Yr02, Ep19 :: Karen Gutowsky on Preparing for What's Next

Karen Gutowsky

by This is Design School

On this episode, Karen Gutowsky-Zimmerman, a Professor of Visual Communication Design at Seattle Pacific University, talks about how to prepare students for the next step after graduation beyond the portfolio, how design can remain relevant in a world with increased access to slick looking designs, and balancing teaching visual foundations with a need to arm young designers to think more strategically.


JP:

Karen Gutowsky, thank you for coming to This is Design School. We really appreciate you helping to close out the season for us.

KAREN:

Well thank you for inviting me and letting me be here.

JP:

Yeah. So Karen, you and I have known each other quite some time and we are professors at different institutions here in the South Puget Sound area. Me at PLU and you at Seattle Pacific University. I thought as the season closes for us here, it would be a great chance for us to really talk about commencement and what happens to our students after we graduate. The other added bonus, of course, is that Chad is graduating from grad school.

CHAD:

Yes.

JP & KAREN:

Yay!

JP:

How many more weeks to now?

CHAD:

I don’t want to count. Five.

JP:

So by the time that this goes out in…

CHAD:

Like, two weeks.

JP:

Two weeks.

CHAD:

Yes.

JP:

Yes. So, I thought this will be a great chance for the three of us to kind of talk about what’s next and how do we prepare both ourselves but as well as our students. Thoughts?

KAREN:

That’s great.

CHAD:

Yes it sounds really great.

KAREN:

Chad, first I want to say I’m really proud of you because that is what’s next. You know, I think, any professor in design would really hope or want to encourage their students to go on to graduate school. I think we, often especially teaching undergraduates, think the subject itself has gotten so broad that it’s difficult to cover all of what needs to be covered in design in an undergraduate program. And so, some of those serious deep good questions; the way to frame, the way to think, the way to walk around the issues in design and to use design in a really purposeful and meaningful way often needs graduate studies. So I’m really proud of you.

“…the subject itself has gotten so broad that it’s difficult to cover all of what needs to be covered in design in an undergraduate program. And so, some of those serious deep good questions; the way to frame, the way to think, the way to walk around the issues in design and to use design in a really purposeful and meaningful way often needs graduate studies.”

 

CHAD:

Yes. Well it’s definitely messed me up in a great way.

KAREN:

Yes. Yes.

CHAD:

But yeah. You know, I agree and I definitely see that even more now that I’ve been through the experience. I’m at the tail end of it.

KAREN:

I want to ask you a quick question. I know I’m the person, but you know Chad, did you have much time inbetween undergraduate and graduate?

CHAD:

I had four years, five years.

KAREN:

So you did — you took a — gosh, time flies. I remember when you were an undergraduate. So…

CHAD:

Yes.

KAREN:

So, you did take some time off. Are you glad about that?

CHAD:

Oh yeah.

KAREN:

Yeah?

CHAD:

In fact, our program strongly — well they rarely take anybody right out of undergrad. So, me and along with my peers have all been in industry in some aspect or another for a number of years. I think I was actually the one who went back the soonest. But I’m really glad — I think that gave me the opportunity to make sure that design was really what I wanted to do and go deeper into. But, I think I also learned a lot of things by going out and doing it that gave us another perspective to be able to bring back into school when you go and do it the second time.

KAREN:

Kind of know what to ask, which questions to ask because you were out there.

CHAD:

Yeah. And, you have a whole other context around, you know, when you’re doing this difficult readings, of being able to place that into something is really beneficial.

KAREN:

That’s awesome. It’s awesome.

Well, I love your theme. I love the theme around, kind of, commencement. Maybe the language of launching, what that might look like.

JP:

Yes.

KAREN:

And, I really feel a strong call, as a professor, to help shape students to be able to think about that, “What’s the next step?” And, I think it has to be even broader than simply about their portfolio. The portfolio is very important, obviously, because they need to get a job. They need to step into the professional space and that looks like a lot of different things in today’s market. But, I also want to give them enough thinking, tool sets, skill sets, ideas, frameworks around who they are and what do they have to offer this big world using their design as a skill to speak into those spaces. JP, you and I often talk about like design activism and different ways of thinking about design.

JP:

Yeah.

“I really feel a strong call, as a professor, to help shape students to be able to think about that, ‘What’s the next step?’ And, I think it has to be even broader than simply about their portfolio… I also want to give them enough thinking, tool sets, skill sets, ideas, frameworks around who they are and what do they have to offer this big world using their design as a skill to speak into those spaces.”

