June 15, 2022

🍨 The Inside Scoop- Arie Aulia Nugraha 🇮🇩

🍨 The Inside Scoop- Arie Aulia Nugraha 🇮🇩

Get to know the person who leads Platform Design and the pioneer of Traveloka Design System, Momentum

🍬 Bite-Size Facts

  • Favorite Emoji: 🙏
    Can be for please, pray, or high five — a passive-aggressive one hahaha 🙏
  • The most-played song this year: NAKKA — AKMU (Enjoy this song while reading this
  • Starter Pokémon: The first generation in my childhood is Charmander, then turned into Bulbasaur over time.

🙋‍♂️Hey Arie, can you share a bit about yourself?

Wow, where do I start? Well, I’m a Senior Design Lead at Traveloka, and this year is my 6th year being here. I can say I’ve been through a lot in “Traveloka’s storm” haha. My background is informatics engineering, but I’ve been professionally working as a designer.

Beyond visual design, I have a wide range of interests. Recently, I’ve been interested in learning to write better, so I’ve been reading books about writing, taking writing classes, and enjoying writing for my own consumption. I don’t know if other people do it, but I’ve been writing a diary entry every day for the past three years. So, yeah, that’s something I’d like to do.

I’m quite active in sports. I go swimming on the weekends or maybe three times a week. I recently began to experiment with strength training and weightlifting, which I really enjoy. And, yes, perhaps the majority of my time has been spent on juggling between working, writing, or thinking about and playing with my son. (Learn more about Arie’s tips on Time Management here).

🎨How did you get into Design?

I’m an informatics engineering graduate, which means I did some coding and software engineering. My undergrad thesis was about image recognition — it was high-level coding. But games have always been fascinating to me. It’s one of the reasons I majored in informatics engineering, thinking I’d be making games. From a very young age until now, I’ve been truly passionate about games.

3D Modelling in game development in 2021 by Arie (see more in this thread)

Things I’ve been enjoying have less likely to do with playing games themselves. I do play games but I’d rather build it and watch my friends play it. I made my first game in junior high school using very basic RPG Maker tools. I was overjoyed when my friend enjoyed playing the game I created. That’s what drew me in — when I first discovered web design in 2011, I saw a lot of similarities between making games and creating digital stuff. A website, or whatever you build, has the potential to have a real impact on people’s lives. So when I saw that I could impact people’s lives by building digital stuff, it sparked my interest in design.

And, yes, there were no UI UX role terms back then. In Traveloka, we call the role Visual Designer, which encompasses skill sets around visual beyond just UI. However back then, the role was probably just known as a web designer. I began my career as a web designer. I even did code websites and worked as a UI developer or whatever you call it related to UI. I found joy in the details of the graphics and how we can “manipulate” the information to ensure that people understand what it means, and how people are enabled to achieve their objectives or solve their pain points. Due to my previous experience in making games, all of those intersect in UI design. I believe there is a UI design in games, right? I’ve been paid to create user interfaces. And here I am now.

👨‍💻What’s it like working at Traveloka?

Working at Traveloka to me is exciting in a way. It’s not some kind of nonsense or whatnot. But, in comparison to every other company I worked at, I’ve learned a lot more in Traveloka over my tenure of six years. Even in my first year designed travel account, I had experienced a lot of things in a year’s time. Initially, I was hired as an Interaction Designer. But after a year or so, I discussed with my manager and decided it would be better for me to contribute as a Visual Designer. As a result, I had switched roles.

The following year, I switched roles again to become a technical lead of visual design, then switched again to become part of a central design committee. So my point is, within a short, relatively short period in Traveloka, I’ve been experiencing a lot of things that might not have been equivalent to if I switched companies. I can just stay here but the changes and richness of the experience are just waiting for me around the corner in Traveloka so that’s what makes it exciting.

