Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
Jan. 20, 2022

Welcome to Design Feeling, a Show about the Human Behind the Human-Centred Designer

In this first episode of Design Feeling, designer, educator and host, Nirish Shakya talks about what this podcast is about, why he started it and why now.

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#001 - Welcome to the first episode of the Design Feeling Podcast! Join designer, educator and host, Nirish Shakya, as he talks about what this podcast is about, why he started it and why it’s crucial for designers and design thinkers to focus on their own self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning.

As designers, we know our users and customers better than we know ourselves. But what about your needs, emotions and pain points as a designer? How do you ensure that what you do meet your deeper needs? How can you be more aware of the complex and unfamiliar human emotions determining your wellbeing underneath the familiar structures of our jobs? It’s time to recalibrate yourself as a designer and take agency back of your life and career.

In this episode:

  • Bringing out focus from outside to inside
  • Knowing yourself as a designer
  • Why we can’t ignore human emotions at work
  • What’s coming up
  • A 5-min hack to help you stick to your new New Year habit



Chris Voss’s book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Coventry University

Deakin University

Happy Startup School

Vipassana meditation

Wing Chun Kung Fu

Meisner acting technique

BJ Fogg’s book, Tiny Habits

James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits


[00:00:00] Nirish Shakya: You know what? Being a designer is hard, and I'm not even talking about the craft of design. 

[00:00:07] Ana: One thing I struggle as a designer is how to communicate and still be myself. over the years I've learned at turning my professionalism on, was the way to get my points across, but that sometimes feels quite different to myself. 

[00:00:23] Egle: To work on a product we need evidence. But the reality is, is that we deal with a lot of opinion. bumping into each side, trying to steer it to the center of it all. I've seen this drain a lot of designer batteries. It surely drained my at some point. 

[00:00:38] Leo: Moving from Hong Kong to the UK. The biggest challenge for me is always how to fit in into different cultural contexts. And also with my language barrier, I find this really hard to even do small talks with my colleagues.

[00:00:53] Egle: You know, my feeling is that every product designer, at some point needs to talk to someone about how their job makes them feel.

[00:00:59] Shivaun: this is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:13] Nirish Shakya: Hi, I'm Nirish Shakya, and I'm a designer, educator, and the host of my new podcast Design Feeling. Most of the time, you'll probably find me helping organisations put their customers first, or you might find me teaching design thinking and creative innovation, but I'm on a slightly different quest here - to explore the human behind the designer - who you are, what drives you, what frustrates you and why, and ultimately how you can bring more impact and meaning into your work.

On this podcast, my expert guests, and I will be uncovering ways to increase your self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning.

 Hello, and welcome to the first ever episode of the Design Feeling podcast. My name is Nirish Shakya, and I'm a designer educator and the host of the show. 

So how's your new is resolutions going? Well, if one of your resolutions was to start listening to a new podcast, you've already ticked that off. So well done. But if you're falling off the wagon a bit, stick around because I've got a five minute hack that will help you stick to your new habit every day beyond january. 

 So this episode will be a gentle introduction to Design Feeling. What it is about who am I, why am I even starting this podcast? And why now? It'll probably be like dipping your toes in the water, just to see how cold it is before you decide to jump in.

 So you might be wondering what is this podcast about? Well before that, let me tell you what this podcast is not about. It's not about the craft of design, you know, the research techniques, the shiny new prototyping tools, or even your users. There are already some amazing podcasts out there for that.

This podcast is about you, the human behind the human centered designer. It's not just for people with the official title of a designer, but anyone who considers themselves to be a design thinker or a people gatherer, dot connector, creative technologists, and even problem solvers.

So this podcast has one mission, for now anyway, to help you know yourself. And to give you the mindset and the tools to increase your self-awareness creative confidence and meaning in what you do. You see, as designers, we put so much time and energy in helping other people that would tend to forget that there's actually a human within us, a human with needs and emotions, just like the, you know, the user personas we create.

So, if you feel like, you know, your users more than you know yourself, or you're scared of being judged for your work or ideas, or maybe if your work doesn't give you the same joy and meaning that it used to, then this podcast is for you.

So you might be wondering who the heck is this? Well, my name is Nirish Shakya, and I'm a Nepalese Australian UX designer, educator, and coach based in London. So I have been doing UX for almost 15 years now, and I also teach design thinking and also coach organizations and individuals on how to do design thinking better and improve their design thinking maturity. 