 

KAREN:

And, I think helping your students understand who they are, their own unique story and how using design as a tool to speak into that, to those places is really a gift. It’s really a gift. And, so I think that’s one thing that I really spend some time, especially that senior year, trying to look at my students individually and see who they are and where they’re going to be able to use design to speak into some of these big problems that we have today. So, I like commencement. I like it. (laughs)

JP:

Yes. And, I think that it gives us a chance to kind of reflect on not just as academics but as well as students. What have I done for the last four years? Or, what have I done for “fill in the blank” after how long they’ve been here and think about, “What is the next step? What have I learned that’s going to springboard me towards the future of that?” You had asked Chad about did he just go right back into grad school. Do you have a lot of students who are going right into grad school?

KAREN:

Not this year. I don’t. Periodically, I mean I should say I do over the course of time but usually I get information or get letters from people or emails from people that say, “Could you write a reference?” Probably three, four, five years after they graduated. So — which I agree. I think that’s actually a really good time.

I waited a long time. I think I waited — oh my gosh — almost 15 years to go back to graduate school. It had to be right with my family and so forth. But, I’m glad I did. I’m glad I did. So no, right now I don’t have anyone from this particular group.

I think probably in Seattle, it’s a little bit tougher because it’s a really good market right now to hire designers and so many of them are really looking forward to jumping into the waters and actually get a job. So, graduate school feels a little bit distant.

JP:

Yes.

KAREN:

I’m trying to plant seeds of you know deeper thinking and ways that you can address bigger problems through design but right now they’re wanting to get work.

JP:

And, I think that probably bodes well for the economy. Usually grad school is a thing that you do when the economy is not in the good position. And, since we have so many different jobs and the creative field right now is booming in Seattle, of course you want to go out there and start making a mark in the world. So, yes.

How are you feeling about it all? The next steps in the future?

CHAD:

(laughs) Still figuring it out.

JP:

One day at a time, right?

CHAD:

One day at a time. You know the market is really booming but I think one challenge that I’ve been facing is because there are so few people that do go to graduate school for design and then go back into the industry, it’s hard finding places that value that and finding the right place to go to.

KAREN:

So when you say value, you’re talking about design thinking? Really high end user-centered design theories and methodologies?

CHAD:

Yeah.

KAREN:

Exactly.

CHAD:

And, thinking deeper about bigger things, rather than just, like, pumping out production work. And, you know, that’s tough.

KAREN:

Yeah. Do you think you’ll go on for your PhD? Because I think that that’s — we may be the last of the professors in design that actually can have their terminal degree in an MFA. So, what are you thinking in that way?

CHAD:

Not any time soon. I want to jump back in and see how things go. The idea of a PhD, especially most PhDs I’ve talked to, a lot of the making part disappears very fast.

KAREN:

Yes.

CHAD:

And, that is less appealing to me.

KAREN:

Oh, that’s cool.

CHAD:

I mean I’ve gotten a lot of — I’ve done a lot of writing and I enjoy writing but I can’t imagine just having that be your only output. Yes, it’s difficult.

JP:

To me that’s actually starting to become more appealing. So, I started looking at a PhD program. It’s on the back burner but it’s getting closer to the front.

KAREN:

Yes. It’s interesting. It’s funny. Now I want to ask all these questions.

CHAD:

Yes. No, it’s great.

“I had a student…who asked this question, why do we spend so much time on formal exercises… on image making when we should be doing more designs strategy and design thinking and human centered design and so forth? I was kind of taken aback by that. I thought, “Wow, you know, how do you do that?” Because that is our vocabulary, our way of speaking into design and the design conversation. How do you take that out?”

 

KAREN:

It’s interesting that you talk about this notion of making and maker.

I had a student — you know as we’re spending a lot of time on different designs system thinking theories and so forth—who asked this question, why do we spend so much time on formal exercises or why are we, why is that freshman and sophomore year focus so much on image making when we should be doing more designs strategy and design thinking and human centered design and so forth?

I was kind of taken aback by that. I thought, “Wow, you know, how do you do that?” Because that is our vocabulary, our way of speaking into design and the design conversation. How do you take that out? And, so I’m kind of curious, if you’re to design a design curriculum now, knowing what you do know and still being interested as a maker, would you take out some of those earlier exercises in making?

