The Master Education has grown me into a competent designer.
Academic & Professional
Following the Industrial Design Master, I have learned how I can connect concrete observations with abstract research themes. In multiple projects, I took the opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders in the professional world, facilitating the connecting and sharing of expertise.
Synthesizing Poetry & Technology
Applying poetry and art as means of exploring new design directions, and using technology to realise poetic interactions, helped me synthesize strengths from both sides that I felt were disconnected during my Bachelors. The Master has made me aware of my own norms and values, and I can take a cultural perspective different then my own.
A Vision of Opening Futures
Exploring new perspectives on the role of design in our society, and reaching out to studio's with similar visions, have helped me redefine my role as a designer. I feel more confident in the value of my design approach, and am eager to apply this vision in future projects.
An example of the Worth Map structure, made for the Poetry in Design module. in the bottom are concrete qualities, in the top abstract values.
The overview above represents the areas of focus during my Master Education. The first semester was mainly about building experience in design research; becoming aware of the various approaches to design research, as well as running a research project. Different cultural perspectives were found through modules and doing a collaboration with Chinese students in Taicang, China. In the second semester, excessive time was spent on building tangible prototypes and becoming acquainted with programming and electronics for the creation of interactive experiences.
In the first semester of the second year, These skills were applied in creating tools for expression for a culturally different and unfamiliar context. Applying a generative research approach, a design case and context were framed for the final semester, where I found my professional role as a designer, and designed from a business perspective in the final iterations to make the concept ready for realization.
During my Bachelor education, I developed a broad base of design experience. Starting my final Bachelor project, I felt like I had strongly developed my aesthetic and ideation skills, but my prototyping and social cultural approach were lacking. I initially chose this project to fill these gaps, and in the end it was this approach of building tools for expression and designing from culture that I felt strongly resonate with who I was.
Taking a break after the Bachelor, the goal was always to finish my Master education. I was unsure of what my vision in design was, and
wanted to practice design in the academic environment of the university in order to grow in the areas I touched upon in my Final Bachelor Project, while ensuring the relevancy for my designs to societal developments. I was eager to learn more perspectives on what design can do, to find the role that fits me, and to become a more professional and connected designer that is able to operate in multi-stakeholder projects outside of Industrial Design.
My journey as a Master student started by diving straight into design research, through the Constructive Design Research module. Here, I built a base of knowledge on the different types of design research and was able to put it into practice in a small group project. Seeing how our concrete observations matched the processes that were described in research, something clicked for me: I could see how are findings were placed in a framework, how the framework was built on previous knowledge, and how everything was interconnected. Establishing a clearer picture of the things we were seeing in our little project, through taking first and second person perspective on the design, is a role I also explored in Inter-cultural Markers for the Design Process.
In this Module, food was used as a common grounds between cultures, where dishes were cooked, mixed and iterated upon by group members of different cultures. Seeing our own cultural values reflected in our cooking and our dishes, I realized that I had a lot of presumptions in how to approach the creative process that I might not be aware of until reflected against other cultures.
This made me reflect on the activities at Industrial Design, and how we learn to approach design in a certain way, cultivating our design process but sometimes taking care to be aware enough of how it separates Industrial Designers from others.
The dish that we finally presented, a hybrid between Chinese and Dutch cooking, was presented at Dutch Design Week, where I made my first big steps in professionally presenting my ideas and thoughts on design to the outside world.
When talking about Chinese Culture, I am immediately taken back to Taicang, China, where I was one of several students to follow the module Social Interaction in Public Spaces. Here, together with Chinese students, we did a two week project where we built installations for storytelling that stimulated social interaction. I can say that this module was the highlight of the Master education. Working with the Chinese students in their context provided me with a cultural lens.
In sharing personal stories with the students to find the heart of our installation, we took on an emotionally vulnerable position. By being open with each other and finding a story that resonated with each of the team members, we shared a common vision on what the project should be that transcended our language barriers; a common vision that is necessary in my opinion for a good collaboration. Spending time in China and seeing the motivation behind the Chinese students' design decisions and approach had me take a step back to judge my own motivations; through the module, I felt like I became a more empathic designer.
"Stay aware, and push yourself at the right moments to connect personal claims, opinions, reflections to observable evidence. Connect the why with a what.”
“Work on the role that you want to take in the future. As that becomes clear it can also guide you in your design direction and decisions."
