A Step in the Right Direction

I’m so grateful for the Duke liberal arts education. Even as I move deeper into the design and creative industries, the liberal arts continue to make a case for themselves. Deep has brought life to global capitalism, to medical advances, to the celebration of renowned leaders who are shaping the future of our world — yet if not for broad, none of these advances would have worked out like they did.

What I’ve learned:

  • I’ve now experienced all aspects of the design process in some form: I’ve conducted user research and testing through previous anthropology & political science coursework and internships, learned how to mockup and wireframe across a variety of fields (web interface, visual), prototyped plenty of designs with clients, and put out a couple that have won awards. I’m grateful to have been this successful so early in my design career (2 months!).
  • As the main designer for a host of different projects at the agency, I’ve learned that being truly client-facing requires you to actively practice and demonstrate empathy. I chose design in part because user research was so central to the process. While the anthropology and political inquiry classes helped lots, my internship helped solidify theory into practice. With both my boss and his clients, this means providing multiple designs (not just ideas) to choose from, taking your best guess on certain design choices (because they’re busy), and even going against your client, choosing the right battles to keep their best interest in mind. Make the effort to surprise and delight, always.

How I’ve changed:

  • I’ve become a problem-solver which further solidifies my conviction that designer and entrepreneur are so closely intertwined. I see design choices everywhere now. I think about how the arrangement of buttons in my parents’ car could be better arranged, how the Bryan Center doors really deserved a redesign along with the rest of the building, how I would redesign my room at home if I had the resources and freedom. Dream a little, sketch some out, mobilize your resources and make it happen.
  • I really want to take part in designing future user experiences. UX is much more than a buzzword, aesthetic addiction or job title to me now — it is seriously improving lives. By removing mundane obstacles and giving people more margin, design is empowering humans to tap into more satisfying and sanctifying experiences to better their lives. My wish is that from there, they choose to pay it forward and bless others.
  • I’m learning to tie my craft and purpose together. This fall, instead of returning to Duke I’ll be taking part in a consulting program with The Institute for Innovation, Integration and Impact in Silicon Valley and then going on a business trip in Indonesia, India or South Africa to help mid-market entrepreneurs maximize their impact on society. Along the way, I’m learning to unchain myself from the fetters and expectations Duke culture carries and to do my own thing.

Steps moving forward:

  • The internship was a sampler. I’ll be tackling more ambitious creative projects focused on the skills I want and the things I love. My first project is to design [and hopefully develop] a website for a dance team.
  • Spend time mastering basic techniques in Illustrator, InDesign, web design and UX via lynda.com, Codecademy, etc. to propel myself towards even more ambitious and impactful projects.
  • Breathing and enjoying the whole process.

Until next summer, Duke SIP. It’s been fun.

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