CHAD:

That’s hard. I don’t think I would. I think I appreciate them more now. Especially now that I’ve had more time helping to teach those things to other people and realizing those are skills very few people have and that’s really what separates, especially visual communication designers or graphic designers—that’s really what separates us from a lot of other programs and a lot of other closely related fields. We have the skills and the ability and the literacy to make things. And that’s the way we communicate. And, other programs that are adopting the word design, whether it’s human centered design, human centered design and engineering, other programs that are adopting design thinking in a way, they don’t have that same literacy. And, it’s really interesting.

It’s still hard for me to consider that design because at the end of the day, in design in my mind, you communicate through making something. And then, that is what the conversation is centered around, by what you produce.

KAREN:

Yes. I mean that’s a hard one because a lot of times you don’t produce an artifact, you’re just doing a kind of a process. For me, it’s developed my sensibility in seeing and so I can’t even separate that. You know I mean I can see positive and negative spaces, I know visual hierarchy and those sorts of things and it’s become an acuity.

I’m curious. Anyways, that was just — it was a fascinating — you know years ago, in education we would talk about this idea: Should we, you know, actually teach technology, or should it just be about form building and theories? And, you know, well that has kind of gone aside. Everyone realizes that, “Yes, you have to have a certain literacy in technology in order to perform a lot of what we do.” And, in many ways that hasn’t separated us from great conversations around process and methodologies, case studies and theories. So, that I don’t think is the issue anymore. But, I did find that fascinating to pull away these form studies. My background is more in Swiss foundational form building exercises. How does one see? You know speed and repetition and pace, by that. So…

JP:

And, have students been appreciative of that? Have they come back to you now and say, “Because of this class or because of the way that we did this project, I was able to land this job or think about this project in a different way or to help this organization or to ‘fill in the blank?’”

KAREN:

So I think, in my case with my students, I don’t think they think one class, you know, this class has helped me land that job. I think it’s because it’s many classes and many ways of thinking and whether they’re working individually or in a collaboration, that yes, they have definitely said that. You know it’s always that a-ha moment once they’re in the professional world.

JP:

Yup.

KAREN:

But, what I love about this branded event that we put on and it’s pretty documented. There’s a lot of SPU branded, you can find it. We have a couple videos on it. But, what I love about that is we actually bring freshman in on it and they’re great. They can sketch, they can do color palettes things like that all the way to seniors. And, so what is of value with that particular project or that particular workshop that were doing is they begin to see a full comprehensive plan and how they play a role in that in the different stages a designer would play a role, from sketching all the way to naming, to having conversations with business people.

But in particular, what I like about that event is it takes money off the table. So, no longer is the client the one that’s financing. These are equal peers having discussions about a visual narrative and a visual story for that particular product or social venture. So, that one in particular students really seem to resonate with. Yeah.

CHAD:

I was just having a thought going back to you know when you talk about that and then hearing, you know, this idea of doing visual studies especially at the beginning of like design education. And it reminded me of — do you know Frank Chimero? He often refers to design as a bowl…

KAREN:

Yeah.

CHAD:

…And, that when you design for design’s sakes, you’re just stacking bowls and that doesn’t make sense. And so, design is a bowl that needs to be filled by something. In a lot of ways, those beginning case studies are a bowl that you’re trying to fill with design. In a lot of ways you’re filling it with art, right? Like that long history that design, visual design, has with art and you’re kind of filling the bowl with art to learn something. But, then at what point do you start filling that bowl with something else? And, are you able to make that bowl without filling it or creating it with art? If that makes sense?

KAREN:

That make sense to me. I mean I think that’s such a great metaphor. Because, you’re right. I think early in the stages of design education, there is this—or there should be whether it happens or not, that’s always a good one. But, there is this sense that my priority is on how do I make this? How do I demonstrate this? How do I articulate this visually and so forth? How do I actually, you know, use this tool or this technique whether it be you know more analogue or whether it’s digital?

But, I think that there comes a point, and it’s usually in our case is that junior year, some schools that may be different. But, in that junior year all of a sudden they begin to see that what they’re making has a different perception or different meaning. If I had made this differently or if I had put it in — it’s the semiotics, actually. They begin to understand signs and symbols and systems and how they are appropriated differently in different places and demonstrated differently. And that’s those bowls.

And so then, I think in our — in my program, JP, you’re probably the same as well—in my program, one of the things I want them to be able to feel strongly about is that they then can recreate that process. So, in other words, they can recreate the making, they can be confident in recreating the meaning based on how they demonstrated it. And, so that they understand their process of development using the audience, using the context, using where it’s going to be distributed or demonstrated.

