Product Designer at Auth0
Ankur
Chauhan

Based out of the south of France, Ankur is an interdisciplinary designer that likes to try a lot. Currently working as a Product Designer at Auth0. Hopefully, mixing music again on the interwebs soon.

Vallauris, France • October 5, 2021

What led you into design?

When I was growing up, my family moved to Seoul, when I was around 8 or 9. This was around 1999 and from what I recall the internet speed was great and there were internet cafes called "PC bangs". So naturally, I grew pretty curious about the internet, and computers in general. Remember—this is around the turn of the century and the websites we had then weren't hard to build, so all you needed was HTML / CSS, maybe some Javascript, and it was there for everyone to see. This blew my mind back then and I just started building a lot of sites. I found Photoshop at some point out of need and it completely shifted the way I approached my design process.

While I was learning these things and working more on the web, I was also consuming a lot of music, movies and books. Eventually, this led to me studying literature, instead of (my preferred subject) music at university. This meant a focus on literary theory and some philosophy. While that's not perhaps a common path for designers, studying literary criticism really helped me tighten up some high-level thinking in my design process. In retrospect, it's definitely an accidental choice that led to some good intentional effects.

There were two work experiences really shaped my design work ethic. One was the first real work experience I had as a designer, where I got to work on the launch for Windows 8; working on vendor apps, templates, and workshops to help developers self-serve and build apps. The second was making posters and artwork for gigs and festivals, while I was heavily involved in electronic music. I did also produce some of my own music and got a fair amount of traction back then, you can find that here.

What does a typical day look like?

I generally get up pretty early ~6 - 7 AM thanks to my son but I'm not a big sleeper, so I can't complain. I have breakfast with my family and then we get the kids ready for school and daycare. All of this is done by ~9:45 AM. If I have time to spare, I'll try to get a workout or a run-in during this time.

Since I work remotely full-time, I usually check Slack to get my work started. This also means I get to set up my day the way I want, aside from team meetings. Generally, I'll aim to achieve a single big task for the day in the morning.

I break to cook lunch for my partner and me around noon. Then I'll get back to work at 1 PM and try to finish up my tasks for the next couple of hours. Most of my meetings start at ~3 PM, at which point, I shift focus to those. This goes on till the evening when I close up. I'll try to litter in breaks throughout the day, where I try to set aside time to play guitar and sing. The guitar comes naturally, the singing is rather appalling.

What’s your workstation setup?

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We got pretty lucky as we started constructing an office cabin in our garden right around March 2020, as both my partner and I were working from home. This gave us a massive upgrade from using one of the rooms in our house and a lot of space. In the mornings, I tend to work from my home but I'll shift over to the office when I want to do more focused work. For meetings, I try to switch between my desk (since I have a better mic setup now) and the couch. I like to work with wood when I get the chance, so I built the desk stand myself with some leftover wood.

My digital setup consists of Spotify open at all times to play music constantly. I'm trying to wean off Chrome at the moment, so I've replaced it with Firefox. For design, I'll mostly use Figma and switch over to After Effects, if I need to do any animation work. Anything that needs more complex interaction and prototyping goes straight into code, for which, my setup is pretty simple iTerm2 and VSCode. I'm a heavy productivity geek, so I use Raycast and Cheatsheet for getting around so my dock has no apps in it (until they're open). Notes scatter into a floating scratchpad, physical notebook, and Notion.

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Where do you go to get inspired?

I'm extremely grateful that my partner runs her own art gallery and has amassed a large collection of books on art, artists and galleries. I'll dive into these books to get my mind running from more of a visual perspective. I'll also indulge myself in some podcasts like "Philosophize This" that help me indulge in interesting topics. A lot of times I'll come across a piece of music that just helps me go at the work. This is definitely the strongest form of indirect inspiration that I tend to use constantly. In this sense, most of my inspiration comes from indirect forms that feed my mind rather than my eyes.

For digital tab-keeping, I use Savee at the moment. I've tried many platforms for collecting references including Designspiration, Pinterest, among others but I find Savee to be such a simple experience and the feed stays true to my needs.

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What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I enjoy cooking but it's generally time-consuming because you've got to figure out the recipes you need to prepare, get groceries and actually do the cooking. Recently, we subscribed to HelloFresh, which delivers weekly recipes with the required raw ingredients. This was a pretty interesting take because it's a really low investment in terms of cooking, you have everything ready and it takes about 20-30 minutes to have a healthy meal ready, which is great while you work from home.

Another product that impressed me recently is the OpenAI API, which I didn't care about for a while but once I tried it, it was fantastic. The fact that you have these set of models where you can tell them what the box looks like and they manage to then work within that box is pretty impressive.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

At Auth0, we recently shipped the organizations feature set, which aims to allow any typical product that needs to work for businesses and/or personal users (imagine Github/Dropbox/Figma and others), to quickly get up and running with authentication and user management that can be customized to suit the different types of users. I had a great time working on this project from inception to production because it touched on areas ranging from product thinking, visual/motion design, marketing content, demo apps, API design and a bunch of frontend experimentation.

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Something else that I'm proud of but don't share enough is the visual/3D work that I do in my free time. This helps me free up space in my mind and let me wander. Again this borders on art, since I'm not working towards making something that serves any purpose, so it is work but not purely design. Although, I do see that it resonates with the visual/graphic design work from my past and helps me keep those skills sharp.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

Auth0 inherently, as a product offering, can be pretty technical since it needs to integrate into your app. The biggest challenge I see is how to make it easy enough for an average developer that doesn't want to get bogged down with the identity specifications and protocols. Something I've found what makes this a little easier to understand is just trying as many concepts and use-cases out for yourself but this can be time-consuming and requires some amount of technical knowledge.

Since you are also creating a product, which affects people that will use the apps that integrates with our product, you need to design keeping those people in mind. The thing is that the authentication experience is so close to the app itself and literally touches everyone using the app that it just needs to work. That can get very tricky pretty quickly because it plays on where you draw the line.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Just keep learning new things and question things with the same amount of wonder that you had on day one. That's definitely the thing I try to do, day in, day out. Too many designers get bogged down with the industry and how to make it all the way up. I would just aim to get better at the craft, whether that's by going deep on a single thing or trying multiple things.

The thing we fail to realize is that no one really has it figured out, in hindsight, a great success story sounds great with tons of good steps but most will leave out all the missteps that happened along the way.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

I post sparingly but feel free to follow me at @madebyankur on Twitter. If you want to listen to some tunes I made in the past: @whenpandasattack.

I'll plug my partner's online art gallery here too: Echo Fine Arts

And lastly, Auth0 is always hiring for multiple roles so come join us.