An interview with Firat Parlak, Expert-in-Residence at URBAN-X, and founder of Awesome, an interaction and user experience firm specializing in helping startups with all stages of the design process – from initial prototyping to pitching their products to investors.

Why is UI/UX so important in today’s world?

My interest in UI/UX design emerged from the understanding that human behavior is very predictable. UI/UX becomes an important medium to control how people consume certain information and adapt new – day to day – habits which did not exist a decade ago. Psychology – paying attention to emotions – helps  understand how people behave on precisely defined digital experiences.

Starting an agency/studio is always a challenge, especially in such a competitive market like NYC. What brought you to start Awesome and what are some lessons learned from being part of the NYC design ecosystem?

I left my day job around 2010 – an important time frame for NY tech scene. I started Awesome in the same office with Uber back in Greenpoint (not too far from URBAN-X) and it embedded itself to the startup scene.

New York City attracts the best talent in the world and understanding how to tap into that talent and enhance the skillsets of designers was the key to success for Awesome. Today, Awesome has worked with over 120 startups, including Beyoncé’s Sidestep, as well as BMW iVentures.

What drives your work and what are some of your daily inspirations?

I think it’s important to maintain your inspiration with ideas: I look for new products on Product Hunt all the time,  and read Designer News. And I suggest  reading Startups, this is how design works.

Now that you are an Expert in Residence at URBAN-X, what would you advise startups to take into account when developing their MVP’s UX/UI?

I’ve written an article all about this for Forbes. Some of the highlights from my experience working with startups:

For teams; harmony trumps talent and experience:  ”Building a successful product requires a team working together as one unit to achieve the greater goal.”

For product; focusing on too many features early on can kill your startup: ”Getting too “feature happy” not only shows an unclear direction in vision, but also makes it 10 times harder to create a quality product.”

What kinds of tools or processes would you recommend using?

I think having a good design process is very important to create user-friendly products. Also as important, having a good project management team to maximize your team’s skillset. Although Slack is a great tool, it’s not ideal for the design workflow because it creates a sense of urgency for designers. Conversation gets lost in Slack and becomes hard to keep track of as you are communicating internally with your team. Basic tools like Trello or Basecamp can simplify the responsibilities of each stakeholder.

I also like POP for faster prototyping, it turns your basic paper drawings into digital wireframes. Use it during brainstorming meetings to create a faster turnaround time for your ideas.

Tools like Zeplin are also very useful– it’s  helps quickly generate style guides for your designs, mainly for Sketch and Photoshop.

Is there a dream project that you would like to someday realize?

I think I’m already achieving it: my job is to create dream projects of others.