So, actually they’re kind of coupling it with, you know, they’re appropriating it with different methodologies. I don’t know if it’s because my son is a scientist, but one of the processes that we’ve been trying to go alongside is the scientific method. I think it’s interesting in design—I don’t think it will ever happen because designers are always all out of there, are all over the place—but, I think one of the biggest challenges for designers is that we start with a very abstract concept and we have to pull someone in, our stakeholders, the audience, all of these people with our research. We have to pull them into this process of what we’re doing, how we’re changing, how we’re failing, where we’re going. And, I’m not talking about a process of a mood board. That, you know, what does it look like and that’s cool, right? In fact I’m — that may be one part of it but that’s not all of it. I get concerned. To me the mood board is synonymous with copying. That kind of thing, we’ve got to be really careful with that.

So anyway, this kind of taking in an abstract idea and bringing it all the way through to fruition, whether that be an artifact, or whether that be a curriculum, something, you know, whatever that is. I’ve been fascinated with scientists and how they have had that structure through the scientific process to take an abstract idea, test it, use it, test it, use it, give a hypothesis, test it, use it, test it, use it. And then, they frame something at the end.

So, we’ve been trying to use that as a framework to start with something abstract and to end. There’s some holes. A lot of scientists let’s say were not doing it to the extent that they are. But — and I don’t think designers will ever be able to be without being fast,very clean, making everyone adapt to the way that we do a process. But, it’s been kind of fascinating to give framework to things. Yeah.

JP:

And, I think that kind of goes into a little bit of Edward Tufte’s work. Thinking of it as a process. System’s thinking and doing that we find that there’s probably more integration into a more vocation or career oriented fields where you can bring design into the board room or into the scientific method.

KAREN:

Yes.

JP:

And, I think that’s probably a useful thing. In the 21st century I think we’re going to be a lot more integrated if not already integrated into the systematic and scientific processes that we do. Because of our creativity, our imagination, but our way of thinking in a more scientific way.

KAREN:

Yes. A systematic way. Yeah.

JP:

A systematic way, yeah.

“It’s fascinating that we, as designers, those who call themselves designers whatever that may look like today, we do rebel against that, don’t we? We want to say, ‘I don’t want a process. I don’t want a framework.’ But yet, it’s in that framework that allows us to actually go through a pretty hefty abstract {problem} to get through to take an idea all the way through its process to the finish.”

 

KAREN:

Yes. I — you know, it is interesting that you talked about Tufte because engineers love Tufte. And so, it’s fascinating that we, as designers, those who call themselves designers whatever that may look like today, we do rebel against that, don’t we? And so we don’t — we wanted to say, “I don’t want a process. I don’t want a framework.” But yet it’s in that framework that we can actually go through a pretty hefty abstract way to get through to take an idea to all the way through its process to the finish.

JP:

Yeah. We call that creative constraints.

KAREN:

(laughs) Yeah.

CHAD:

But, that’s the real interesting thing about design thinking. It’s a framework for the basic process of design, really, that has been verbalize or articulated in some way. And, if we don’t latch on to it and continue to own it, it’s going to get stolen from our field, as it already is by business, in a lot of ways. So, I think that’s interesting.

One conversation we had a lot in our seminars in grad school was around what does it mean for design and being an academic in doing research in design specifically, and being able to push the field forward in that way? And, especially as we’re talking about PhDs being more common as you continue to go on, as our field gets out of its infancy, in a lot of ways. And, I think it’s interesting that one of the things we identified that is really holding back the field is this lack of a common language, which is both unique to our field and is something that you would obviously want to hang on to in some way; this idea of wanting to rebel against strict processes to keep creativity open, which is a very unique aspect of the field, but also needing to constrain it in some way to be able to communicate with each other and be able to push the field forward in some way. It’s a interesting tension.

KAREN:

Yes. You — I’d love that word strict processes.

CHAD:

Yeah.

KAREN:

Because I think you’re right. I guess designers, one of the things that—I shouldn’t speak for all of us but I think literary review, for example, I think we think we do it, but we don’t do it to the extent that other PhD programs do. I think we also can have a tendency to stay within instead of going out and looking at other disciplines, like you said, and how do they — what processes do they use in order to research or to understand things in a deeper way. And so yeah, I think you’ve hit it on the head. You know we — yes, it’s challenging for us.