My current official title is Senior Design Lead. So basically, it’s a people manager path. In Traveloka, after you become a Senior Designer, there are two possible paths or people call it a dual track that you can choose. Either you become a Design Specialist or take the people manager path (Design Lead). As a Design Specialist, you have no direct reports, so you focus on two things: Leading a mission and your discipline expertise. As Design Lead, you focus on people development (your direct reports) while at the same time also leading a mission. This dual-track provides an opportunity to explore which track you’re more suitable with.

So, I’ve been a Senior Design Lead for half a year in Platform. Prior to that, I started as Design Lead to lead two missions in Platform for over a year. After that, I got promoted to Senior Design Lead, which means I’m overseeing beyond just the two missions, but four missions or the entire vertical. The platform is one of the functions in Traveloka that deals with the end-to-end digital platform basically. We maintain the Traveloka app, website, and mobile web or the orchestration of multiple products on the Traveloka platform.

Platform design team gathering

👨‍🎨You’re in charge of Traveloka Platform and Design System called Momentum. Can you tell us more about it?

I’m the one who piloted the Design System in the company, which we call Momentum.

A design system is basically a collection of tools, people, processes that we define and document to enable designers to deliver works more efficiently, consistently, and coherently.

In Platform, we deal with the so-called hygiene features, or perhaps core or essential features, that allow all of Traveloka’s products to function, such as the booking flow or the chat system. What’s unique about working in the Platform team is the cross-functional and cross-BU (Business Unit) collaboration. In my day-to-day work, I collaborate with amazing people (from Platform engineering, data, product, marketing) that build infrastructure while also allowing people to integrate the structure, as well as collaborating and facilitating teams from other Business Units. Consider how the booking can handle not only flight transactions but also accommodation transactions, as well as food delivery transactions, and how those kinds of things include stretching your ability to think about multiple product contexts, scalability, reliability, and so on. That, I believe, is the uniqueness of the Platform team.

As for Traveloka Design System, we call it Momentum. I believe it’s called the Design Language System — that’s what Airbnb refers to as their Design System. But in our perspective, Design Language is only one part of the Design System. As an example, consider this system to be an umbrella. The design System doesn’t have anything tangible to look at. However, within the confine of the Design System, there are numerous tools that relate to one another and can improve the designer’s workflow. As a result, the Design Language is included as part of the entire tool.

Design Language in our dictionary is a collection of languages, meaning:

  1. How do we communicate the Traveloka brand through visuals?
  2. What kind of colors we should choose?
  3. What kind of typography can represent that?

At the same time, it can have many stylistic choices that we can pick to define the brand personality — that’s the Design Language and we codify it in the form of a design token.

A glimpse of Momentum UI Kit. Banner made by Freddy Albert Sanjaya

Furthermore, what’s within the Design System itself? Another tool is known as the UI kit. Essentially, it’s a collection of reusable UI components that we document and use multiple times without the need for designers and developers to create it from scratch every time. Simply put, making their job easier and faster. These tools, such as UI kits, design languages, and tokens, are linked together to form an ecosystem known as a Design System. Maintaining a Design System is more about ensuring that the processes and governance are clear; who is in charge is clear, and the tools that we build are reliable. And we always keep them up-to-date to accommodate the organization’s needs.

🤔Why is it called Momentum?

I almost want to laugh when I remember the name, hahaha. Back in 2017, when Momentum was just getting started, Traveloka had gone through a number of transformations. At that time, there was some kind of a brand tagline that said, “Traveloka wants to help our users create moments.” Traveloka’s focus had shifted from enabling mobility (only about flight and accommodation) to creating moments. Our mission at that time shifted to help our users to create moments.

It was in line with our first attempt to redesign our app homepage. Because, around the same time, Traveloka began to offer products other than hotels and flights. In addition, Traveloka began to expand beyond Indonesia. So scalability and other types of tension were issues that we were attempting to resolve at the time. As a result, the Design System is also in motion.