You see throughout my career, my focus has been very external on users and design briefs and stakeholders. And I never went into a project or a new job thinking, what do I want out of this? And I used to chase every shiny new opportunity that came my way. And some of them I really enjoyed and many others that I didn't. And if you're feeling like that yourself, it's not your fault. You know how we say, in user centered design, it's never the user's fault. Let me give you an example. Say you're looking for a job or maybe a recruiter contacts you with a job, what do you look at first? I tend to look at the company name and the job title and the job description, or maybe the salary, right on the surface. Um, many design jobs out there pretty much sound the same as if someone's literally copied and pasted them.

 Yeah, we need someone who always puts the user first or someone who can work in agile or someone who can make it pop. Yep. We've all heard that one as well. And these are basically very simple boxes that we have created to fit ourselves into. But if you look under the hood of these relatively simplistic structures, you'll start to see your real challenge working with people. And I'm not saying I don't enjoy working with people. I love working with people, but everyone you work with is driven by their own complex set of needs and emotions, including yourself.

And when there's this cocktail of human needs and emotions and fears in an organization that no one pays attention to our collective wellbeing starts to suffer. You know, when we focus on just the doing and the thinking, we miss out on, what's really driving each one of us, the feeling. 

And this reminds me of a quote by Chris Voss, who was a former FBI hostage negotiator, and the author of the book Never Split the Difference. Really good book, highly recommended. And he says that we are emotional irrational beasts who are emotional and irrational in predictable pattern filled ways. 

I remember thinking I'll be happier if I learned a new skill or read another book or attend another conference. Most of them focused on the craft of design, like how to use Figma or how to run design sprints, or how to talk to business people. And none of them actually talked about what's going on inside of me.

A couple of years ago by enrolled myself into a post-graduate entrepreneurship course offered by Deakin University and Coventry university. And I was there to learn about business, but I was really surprised to see how much time and focus was given on self-reflection. In fact, I'd say almost half the course was about self-reflection and learning about who you are as an entrepreneur. And I was like, teach me about business. Why are you teaching me about myself? And it was only later, I started to realize how much value there is in learning about yourself first, before you learn about other things and other people. 

And more recently, I was part of a business accelerator program called the Happy Startup School. And even their philosophy was about starting with who, who you are as an entrepreneur. And what do you need from all this? And I found that to be a really powerful way to start anything. Right. Cause a lot of times we don't know what we want.

And when I sat down and started reflecting on somewhat aspects of my life, So my other practices, for example, in Vipassana meditation and Kung Fu and, and the acting lessons that I've been taking for the past few years, I started to see a common thread across all these different disciplines. All these disciplines start with self-awareness understanding yourself first.

So for example, if you're. You would sit down and watch your own breath or focus on your own body. When you're doing Kung Fu you would first be aware of your own body and its stance so that you can be more aware of where the force from your opponent is coming from and what to do with it. And even in acting, especially the acting technique that I was learning called the Meisner technique, you would first be aware of the emotions that you're feeling moment to moment and respond authentically to your acting partner according to that.

So when I started to put all these pieces of the puzzle together, I started to see the value of self-awareness even in design. And I remember this one day I was sitting down to meditate and I was trying to feel the sensations in my body, but my mind was basically trying to think of like a thousand different things I had to do that day. And that made me think. What we do in terms of design thinking, and maybe what we need to do more off is the feeling.

And that's where the name of the podcast came from. Well, I did think of, maybe it is, should be Design Feelers, but my friends were like, Aw, nah that probably sounds a bit too creepy. So that's where we went with Design Feeling instead.

So at this stage you might be wondering, Well, Nirish, it's all well. And good, but why are you starting this podcast now? Well, over the past couple of years, I have lost a lot of relatives in Nepal due to COVID, which has made me realize that, you know, life's too short to be doing something that does not bring you joy or meaning. But a lot of times we don't know what brings us joy and meaning, you know, I've worked for some big name brands thinking that'll make me happier. And, you know what I realized that it's not the shiny brand names or the fancy job titles or the cool products that give me joy and meaning. 