In the very first semester, I practiced a Field design research approach, becoming acquainted with tools like affinity diagramming for evaluating qualitative research data
Working on my empathic and communicative skills in Taicang China, where I collaborated with Chinese design students on the Let's Talk installation. Finding a shared vision helped us overcome our language barriers; every team member was able to fully contribute to the project
During the Dutch Design Week of 2014, we shared our findings on designing new dairy dishes from the perspective of the Chinese kitchen during the Melk Salon event. Here I am communicating our projects approach to professionals of the dairy industry.
Changing from big installations to small products, I practiced my modelling skills on various small projects throughout the master. Here, I am following a jewelry workshop of designer Maarten Versteeg. I still wear the end result every day as a reflection of my affection for crafts.
Here I am exploring the interactions of Soft Bodies with others during the DIT is een Feest event at Radio Royaal, 2015. Being able to build a working installation for a big event meant that I could test its functionality as if it was a finished project: I was happy to see the installation drawing enthousiastic crowds all night.
Following the Balanced Interaction Design module showed me a different perspective on the design process. Professor Gilbert Cockton from Northumbria University introduced us to new design tools, from identifying the value of resources that we create during the design process, to different paradigms as ideal design scenarios. Paradigms much like IDEO’s method cards. From using food and food culture as an analogy for the design process in the Intercultural Markers module, here it was looking at design methods as recipes in a cookbook that made sense to me. At first it felt forced to use set design methods, but then I realised the time it saves and the expertise I can built on when using these recipes, and how I can master them in cooking with them for a while, adding spices and my own ingredients to the mix.
One of the other tools for describing interaction, the Worth map, has since proved as a valuable tool in my education. Worth maps describe physical / digital handles for interaction, that through interaction, lead the user to certain preferable values (worth) that they want to achieve. Later on I would use the worth map tool to even describe my own vision, but during the module, we developed our own design method (WEMS) that we used to describe and communicate a parallel design process.
I immediately put the worth maps into practice, in the Poetry in Design module, where I used poetry as a way to find new directions for design. Abstracting products, materials and interactions from the poem into a worth map, this worth map could then be reapplied to a different product, shaping the physical form to include the interactions and ultimately the values that we saw in the poem. In this way, the poems became like stories that were used to envision new roles for the products: an approach much like the reframing method that I visited in my Final master Project.
In this semester's project Soft Bodies, I was faced with other shift in my mindset. In my previous projects, I would always use design as a problem solving tool, but in this case, the goal was to explore the opportunities for an interactive performance system.
This shift from a mindset from problem oriented to opportunity oriented, searching for the potential my designs have. It also made sense for my design vision. I didn’t feel good telling users how they should use my products, dictating the best future scenario, instead I wanted them to explore the opportunities in their own lives.
To ensure that the direction the design takes is a valuable one, I took the opportunity to do a highly iterative process this semester, where I built upon findings of previous iterations and used a validation at every step to find what the most valuable part of the interaction I was designing was. Here I vouched to start making before I started researching, and used my prototypes as explorations on what the design can be, directing and framing the research as I went. In the very first week, I had a functioning prototype that explored what it means to perform together in an interactive setting. Halfway through, the design was ready to be put into an actual context of a performance: I had the opportunity to test it out at a giant performance / party in Radio Royaal for the DIT festival. DIT later proved to be a valuable network partner, where the expertise of their project manager helped shape my Final Master Project, as well as putting Soft Bodies at the Dutch design Week.Testing the project in a real life scenario also meant providing a stable and accessible version of the project, where the prototype was seen by all the party goers as the actual product instead of a test.
Describing the highly iterative process of Soft Bodies also called for another type of report to capture its iterative nature. Analysing the complexity of my process and designing my own way of communication was something I also got to practice in Self-Directed Learning activities. I furthered my logical thinking for technical skills using the Processing language, that enabled me to quickly ideate different interactions in the Soft Bodies project. I could transfer this knowledge by teaching Processing to high school and primary school students as a workshop lecturer during several months. Making the knowledge accesible to the frames of reference of the students meant I could train myself in communicating complex concepts, a skill I feel is very much valuable for a designer.
"you needed to change your goals slightly at the halfway point this semester. You did so admirably: instead of being disappointed/discouraged you immediately changed gears and turned an apparent setback into something good. I ofund this very good!
Your design was interesting and elegantly simple (although its physical form could have been worked out more) while being very engaging. The behaviours you designed are intriguing. Your report is comprehensive and your reflections are good throughout the report.
