Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I was born and lived in Indonesia until I was 10. Since then I’ve never held a physical address for longer than two years, living in California, Pennsylvania, New York, Japan, and briefly Taiwan. But California is mostly where I’d call home.
Q: How did you get into design? In what way does design thinking contribute to creating a successful career?
When I was living and working in Tokyo as a network engineer, I really got into swing dancing and began teaching it. I had to promote my school, so I decided to teach myself graphic and web design. It was pretty easy to figure out *how* to do things—using Photoshop, Illustrator, or coding HTML/CSS—but it was always the *why* questions (why pick this color, why this layout, why this typeface) that eventually led me to pursue a formal design education.
Q: Why did you choose to study at Art Center College of Design?
I found out about Art Center at Night while browsing through magazines at a bookstore. I took Typography 1 at Art Center at Night and through that introduction really fell in love with the design process.
Q: What was your experience at Art Center like when you started?
I was very intimidated. At the time, I still considered myself as an engineer and told myself that I was really just faking it. Outside my hobby as a swing dancer, I did not really have any art background. (Side note: I am the first in my family to pursue a career in the visual arts.) During my first term, one of my mentors and instructors, Bruce Claypool, taught me that if you really care about design, you’re always going to question if you could have done it better. You’re always going to struggle with some form of insecurity. The trick is to understand its purpose.
Q: What was the most important challenge you faced? How did you overcome it?
Art Center instructors really challenged us to create work that was always pushing the boundaries, that was personal and meaningful to us. And I saw the best students really pushed themselves, too. So I felt like I really had to dig deep inside with every project I worked on. I considered every project as an opportunity to grow, to try something I’d never done, and maybe something that had never been before. It always felt tough every single time. It never got easy, no matter how many times I did it. Fortunately, I found a group of friends whose work ethic and design sensibilities I admired. We’d often get together outside of class, brainstorm together, share feedback and encourage one another. My wife was also extremely supportive of me. Without their help, I don’t think I would be where I am today.
Q: An important ritual at the end of each term is the final presentation for each class. Sometimes, these presentations can be exhilarating. Any project that stands out?
A few come to mind: I once made goo in Frido Beisert’s Creative Strategies class; presenting my team’s vision of “The Future of Soccer” to a few visiting creative directors from Nike; and of course, the Green Eggs project.
Q: Is there a school project, that you felt so passionate about, you pushed yourself the most?
I think it might have been the Transient States project for Brad Bartlett’s AGS and Mediatecture. I was surrounded by extremely talented peer designers, whose work I’ve long admired. Every week in class, they would come in with something amazing and I had to keep telling myself “Man, I have to step it up again this week (again).” Every week, I placed enormous pressure on myself to try something new, different and exciting, because that’s what everyone else in the class was doing.
Q: The Department of Graphic Design is a leader in transmedia education. Transmedia is important for us because we believe that, in order to master the present, we must explore the future. How did transmedia help you in your professional life?
I think it really opened my eyes to what graphic design could be and where it could live in the future. Usually when we think of graphic design, we think of posters, books, magazines. But in today’s changing mediascape, graphic design can now be done with lights, in public spaces, interacting with people or data, moving, changing and adapting. It also gave me a better understanding of how different media work together as a system to influence one another or play a unique role in shaping a brand.
Q: Pushing this idea further, how does transmedia thinking influence your creative process? Do you have an example?
Green Eggs is a project where I took a children’s book (Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham), turned it into raw data (a spreadsheet that contains the length of each word in the book), wrote a software program to map each word length to a unique sound, and created a projection mapping sculpture in the shape of an egg that visualized that data. (Whew!). In short, transmedia thinking means moving from one medium to another, shaping and morphing data, in search of new meaningful connections.
Q: Do you think that the structure of the curriculum has helped you learn and master the skills needed for the real world?
Yes. Today, I work primarily in one medium: the web. But the web is dynamic and evolving. And it inherits a lot of characteristics from older media (print, broadcast, interaction). So everything that I’ve learned at Art Center from package design to motion graphics or data visualization, they’ve helped me gain a fuller understanding of where the web came from.
Q: On a personal level, what was for you the most important thing you learned at Art Center?
Making is a form of asking. Any question can be answered by making.
Q: What advice would you have for a student considering applying for admission? What should they know to get the best out of the Art Center experience?
1) If you know that this is for you because you’ll do whatever it takes to develop phenomenal craft and design thinking, then don’t give up. Keep going, keep trying, despite whatever setbacks you might experience. It’ll all be worth it.
2) Stay with a question longer than anyone else. During the creative process, you may want to rush for an answer. But don’t be afraid to let those answers be tentative. Settle into the discomfort and let those answers lead you to more questions.
3) The best food is made with the best ingredients. Since everyone dips from the same pool of ideas (Google, Pinterest, Tumblr), try to go somewhere else to gather your ingredients. Where do I go for fishing for my ideas? Books, dance halls, public spaces, classical music, museums—and boredom.
Q: What are you doing now? After you graduated, what happened in your work life.
I am currently a UX designer on the search team at Google. I am helping Google better answer your everyday questions. A lot of people think that search is a solved problem that things on the web can now be found. But there’s so much more that it can become, and I’m excited about the future.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
I feel like I’m already living in the future. But some ideas about what’s ahead? Being able to speak seven languages; a live abroad episode in Europe; designing something that my mother would love to use everyday (without knowing that her son worked on it).
Q: What interests you now? Is there a book, an idea, a quote, or something cool you want to share with us?
I recently read the book Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success, which I highly recommend.
Q: Anything else you want to add about your experience at Art Center College of Design?
My experience at Art Center College of Design was the most exhausting, most fun and most transformative three years of my life.
Visualization Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” transmediated as sound. By converting word length into pitch, periods and commas into pauses, and other punctuation marks into various instruments, a musical composition revealed from 994 data points show us how creativity loves constraints. Data animation was coded in Processing then projection mapped onto an abstract egg-like sculpture installed on a wall.
A modular poster/brochure for French New Wave
Graphic presence for Pasadena Jazz Festival