When I was a kid, nothing in the world was more exciting than the prospect of spending the summer at art camp.
These camps were sort of halfway between sleepaway camp and day camp. Creativity was always the overriding theme. One summer, between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I ended up at two separate camps at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. One camp was focused mainly on drawing, the other emphasized digital art and web development. At the time, my interest in digital art was starting to ramp up. At a certain point, I opted to abandon all my other creative endeavors. I quit dancing, singing, acting. Visual art was the only thing I wanted to focus on.
I was home schooled until my second year of high school. Art camp was a place to focus on the things that mattered to me. I used to obsessively watch all of Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conferences, dating all the way back to 1997. Digital art became my new all-consuming fixation. It was a marriage of two things I felt very strongly about: art and technology.
In hindsight, it was around this time that the seed for my love of interaction design was planted.
At first, I thought interaction design simply meant designing apps and sites. I was wrong. I grew to learn that it actually entails creating entire intuitive experiences to help people perform certain tasks, generally through screen-based tech. I asked myself: where had interaction design been my whole life?
One of my earliest forays into this field occurred at a senior graduation show. I was still a visual art major at the time. My thesis was about sentimentality: objects that I had an emotional attachment to, or physical tokens that were holding me back in some way. I ended up designing an app whose purpose was to document these objects without holding on to the actual, physical object itself. Suffice it to say, I was becoming much more passionate about designing apps than I was about fine art.
To tell you the truth, I didn't even hear the words “interaction design” spoken out loud until I took the campus tour at ArtCenter. By that point, I had been on tours of most of the top art schools. ArtCenter blew them all out of the water. I found my “people” during my first few terms there. An interaction design student at ArtCenter has to be cool with doing a LOT of projects. Through these projects, you get close to your team members, as well as students who happen to be in different disciplines, such as production design. Interaction design is a lot of user testing and brainstorming. In other words, it’s a social design practice.
In the fall of 2019, ArtCenter ran a sponsored project with KBA Notasys, which makes the printers for most of the world’s bank notes. This was the first sponsored class I had ever taken. I got to meet Hervé Guillerey, Head of Banknote Innovation and Design Services at KBA Notasys. My teammate was Sina Grebrodt, an exchange student from Design Academy Eindhoven. It was an incredibly professional experience. Hervé and his team came in during the fourth week to look at the concepts we came up with, and talk about the feasibility of each design. In the end, I was one of a few students who had their IP [intellectual property] purchased. To say it was an honor would be an understatement.
Last August, I officially started my position as a UX [user experience] Designer at Amazon, which is still a bit surreal. I couldn’t have done it without all the teachers along the way who pushed me to be a better interaction designer. I owe so much of my creative trajectory to ArtCenter. Every single second was worth it because of how much I’ve learned.
BFA 20 Interaction Design
User Experience Designer, Amazon
Studio/Teaching Assistant, Interlochen Center for the Arts