Reflections of Grad School (Round 2)

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5 September 2014
 · 
5 min read

It's funny how things move in slow motion as you're going through them but seem to speed up when you realize how much time has passed. Second semester of grad school seemed like a painful blur.

Studio

The semester was mostly centered around Studio, which was a Microsoft-sponsored group project. The theme was "designing for a world of a billion sensors" and our group decided to focus on the intersection between music, creativity, and education. As a CPID student, this was the first time I was going through a full-scale design project, which was a very roller-coaster-like process. There were highs and lows in accordance with the research and ideas we were coming up with, but I was lucky to work with talented individuals. Not to say that we didn't agree on everything, but we each did our best. I think near the end of the project I lost interest and began to block it out (which is why I avoided writing about it for so long). I felt like I didn't entirely have ownership of the project at the end of the day which made it hard to keep up the passion. Also, I definitely got burnt out after working on it for 3 months straight. Near the end, everyone just wanted to get it done and over with. My biggest recommendations for this class is to have two projects through the semester, where we can also switch teams, so that we have variety and we don't get burnt out or if we're turned off to the theme.

Mapping and Diagramming

What I expected to be a very rigorous visual design class, ended up being a relatively chill design studio. I worked on a personal project that I had been putting off for a while and it's something I actually hope to continue with for a while. The project was actually associated with some personal connections, and it helped me work through some thoughts and feelings I had about the collaboration.

Thesis

Primary cause of anxiety for most of the semester. It was hard to balance doing thesis along with the other schoolwork. I don't know how I managed but I found two great advisors. Bruce, the head of the department, and Surugu, who I know will push me to my limits regarding the project (in a good way).

Seminar

While this was an interesting class and I loved all the people in it, I felt like this class could have been more rigorous. It was definitely helpful to have the last half of the semester focused on writing our paper which was essentially our thesis proposal. The other class, Interaction Design Seminar, taught by Aisling, seemed to be much more demanding of the students. However, I felt as if they covered topics that were a lot more relevant to the current design landscape. I wish I had maybe audited this class or sat in on it to hear what was being discussed. It was also jointly offered with the HCI department which would have been nice to meet new people and gain a new perspective.

Personal

I really made an effort to get out of my comfort zone and explore Pittsburgh. The welcoming of Uber and Lyft definitely helped open up my world. I met a lot of new people, cultivated relationships with old friends (and had visitors too :)), and was able to a bit of traveling as well (Atlanta and DC amongst other places).

On a healthy note, I was on a stringent diet of salad everyday and working out about 4 times a week. I was able to drop about 15 lbs, and feel so much better and healthier about everything. There wasn't any catalyst that caused this change- I have been meaning to do this for years. But in the quest to have a routine schedule, it was a great way to incorporate this. I also took a student-taught bhangra class which kept me on my feet and let me get back into the music that I love. Raas was great as well, although hard to balance with everything else going on.

Another major pressure was the hunt for the internship and creation of my portfolio. While I began work on it during Winter Break, I did not get nearly enough done and had to work on it at the beginning of the semester. Setting aside time for prepping for interviews and the interviews themselves also took up a lot of time. I was lucky enough to have several offers on the table of which I chose to work at a small startup in Palo Alto, CA by the name of Backplane (separate entry on that later).


As I see the new MDes, MA, and MPS students come in, I'm even more excited about the upcoming year. I have learned so much about the field of design (woot!) and my thesis is a reflection of that in a lot of ways. It's also hard to come back to student life after working for a couple months. It gives you a lot of perspective and allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel (8 more months!). This second year will be very isolating because of thesis and classes (and just not sharing the same experiences with everyone), but in it's own way it's very empowering. I'm taking classes that are a little out of my scope (motion graphics and coding), but it will push me to learn new skills and methods that I would have previously not. This is it. Second year of graduate design school.

Tagged: gradlife
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