Practicing Beliefs: Undergraduate Education Translates to a Proactive Partnership
Ayaka Uchida, Roger Wei, Keywon Chung
What makes undergraduate students take the initiative to practice their beliefs and how do they learn to uphold these beliefs after graduation? This paper presents our case as an example -- how three proactive design students discovered their first consulting project upon graduation, overcame breakdowns between their education and reality, and discovered the next steps for collective and individual growth.
In our undergraduate experience, positive influence from Independent Studies that complemented the fixed curriculum, showed us the possibility to pursue what interested us: socially empowering design. Low respect for designers we faced while working with other disciplines also raised the need for young designers to take more initiative. As a result, we decided to launch a design consulting business, and were able to get our first commission from one of our Independent Study clients.
Unfortunately, we had to struggle between academia and reality. We faced a situation of having to deliver “good” design that would satisfy our ideals formed at school in spite of obvious breakdowns. How do we resolve the breakdowns and make a successful transition to professionals? In spite of the initial bumps, by over-delivery and communicating our usercentered design methodology, we were able to help the client acknowledge that their vision could actually benefit from our specialties.
Despite the hardship, its challenge and fulfillment led us to pursue socially respected design, as well as socially empowering design. We reflected and evaluated the small success by presenting and writing about the first consulting experience as well as participating in competitions, while building more regional networks and seeking new commissions. However, the process made us reevaluate our strengths and weaknesses, possible forms of collective and individual growth, and consequently our initial plan to become a business entity. We came to a difficult realization that we didn’t need to be together to achieve our goals. We decided to pursue individual growth for a while, staying in close partnership with the goal to uphold our proactive mindset and better promote our long-term growth.
Three of us have passionately tested our beliefs from our undergraduate education against the world. Through this process, our vision towards design was solidified and further matured--now taken to the level of individual and group interests. Depending on a person’s mentality, the college education is meant to be a starting point where we begin a long journey of defining ourselves as designers. Our futures are constantly changing on the basis of this proactive mindset, and it would be interesting to see where we stand in the future.