For me. It was three things, creative freedom, belonging, and structured serendipity, the ability to experience different things without having to plan for it. And looking back at some of the jobs I've had in the past, if a job gave me these three things, I remember being a lot happier. And if it didn't, I remember being frustrated more and for you, it might be something different and it really breaks my heart to see talented designers feeling stuck in jobs that they don't enjoy doing and not seeing a way out. So I think it's time to recalibrate yourself and take back agency of your own life. And to help you do just that we have some amazing guests coming up in the next few episodes. You'll hear the story of a design coach who was at the top of their game when they were burnt out. And you'll hear the story of how they recovered and flourished after that. You'll also hear from a design leader, sharing their vulnerabilities, and also the tools that they've created full self-awareness for designers. I also interviewed an atomic physicist, turned entrepreneur, and now they're a business coach encouraging people to find work that makes them happy. And we'll also learn from an emotional intelligence professor from Yale university, talking about using emotions as data for decision-making.

Are you excited? Well, I hope you are because it's going to be a fun and enlightening journey. And oh yeah, here's the five minute hack that I promised. See this podcast is going to give you the ideas, the mindset and tools to transform you into a more self-aware creatively, confident and purposeful designer, but we all know that change is hard, right?

No January is a time when many of us create resolutions and try to start new habits. But the problem is we don't stick to them, but I want to help you stick to the change that you seek. And this change doesn't have to be big. In fact, it probably should not be big to start off with. You see, I went to my first Vipassana meditation course when I was 16 and since then, I've been trying to build a daily meditation habit for two decades and failed.

See, my problem was I was aiming too high. My meditation teacher said, you know, when I go back to the real world, I should meditate for two hours a day. And that's what I was trying to do. But I would do it for the first, couple of weeks or a month max, and then I'll just stop meditating because I just couldn't be bothered anymore. As a designer had been using this human behavioral model created by Dr. BJ Fogg, who is a behavioral scientist from Stanford university. And, uh, he basically says that if you want your users to do something in your product, Don't try to motivate them to do it. Instead make the action super easy to do. He's also written a book about this called Tiny Habits. And there's also another author named James Clear who's written a book called Atomic Habits who also talks about the value of starting small. Um, and he says something like you need to show up before you can master the habit, just like before you can build big muscles, you need to learn to just show up at the gym. Literally just show up at the gym. 

So I tried setting a reminder for myself on my calendar, but every time the notification popped up on my phone, I just ignored it because I was already busy doing something else. So I realized before you can even show up for your new habit, you need to make space for it. So imagine a cobblestone road with stones that are really tightly packed together. That's your day with things that you already do to fill your day. And if you want to add something new, you're going to have to remove something that's already there. And it's really hard to remove a massive stone.

So I started to think about what is the stone I can remove to make some space. And I thought of the cobblestone road again and ask myself, what would I do if I wanted to remove a stone? And I thought I'd actually start from the edges because the ones in the center in the middle are probably a bit harder to remove than the ones on the edges.

So I was like, Hmm, maybe I can remove, some stones from the edges of my day. So this is when I tried out my five-minute hack to make that space. So before I went to bed one night, I set my alarm to ring five minutes earlier than my normal wake up time. So I think back then my normal wake up time was like seven in the morning. So I just set my alarm for 6:55. And the next morning the alarm went off at 6:55, but I snoozed it as I usually do for around 10 minutes. And after the 10 minutes, the alarm went off again and I woke up, at around five by seven I'm still five minutes earlier than my normal wake up time of 10 past seven.

So had these five minutes that I had created for myself, which I use to just sit down and meditate and the next day the alarm went up again at 6:55 because I just set it to ring at 6:55 every day. And I just use that five minutes to just sit meditate. And because he was only five minutes of lost sleep, my body didn't really feel a difference, but I actually managed to establish that habit of just showing up every day without having to make a manual decision, because I automated that decision.

And also I found out that once I established that habit of showing up, it was a lot easier for me to then add another five minutes to it and then another five minutes and so on. And now I actually meditate for an hour every morning. So if you're trying to bring in a new habit, make space automate and show up.

So, grab your phone right now and set your alarm to ring five minutes earlier tomorrow. Come on, do it right now and let me know what you did in those extra five minutes. You can email at that's. N I R I S H Nirish at design, or if you're feeling a bit fancy, you can even leave me a voice message on my website at and just click on the little microphone button that you'll see on the bottom right corner of the screen.

And I know it's still probably a bit too early for you to decide whether this podcast is going to be useful or it's going to be a waste of time for you. And if you're still listening to this first episode, you're either my grandma or you got some value out of it. And if you did, please do consider hitting that follow button wherever you're listening right now, my grandma's done it. So can you. And please do share it with a Design Thinking friend who needs a bit of design feeling.

See you next time.