CHAD:

Well, I mean it’s also interesting in the broader conversation of a lot of designers wanting to have more ownership or be able reach higher up in organizations and things like that. But, it makes you question, can our field without that higher level of thinking and that stricter things to place it around and also a value of higher education beyond, you know a bachelor’s degree, to have these harder conversations and higher levels of thinking. Is that really enabling us to validate that against other fields that have a strong tradition of it?

KAREN:

Yeah, I think it definitely can keep us limited. You’re making me think. When I was in graduate school, I worked on — Karen will get a chuckle out of this. When I worked on a project with Karen for UW Bioengineering, and at that time, it was you, you know, there wasn’t templates and Powerpoint and there wasn’t great looking presentations that scientist could put out and so we presented our work at a National Science Foundation event and ours was probably — I mean it was great, but it was probably the least thought out. It would — that’s not the right word, but you know, at the doctorate level type of thing or the research, you know you’re talking about nanotechnologies or something like that. But, at the end everyone wanted to talk to us because we had the best looking presentation, the most cohesive presentation.

“There are so many templates out there now that can make things look great and so now the playing field’s equal again. I mean it used to not be because design could overshadow content in some ways and now that’s probably not the case…I think getting deeper, getting wiser, getting smarter, doing more research, having the vocabulary of other disciplines would be of great value to designers.”

 

Well, I was just in an event with my students a week ago at a present — at a research conference and they didn’t have the best looking presentation. I mean, there are so many templates out there now that can make things look great and, so now, the playing field’s equal again. I mean it used to not be because design could overshadow content, in some ways, and now that’s probably not the case. And so, you’re absolutely right, I think getting deeper, getting wiser, getting smarter, doing more research, having the vocabulary of other disciplines would be of great value to designers. Absolutely.

CHAD:

It’s interesting that you say that. In a critic for class I was doing with a class last quarter, they were doing — bringing in initial designs of websites. And, there was one that was just very templatized. It looked like it came out of Squarespace template and my first response in critique was to ask what differentiates you from automize…

KAREN:

Automatization.

CHAD:

That word. Yes, thank you. What differentiates you from that? Like why would somebody pay you thousands of dollars when they could go get it on a subscription online for a couple of bucks a month?

KAREN:

What the student say?

CHAD:

They didn’t have strong response at that time. But then they want to — the way it went away and thought about it and they redesigned their site and they thought about it more in depth about how their content was relevant and how to bring out that content in a unique way that was different. So they internalized it some way but they didn’t have a response at that time.

KAREN:

Yeah. I think that’s a real hard part for all of us. We get so influenced by what’s out there that we forget that in many ways we are to be — I hate this idea of originator because there’s so many arguments against it, that nothing’s original—but how do you take histories? How do you take technologies? How do you take narratives? How do you take critical thinking and reappropriate it in a way that is current and needed for the particular content or the particular subject that you’re working on at that particular time. And, I don’t think a lot of times we actually take the time to think about it.

CHAD:

Yes.

KAREN:

It is right.

JP:

You know, we’re very much a what is the deadline and how do we meet the deadline as quickly as we can without having that playground to really sit and think about it for a while.

KAREN:

Yeah.

CHAD:

But, that again comes back to what should foundation classes in design look like? And, by really sticking with those really strong visual practices and visual studies that enable you to have a playground to play in instead of just mimicking, in a lot of ways.

KAREN:

Yeah, you don’t need to mimic anymore. Absolutely.

CHAD:

Yes.

KAREN:

It’s funny, I taught a class in Thailand and it was through a film studies program. And, they have to sketch. They sketch, they sketch, they sketch, they sketch. And, I’m from a background that drawing isn’t necessarily the most important thing as a designer that you can appropriate your designs in other ways. And so, my sketching is fine, but it’s adequate to do prototypes. However, I got to tell you, these film students they were able to really rapid prototype really complex concepts because of their skills in drawing. It was really impressive. Then, I did the same project with another — the design group in this school and it was limited because of using technology or using what we could find to come up with our ideas. And so, this idea of using sketching and good sketching to appropriate our ideas is wise, actually.

JP:

You know speaking of sketching, I’m wondering, are there any other types of tools or any other resources that students have used over the years that they’ve learned to appreciate either right as they graduate or as their — in their careers that they have learned to appreciate?

KAREN:

Well, I’d like to say they took advantage of this but one of — okay, be optimistic.

