Growth — an Overview
Throughout my years as a bachelor student industrial design I have discovered- and developed a personal approach to designing intelligent products and systems. I have gained knowledge and skills required to design- and develop concepts, and evaluate them in context. Courses and electives have given me the opportunity to acquire practical skills on building, manufacturing and producing electronics, while also cultivating an academic mode of thought with frameworks on evaluation and design processes. Design projects and my 6-month design internship provided space to implement- and improve on the knowledge and skills.
Creativity & Aesthetics
I remember feeling the most drawn to this competency in my first year. While I still am, my vision on the competency has completely changed. Prior to starting this study, I was very much into producing digital content: I freelanced as a graphic designer, and was contracted under Youtube as a video editor / VFX producer. Throughout the study I have used this skillset as a base for all of my projects. As a result, I have used nearly every activity to develop in this competency.
However, while developing this competency in courses including 'Basic Formgiving Skills' and 'Aesthetics of Interaction' I realised that it meant more than just materializing ideas with 'a nice look' and 'a good feel'. I realised that a constant process of ideation and conceptualization is vital to design: decisions are often based on a perspective built on incomplete information hence keeping a creative overview is vital.
The knowledge and skills I have developed within this competency allow me to take ideas to concepts. I have gained tangible skills in sketching, model-making and digital form-giving, while also learning about methods that can be used to design- and evaluate interactions that are both accessible as aesthetic.
Technology & Realization
After feeling very limited within this competency in my very first project (SoothPet), I have come a long way. When reflecting on how to do better, I realised I had to actively put in effort, and start being more self-directed. I started programming in my second semester through a combination of electives and self-study, and have since become very comfortable with front-end development (HTML/CSS/JS) and common languages to control electronics (Python, C++).
Throughout courses (Creative Programming, Materialisation, Interactive Intelligent Products) and all projects I have developed the ability to design- and realize interactive electrical prototypes (Huefo, Huenite, Project Robots Everywhere, Nuntius), mechanical products (Engineering Design, DynaDash) and software (Momkai Internship, various projects as a freelance web-developer). Perhaps the most important skill learnt while developing this competency is the ability to work interdisciplinarily. Gaining technical understanding in a broad range of topics has expanded my perspective, allowing me to consider engineering processes from multiple view-points.
User & Society
While user involvement took a minimal role in earlier projects due to time constraints and/or improper planning, it now steadily guides my design process. By applying skills and theory learnt in electives (Designing for the User Experience, Design Research & Processes, Aesthetics of Interaction) I am able to validate design decisions and evaluate design artifacts ranging from experience prototypes to fully-functional products.
As stated in my vision: I believe that successful product designs are based on empathy resulting from genuine insights in the focal group's personalities, desires and challenges. This was a realization made after finishing early design projects: I had made assumptions throughout the process, yet did not have the true insights required to design for my user groups. To counteract this, I now always generate- and evaluate ideas while incorporating user input. Certainly, I learnt about methods to conduct user evaluation studies, but to me, the most important insight I have gained is the necessity to structure my process to be user-centered.
Business & Entrepreneurship
Design is all about creating value, yet this is not as straightforward as it sounds. In order to create value, a lot of additional requirements need to be met: the economic foundation required to realize- and support a product needs to be sound. In my first two years I had little interest in this competency, and mainly developed it through electives (Designing Tangible Business Models, Materialisation) and self-study. These have allowed me to gain intuition on sustainable, succesful businesses, and made me able to create- and evaluate business models.
I discovered that I have no natural entrepreneurial spirit, though have grown to understand the value and benefits of having a similar mind-set. I highly value stability, and am therefore hesistant to really dive in and build my own business. However, over the past few years I have experimented with doing this: I regularly do freelance work as a digital designer, realizing small projects like websites, graphic design and motion graphics. I've decided to not start my professional career building my own business, but this is something I am interested in exploring as I become more experienced.
Math, Data & Computing
'Data is the new money' — a common 21st century sentiment. As a designer, I have gotten to understand the value of data: data is used to gain- and share insights of our complicated world. In courses (Modeling, Calculus, Design Research & Processes, Elementary Statistics for Designers) I have learnt how to transform our complicated world into easily digestible data, allowing me to support, validate and evaluate design decisions.
However, the thing that really took my interest in data to the next level was Interactive Intelligent Products: in this course I learnt the basics of machine learning. This data-science technique has allowed me to add intelligence to my products and services: in Smart Training Gloves I used sensorial data to automatically detect weight training exercises, and provide qualitative feedback. In Nuntius, I designed a recommender system to automatically detect personal interests in order to select relevant, interesting news.
An extracurricular activity that has helped me develop within this competency is Google's platform for website data analysis: Google Analytics. When designing websites as a freelancer I often base design decisions on real user behaviour recorded in this platform. In order to improve my ability to analyse website user data, I took an official course and am now a holder of the Google Analytics Individual Qualification certificate. I believe that understanding the world is crucial to creating 'good' designs, and data can be a tool to help make the world understandable. Additionally, in the past year I have learnt how to use data to create personalized experiences using machine learning. These are all powerful tools to use in the conceptualization- and synthesizing phases of design.
Professional Skills & Design Approach
Self-Directed & Continuous Learning
In retrospect, perhaps the most valuable thing I have gained during my bachelor degree is the curious and self-directed attitude I have now. A broad skill-set in the five core competencies provide a foundation to link new knowledge to, and as a result allow me to continuously evolve- and expand my expertise. I often encounter problems during projects that I was not initially prepared for, though the self-directed attitude cultivated in the TU/e ID programme ensures I am able to learn on-the-spot.
Developing the right attitude in self-directed and continuous learning was not easy: I especially found it difficult to create a learning path to the designer that I wanted to be. At the start of this degree I had no idea where my skills and ambitions lied, and had a hard time justifying the choice of learning activities. Now that I have developed the fundaments of a personal identity and a vision on design, I am led by this in my future learning path. Personal development plans (PDPs) are the tool I use to document- and reflect on my past, present and future education.
Teamwork & Communication
As a designer, nearly all projects include teamwork with other disciplines. While I have a broad skill-set and would theoretically be able to develop concepts individually, I have come to understand- and appreciate the importance of team-based work. It is impossible, and simply unnecessary to know- and do everything by yourself. I have learnt to leverage expertise from internal- and external stakeholders, which has drastically improved the quality and velocity of my design process.
While working in a team-based context all through my bachelor, I have seen my role within teams change. Initially, I was passive and required external direction. After becoming more experienced and confident, I became self-directed and started taking a leading role in projects. Additionally, my identity as a designer has resulted in a personal style of communication: professional, considerate and visually-oriented. I have developed a clear aesthetic identity that I base visual presentations on.
Design & Research Processes
Going through numerous design cycles in major projects and electives has provided me with familiary with different design processes and their iterative structure. I have learnt to base concepts on a foundation of knowledge: literature reviews, stakeholder interviews and verified assumptions. This foundation of knowledge evolves during the process: as the fidelity of design artifacts improves, so does the understanding of the context, focal user group and problems to be solved.
I have adopted a design approach inspired by the concepts of 'Minimum Viable Products' (MVPs) and 'Agile development'. In a 'learning-by-making' approach, I periodically reflect on how a design mirrors my initial vision with user-centered evaluation methods. My experience as an interaction design intern and throughout all design projects has given me the tools to manage projects — both in terms of time and quality. I am satisfied with the consistent results of my personal design process, and hope to keep evolving it.