You designed very intriguing video effects, which made that we could experience our bodies in different ways. I found it striking how seeing your digital self made you aware of your physical self, and how willing I became to use my physical self to make my digital self look better. As such your goal to connect people and technology in a more human way was met well"
- Bart Hengeveld, coach
Finding my Role
“I want to learn how to
better network and connect with stakeholders.”
“I want to spend time on and improve my tangible modelling skills”
“I want to design for a culture outside my comfort zone.”
“I want to learn and integrate business design tools in my project.”
“I want to apply my skills in an environment outside of the study”
“I want to paint a clearer
picture of what my role is in the world of design.”
While Soft Bodies proved to be a succesful project, displaying at Dutch Design Week and also at the Trip des Onheils Event in Tilburg, it was my vision on design applied to a familiar context with similar demographics and values then my own.
Seeing a big learning opportunity in my Final Master Project, I decided to set the goal to design for a context that was far away of my own, and that involved different cultures and values. At first, the project was imagined as a therapeutic aftercare project for disaster survivors, with Nepal as the primary destination. Financially and timewise however, a more realistic shift had to be made, and the context was adopted to the relevant issues of future perspective for young refugees. Both context share a theme of uncertain futures, and my design vision of empowering to take control over future would be tested in this challenging environment.
Proposing a project first on identity with installation as the medium, my approver advised me to move away from both subjects. As a guiding tool, the paradigm or recipe that I then applied for this context was the generative research approach, where I would design tools for expression to create future scenarios as part of a toolkit. Letting go of the medium and direction meant I had to put my trust in the generative tools method instead of relying on my instinct and strengths as a designer. Ultimately, facing the multistakeholder context, dynamic nature of a future for refugees, traumatic pasts and educative backgrounds, my vision on design crumbled under the weight of the situation.
A very reflective period followed, where I tried to really search for my role in design as adviced by my M11 Assessor. I reached out to several design studios with similar visions on what the use of design is in complex societal issues. Providing expertise during vanBerlo’s ideating sessions for What Design Can Do’s Refugee Challenge made me see how I can use my design as a way to reframe complex situations, finding design opportunities from new perspectives like when I applied worth maps during Poetry in Design. Talking to design studio Knol and Tellart helped me define my design vision as a way to open up new futures through design. Not by dictating what the best solution is, in a complicated wicked problem like that of the refugee future, but by providing a design that helps find new desirable futures. Sharing similarities with the speculative design approach, it enables stakeholders to reflect and collaborate in finding ways to move to a better future.
To build on my strengths as a designer again, I shifted the project from directly adressing the future of young refugees, to supporting the acitvities of the initiatives that were able to build this future through tireless commitment of its employees and volunteers. This I felt was where my design could have the most impact in the design case.
A different goal I set for the final year, was to apply business design tools in my project. moving towards the realization of the concept meant taking on a different role, where I had to connect and attract different stakeholders to the project, bridging initiatives and funding, thinking about what value proposition the project offers and why it would be worth the investment. I adapted this approach from the way I observed the companies that I contacted during the redefining of my vision, and synthesized it with tools from the elective I followed.
This business design approach was something I had not developed yet during my Bachelor, and through the advice of my M12 Assessor, I followed the elective Activating Your Innovation Radar. Next to business design tools, I practiced a project managing role for our group. In Balanced Interaction Design, we had to work efficient and lean to realize our concept. Sacrificing time to go in-depth in one part of the project, and making concrete decisions, meant we could actually develop our project further in the end and freed up time to spend on realization. being conscious of the time activities take and deciding when to move forwards meant our group could take more valuable steps in our design process.
I experienced the same during the Reflective Explorations in Interaction Design, where keeping the concept simple meant we could spend more time on testing our counterfactual artefact. Our group created a lighting product inspired by the natural detoration of milk and meat; much like in the Poetry in Design module, I could apply my knowledge of abstracting material and interaction qualities and reapply them in the shape of a new product.
Looking back at the final months of my M22 semester, I feel like I could have taken a similar approach in keeping it simple and dividing time in a lean approach in the final stages of the project. The time that I did spend on the realisation however, provided me with valuable networking partners and know-how to run a similar project after my graduation.
Already, I will be working as a freelance designer on several projects for the Dutch Design Week. I feel like the Master Education has grown me into a process-aware, poetic experience designer, who is able to move from concrete to abstract at the right time, with a solid role in design. I feel confident and curious and am eager to move towards a professional life as a designer.