When we were discussing what to name it, one of my ex-teammates said that we are creating moments — Momentum. So now you know where it’s coming from. After we had that name, Momentum, we began to define the philosophy behind it, as a common practice. Okay, momentum is movement. Momentum, in a physical term, is a force of movement that is unstoppable. It has weight and impact, so yeah. From then on till today, we stick to that “momentum”.

🎯What will Momentum’s next move be?

So the challenge of maintaining a Design System is to keep up with the company’s growth, right? The Design System may have appeared very different in 2018 compared to 2021–2022. It must be maintained by different people, supported by different tools, and run with different processes.

The thing about Design System that I was fortunate to realize early on is that, it is meant to evolve.

Despite the fact that it is sample governance of design processes and tools, it can’t be too fixed or rigid. It can’t keep everyone saying, “Oh, you can’t do it.” just because the design system says so. That factor cannot be in our Momentum. Momentum needs to evolve in response to the needs of the company and its growth. So, the challenge is to ensure that change and evolution are manageable and become a part of the system itself. Rather than allowing it to become a very fixed and unchangeable entity, we incorporate the process of evolving it into the system itself. That’s the main challenge, which I‘m fortunate to discover in the system itself.

If you ask me what the next step is for Momentum, I’d say it is to ensure that everyone in the organization owns the Design System. So the Design System is owned by everyone, not just the Design System maintainer, Arie, or the core team (we call them Momentum Guardians) who improve it. Everyone who uses it should be the owner of it. Would you like to contribute? Join Traveloka Product Design to be a part of Momentum’s exciting journey!

So, my ideal vision for Momentum is to create shared ownership in community practices, which I believe would be beneficial to the system itself: “What do you require from your team? Let’s include it in the system.” “How does the system gain the ability to assist various teams? Let’s apply that to your team as well.”

The benefit of the impact loop is that we improve the system by decentralizing it so it’s owned by the community rather than a single governing team.

To learn more about Momentum, check out these Traveloka Design IG posts: 1st post, 2nd post, 3rd post, 4th post (and follow our Instagram to know the most recent updates on Momentum!). Check out as well an article written by our fellow engineer about how Momentum saves their lives.

🌻 Next, what kind of mentorship do you wish to provide and why?

To add some context, I’ve been thinking about registering to ADPList in 2020. I’d like to provide this kind of mentorship, but I haven’t pursued it because I don’t think I have the time. So I was concerned that while I could advertise that I was available to mentor, I was unable to do so.

Until I spoke with some of my friends who joined the platform earlier, such as Rifat and Yoel. “Oh, actually, you can set the availability, and people can only book during the time that you set in the settings,” they said. As a result, making the time to commit to the slots is no longer a burden for me. It also makes it easier for the mentees to find a time that works best for them. So yeah, I joined ADPList a while ago.

Why am I interested in giving mentorship? I enjoy talking to people, especially designers who are trying to break into the industries, envisioning their career, or just wanting to discuss philosophical questions, like… “Is design something that will last forever or not? What’s next after design?” So I’m open to a lot of topics, actually. But I think a lot of things have been covered by other mentors as well in ADPList — it’s a great mix of people in there. Such as, how to become a good designer, how to create your portfolio, how to solve this kind of problem, how to do this, or that.

What I want to offer is more on the things surrounding becoming a designer. So things like:

  • Work-life balance, do you believe it? How to have one? (I can give you tips and tricks)
  • How do you make time for your personal hobbies or interests as a designer?
  • About health and wellbeing as a designer: How do we avoid burnout? How do we stay fit physically and mentally?
  • How do you manage your time? aspiration — long-term aspiration.
  • Still unsure on what you want to do in the design field: Do I want to become an Interaction Designer, a UI/Visual Designer, or a Product Copywriter/UX Writer? How can I venture into the industry? Should I become a generalist or specialist?
  • In the day-to-day work as a designer: What is your actual contribution to the company and to which extent can I bring impact? What’s my identity?
  • Or maybe you already have some kind of ideas that you want to stress-test or just to have someone to bounce ideas with you, maybe for a feature you’re building? Aspiration or ideas about certain products.

