Countdown: 18 days.
Continuing along the thread of graduation, we were asked a few weeks back in our Design Professional class to sketch out our designer alter ego, someone with superhero powers that represented our strengths as a designer.
I saw my alter ego as this character called "The Strategist" (got feedback in class that I should call him "Dr. Strategist"), who has telekinetic powers and superhuman analytical abilities. He has levitational abilities too.
He uses those abilities to establish order and structure in a world filled with broken, chaotic, and disorganized systems and services.
While this was done as a fun class exercise, it also helped to put together my personal statement. Here's the final draft of my personal statement that would go up to Art Center's Product Design Grads website.
Hi I'm Kenneth, and I make the complex simple.
Coming from Singapore, I grew up in an environment that was very structured and organized, which at times felt really constricting.
Things changed when I was first introduced to the design process in high school. It empowered me to work within constraints, challenging it, but at the same time respecting it.
I probably didn’t realize it back then, but that also contributed to my moderate (some say borderline severe) obsession with neatness and organization.
This bleeds through to who I am as a designer today, living in a world that is becoming more integrated and seamless, yet also more complex and convoluted to navigate.
I seek to bring organization and clarity back to the user, transforming complicated and frustrating transactions into enjoyable and engaging interactions, making the complex, simple.
Click here to view the complete series of posts on my graduation.
The second week, we had to do a mind map exploring who we are as a designer.
Going through the motions of doing the mind map though, I felt I was just using buzz words that sound good, and not something that came from the core of who I am and what I believe in.
I decided do some generative research with myself, to really find out who I was – a process that is really not as easy as it sounds. Wendee (instructor for the graduating class) was mentioning how when people interview students from Art Center, they already know that everyone works way harder than anyone else, and that everyone has an obsession with perfection. It is a given and is not your unique selling point as a designer. I needed to find my unique voice.
I started with a napkin sketch, while alone in a cafe at K-Town, mapping out who I was as a person, unique to others. It started out with exploring my personality and then relating it to my professional side.
Some of my other graduating classmates have unique traits like bringing energy into a room, or the ability to question and provoke thought. For me, I learnt that I have an obsession in seeking order and structure with chaos and complexity, to create meaning within ambiguity. Maybe this is it – structure within ambiguity.
Read Part 1 of this series here.
I'm graduating in 4 months, and part of Art Center's Product Design curriculum for graduating students is this class called Professional Preparation, led by Wendee Lee and our Department Chair, Karen Hofmann.
Kicking things of in the first week's exercise we were tasked to build our personal cairn that reflected our journey as a designer.
Below is the essay that I wrote from that assignment. It's a little long but I guess this is why it's gonna be a process of editing and summarizing over the course of the term.
More than a philosophy or form of personal expression, I view design as a value-added service, a tool, to help businesses and companies grow to achieve their strategic objectives. This current view of design harks back to what made me first fall in love with design.
Being born and raised in Singapore, I went through the notoriously rigid and monotonous Singaporean education system, where it was mostly about writing the right answer, scoring well for exams, and keeping your opinion to yourself. It went on like that till I was 15, in my 3rd year of secondary school, where I enrolled myself to an elective class called Design & Technology, a basic shop class teaching skills like woodworking and using power tools. It was there that I was first exposed to the design process. The reiterative and explorative nature of the design process immediately struck a chord with me, as I was challenged to explore a variety of solutions to a problem, and that there was no ‘one right answer’.
That experience 10 years ago sparked an interest in me that grew into a passion for using design to solve problems. Fast-forwarding the timeline to today, where experiences such as serving in the Air Force, leading a team of MBAs on a design project while on exchange at INSEAD, as well as an internship with Continuum, has shaped me to understand the powerful and relevant potential that design can have in a corporate and business context.
This is where I want to position myself, to play a role in bridging the gap between business and design, complementing quantitative data & analysis with qualitative research & insights, meeting business targets while delivering products and services that enhance the lives of the people who use them.
My cairn, with the front-facing towered structure, reflects the accumulation of experiences like those, building a strong and solid foundation that shaped my understanding of what design is and how it is applied in the ‘real world’. And now that I am at the top, at the pinnacle of my design education, I have a much clearer perspective of how design relates to myself, as well as the world around me.
What I know is that there is still so much more to learn and so much more experiences to be gained that even though this tower might have reached its completion, another journey waits, as represented by the half-built bridge at the top of the tower.