not have any physical button rather a few multi-touch gestures are enough to fully control them. However ‘SxD’ stresses that the devices must be designed and developed with the interaction method that can allow alternative to the available touch triggered interaction mechanism. For example , while developing a digital medical instrument with touch sensitive display, the interaction methods should be carefully planned so that the surgeon can use the system without touching to avoid infections through contact with it while conducting any mission critical surgery.
4. Hand/Finger based 3D gestures – ‘SxD’ approach encourages to conduct a social analysis of the hand/finger based gestures that are planned to be used in a system – the gestures should selected / innovated by carefully studying the cultural context avoiding common gestures used in daily life that are considered abusive to others. In addition to this practical usage resulting out of user’s environment and work culture must be given consideration. For example the middle finger gesture commonly used by youths to represent the crack humiliating pun on the other should not be used for any app that is expected to be popular among the users from the similar demography. But note that only considering the demography is not enough to decide the gestures.
5. Mouse /Keyboard Control – Similar to the gesture , voice and the related interaction method with system, mouse, keyboard, joystick and other typical input device based methods should be considered with in the context in which they are going to be used. As this group of interaction method are very old, many standard guidelines are already in there in practice. They However we need to rethink on them and make sure they are upto date with the ever changing human –computer-interaction domain.

Our world needs products that are not only usable but also safe to use socially . It is high time, we need to consider the “Other” in our social context to improve the products and there by our future.

This is a rediscovery of "Accessibility" in the world of touch-screens and other natural interfaces. With new technology innovation the lines between accessibility technology and Technology for Mass are getting blurred. What used to be a special need is becoming a general need for mass use.Situational Disabilities Use-cases are defining the new age devices, wearable & smart interfaces. High time we need to rediscover on "accessibility" what we think we have already discovered!

Rediscovering Accessibility for Future Tech!

This is a rediscovery of “Accessibility” in the world of touch-screens and other natural interfaces. With new technology innovation the lines between accessibility technology and Technology for Mass are getting blurred. What used to be a special need is becoming a general need for mass use.Situational Disabilities Use-cases are defining the new age devices, wearable & smart interfaces.

High time we need to rediscover on “accessibility” what we think we have already discovered!

Linearity matters in ecommerce UI

Linearity Matters: Rethinking eCommerce UI

“Linearity” plays a strong role when it comes to usability of any e-commerce checkout. Many theories supporting this concept have been proved by numerous statistics. UX sites which talks about the best practices to follow while designing the checkout process, always advocate maintaining linearity. It’s make sense when we see multiple principles in human factors indicate that in most of the time when users are “walking on the path” in a multi-step process they want to move forward. But only designing the checkout process is not enough, as from the views of typical goal oriented design, the whole experience of shopping starts with user’s objective to “find something that might influence him enough to buy”where the whole experience is a flow-state which maps to the mental model of the user where “finding” and “buying” are the major component of buying. The former being the “cause” and the latter being the “effect”, the design of the experience should always be linear in order to avoid the situation where the user is distracted by something else to break that state.

If users think of your multi-step process as a straight path, then the sequence of your views must be linear else you will break people’s expectations that will result into a bad experience and usability.

Traversing from user needs the towards the task flow

“I need” –> “I buy”–> checkout

is equivalent to

“I need” –> “I find it ” –> “I buy”–> checkout

is equivalent to

“I need” –> “I browse for it ” –> “I search for it ” –> “I buy” –> checkout

is equivalent to

“I need” –> “I browse for it ” –> “I search for it ” –> I compare –> “I buy” –> checkout

There are two major task clusters now:

1. “I need” –> “I browse for it ” –> “I search for it ” –> I compare –> “I buy”

2. “checkout”

Note the goal stating “I buy”, is the logical point that is represented by the behaviour of the user through the act of “adding to basket/cart”

Meanwhile the act of comparison of the products can be spanned from what is in the browsable and searchable views and what is already existing in the cart (which the user has added to the card already through a previous loop in this category of task). It is similar to the way that you might have added a deodorant “Old Spice” to the cart and suddenly decided to go for an “Axe” that offers 10% extra in the same price (Note that the user’s mind wanders 30% of time). So it helps to allow the user to be in the loop with in the first task group and then jump to the checkout while making the transition to checkout seamless. In order to achieve, the more the mental model matches to the conceptual one and indicate the user’s state in the flow and encouraging him through “progression” in the linearity path.

Here is a sample flow that takes the benefit of the linearity as a part of the process for the experience that covers the pre-checkout and checkout process to complete the flow state.

The target of the solution is primarily a tablet, which is acting as a catalyst as being a touch enabled swipe gesture controlled device it provides the user the effortless approach to move between the “browse/Search” <–> Cart <–> Checkout , once he has reached the entry point to the system.

Explore the complete project at

(c) 2014, Samir Dash. All rights reserved.