Dear Future UOCD Student - Get Curious

Description as per instructors: Your UOCD experience is a journey through a complex design process. It's an experience filled with ups-and-downs, surprises, challenges, you name it! To allow you a space to further explore your experiences, we are asking you to develop 3 blog posts over the course of the semester, one for each phase of UOCD.

You might even imagine that you are writing them for the new UOCD blog site....informally called dearuocdstudent.com that is targeted towards current, future, and previous UOCD students.


ON BEING A DESIGNER...

 Stock photo of "design"

Stock photo of "design"

When asked, I now proudly declare that I have been a “designer” for a little over a year now (followed by a story about how I’ve been doing this whole graphic design thing since middle school so as to give myself some semblance of legitimacy). But it wasn’t until a couple months ago that I even started using this label comfortably. There was always something about the way I did what I did that made me feel like using the word “designer” was superficial. It felt as though there was some element that I just hadn’t quite grasped -- like I was pretending to be part of an elite group with little to no actual knowledge of what being part of said group actually meant. 

Learning the technical skill required to make a beautiful line in Adobe Illustrator or snapping shapes to a grid in Sketch are all tangible skills that usually take no more than a couple months to master. But in the hands of a designer these programs suddenly seem so much more powerful. I am lucky enough to have witnessed the power of design. The magical, innate, allusive ability of these individuals to create things that work. It pains me a little to admit just how much I have come to rely on the now cliche Steve Jobs quote: “design is not just what it looks like and feels like, it’s how it works”. This quote -- to me -- captures that shared secret that all designers seem to understand. It took me a couple years to figure out that perhaps this is why I’ve always felt like part of the uninitiated, desperate to become one of the “cool kids”. 

I never quite figured out how to make something work. 

As a Babson student, I’ve grown used to the mindset that being innovative is either a trait you have or you don’t. There are the great innovators like Steve Jobs and David Kelley and then there’s us -- those who were not blessed with this natural talent to magically figure exactly what people want. I enrolled in UOCD essentially on a whim. I’ve heard my best friend (who now works as a product designer) gush out every aspect of this course and figured I might as well give it a shot. And before I knew it, I was sitting across from a neatly dressed man, sipping on a hot latte, talking about what it meant to be a lawyer and how pro bono work has changed his life. 

The user group that my team chose was legal aids and public defenders. In recent years, this field has become highly romanticized (with shows like Suits and movies like A Few Good Men) as a noble, intense profession, filled with dramatic scenes and sweeping declarations. It is perhaps precisely this widespread misunderstanding of the legal profession that led me to my most profound discovery yet.

“I actually hate going to court”.

Those 6 words suddenly drew my attention away from the hustle and bustle of the typical downtown Starbucks environment around us and back into the conversation. For a lawyer, this seemed like such an unnatural statement. Courtroom dramas are named such because the intensity and excitement are distilled into eloquent opening speeches and targeted cross examinations delivered in the courts. Yet here we were, talking to a man who loved being a lawyer but hated going to court.

As it turns out the modern court system is incredibly antiquated in several ways. The most prominent of which is the notion that all parties of all cases to be heard on a particular day were to arrive at 9:00am. In other words, lawyers would often spend hours upon hours sitting in a room (in which cell phones and laptops were prohibited) waiting for their case to be called. This incredibly dreary side was edited out by TV producers and thus edited out of our lives.

Suddenly, it all made sense to me. Designers can do what they do not because they were superhuman -- in fact it was precisely the opposite -- designers were so incredibly human (in the most average sense of the word). Everything these legendary designers create centered around people. It is this innate curiosity to understand people throws the halo around products from IDEO and Continuum. 

Perhaps this was why I had always felt like an outsider to this group of legends: I never quite grasped that to understand the deepest, darkest secret of design, all I had to do was listen.

 

Sincerely,

Philipa Yu