Those are the things I want to help people through this mentorship. It’s not only in the design field per se but maybe topics beyond design and surrounding design and about people as designers. I’m also open to discussing how you become a designer while also being a parent, which is an interesting topic on its own.

👨‍🏫If there is one thing you could tell every single mentee you meet, what would that one piece of advice be?

I believe that if you’re starting your design career/industry or if you are quite early in your design career, one thing that I would like people to learn is to not limit yourself too early. It means experimenting with the design field or the environment in which the design field stands. And before discovering the one and says, “Ah, this is meant to be for me.” Why? Because as you progress into more skills, you will discover that understanding a wide range of topics or disciplines outside design can help you become a better designer.

So if you restrict yourself, for example, “Oh, I just want to do graphics,” or “I’ll just want to do typography for the rest of my life.” You are not doing yourself any favor. But if you see something more, “Actually, if I learn about copywriting, I can improve my ability to enhance information architecture.” or “If I understand how ATMs work, I’ll be able to create a better solution for my design.” In a way, limiting yourself too early will cause you to miss out on a lot of opportunities that could help you become a better designer.

Related to this, in Traveloka, we truly support everyone in terms of their Individual Development Plan (IDP) and learning opportunities through Traveloka Academy. Through Traveloka Academy, designers’ IDP is strengthened by having access to a variety of learning programs related to design and beyond design. Stay tuned to more updates about Traveloka Academy and relevant topics surrounding the development plan in our Medium.

🌏 What kind of impact are you making in the world using your design skills?

If there’s only one, I really believe in democratizing design. I think it’s been one of my ideas that I’ve been exploring for the past years. And what does democratizing design mean? It means involving a lot of people to join the design process to demystify the sacredness of design and the magic of design itself. Because the problem I’ve been observing in my early career as a designer is design has been viewed as some kind of magic. People just give the requests and then the designer will do their magic to produce magic, but they don’t understand where it’s coming from. So I want to demystify that by making it more transparent. This is the design process, it’s predictable, repeatable, and you can also understand or even do it actually. As a designer, I will help you make sense of it.

Our design process, Tricleloka [Tri/kel/loka], enables you (designers or non-designers) to have a common language, hence getting a deeper look into how we design digital products

It will not lessen the value of the design. On the contrary, it will make the value of the design even stronger because I believe that the value of design is seen through connecting people together.

The solution doesn’t have to come from me as a designer. My job as a designer is to take your ideas, synthesize your expertise, and then condense it all into one big solution on which we can all agree upon. And want to build the ‘painting’ together, so that’s the power of designers that I believe becomes highly effective. Manage to connect people and ensure that the solution is agreeable and aligned with everyone, and I believe it is possible if we demystify the design process and truly democratize it.

One of my happy moments is when one of our Product Managers came to me and then shared her concept. And she made it on Figma all by herself using Momentum components! The Product Manager explained the ideas. While some designers might hate it saying why are you doing my job? It’s my job, right? But to me, I see it as “Finally! Aside from the product’s plan or a lengthy request, you have a variety of tools at your disposal to effectively communicate your ideas.” Instead of using Figma or other software, you can also simply scribble it on a whiteboard. It can get faster if a Product Manager just describes their thoughts using visuals/tools.

Also, it doesn’t mean that we’ll say no to the ideas that they draw on Figma but we can start from there; at the very least, we won’t start from scratch. So it’s one of my dream and happy moments when I see non-designers use visual and storytelling tools to communicate their ideas. Take, for example, Canva. I like it a lot because it gives you access to design tools. People in high school, junior high, or in areas where Figma, Sketch, or other tools are unavailable can easily use Canva, right? And it is this type of access that I believe should be leveraged.

Greetings from Arie and Freddy!

Lastly, Traveloka Product Design is hiring as we’re growing our product portfolio! Check out the openings here and join us in enabling user delightful experiences as Southeast Asia’s leading lifestyle super app!

Note: This article was also published in Traveloka's Medium.