I went to a design conference years ago. It was like small schools or small cities and Jp, that’s where you and I met actually. And, I didn’t realize how lucky we were to have a community like Seattle or to have a creative community. Like if you’re in San Diego or New York or Chicago, Denver is a great city right now. Because we are really lucky with organizations like AIGA and the multitude of young designers or established designers that really do want to mentor or guide or speak into our students in how they’re growing, what they’re doing. I just — you know, this idea of resourcing that I think is actually really important.

I think — you know I look at students and I get it. I’m 18, 19, 20, 21 and I’m nervous. I don’t really want to go out of my comfort zone. I kind of want to stay doing my work on my computer. But, there is such a value in talking to someone who’s been in this field or been in this career for a period of time that they can help shape, they can help give advice, walk alongside and encourage. So many people have been through this, that — I guess the resource is really these great people that have launched, do have careers that are desiring to speak back to young people. We have a big event coming up at SPU that we’ll all have these professionals that—no problem getting the professionals. Oh my gosh, it’s hard to get the students.

JP:

Yup.

KAREN:

And it’s this disconnect and I don’t know why. And so, when you talk about resources, yes they’ve got them. They — I mean that’s one of them is a design community. Yes.

CHAD:

I think part of that is — part of a lot of what comes with design, at least from a student perspective is this idea of when I’m talking with a professional, it needs to be finished and it needs to be refined and it needs to be done.

JP:

Yeah.

CHAD:

And, I did an interesting thing at our career fair a few weeks ago. I brought unfinished, in process work and showed that and talked about it. And, people actually responded better to that than flat finished portfolio pieces. It’s really interesting.

JP:

So when you — when you brought it, did you tell them this is all work in progress and I’m looking for feedback? Or, did you just opened up the book and say…

CHAD:

No. I brought — so for my thesis I’m doing these booklets of data that I’m interviewing with people about. So, it’s like these data visualizations, there’s notes written in it from when I was interviewing and talking with them. I brought those, they’re filled with notes, they’re filled with marks, they weren’t even in color, like you know, crappy print outs. I mean, they were bound together and everything, but — I brought that. And, that was actually a good platform, not only to show what I can do and it’s process, but also what is behind what it is, too. And a lot of the students probably feel like, I’m not ready to show something. I’m not ready to show something. But really, if design is really about continuing to iterate and, you know, going back and back again, we shouldn’t be afraid to bring to professionals and professionals shouldn’t be afraid to see work that is in process. I think we need to get more comfortable with that.

KAREN:

I’m so glad you brought that up because I think that is absolutely the case. I mean, my students run around being so worried that it’s not perfect, especially at some of these reviews. I get it if it’s for a job. You know I get it that you want to put your best foot forward because you’re competing with x amount of people trying for that job. But, in these informational interviews and these career fairs and these opportunities, pre-graduation or even post-graduation there’s a lot of internships now that students are in after they graduate. I agree with you, designers love to talk about process. Professionals love to talk about process. They would rather see that you are engaged in learning and you are engaged in this idea of perhaps change or that their point of view may influence you. I think that’s — I love that you pointed out the fear.

Because I think you’re right. I think it is this fear of being the best of being perfect when in fact that vulnerability of yes, process. Yes. I’m glad you talked about process. I’ve been having conversations with some of my business friends and they’re like, “Ugh, they don’t want anything that shows process anymore.” And, I’m like — but in our field I think you know anything can look slick. Like you said, that guy who did this site that looked like a Squarespace site. You know anything can actually look pretty slick. It’s that process of thinking, “what did I need to do to go to my sketches and get there?”

“You know anything can actually look pretty slick. It’s that process of thinking, ‘What did I need to do to go to my sketches and get there?’”

 

Speaking of, I do have a funny story. You might (laughs). One of my students decided to enter a contest. And, in this contest, it actually end up getting a lot of publicity. But, in this contest, he did not show their sketches because you just show the end result. And, the end result was chosen and then at the end of this, some person saw this and said, “Oh, this is a copy of this person’s logo.” Fortunately my student or my alum, he graduated, fortunately he had saved all his sketches because it was very clear that in his process, he indeed came up with this mark. And, you know, you could say anything looks the same in so many ways. It didn’t really look the same. But, I think that’s why a professionals want to see process because anybody could really do these kind of formalistic beautiful things that you just pick up. We want to know that you’re actually thinking.

Another story I have. I met with an administrator. He was very much about trying to understand what design is and design thinking because he was interested in that conversation. And, I kept saying that notion of failure. Design is failure. And he kept coming back like, “Well, isn’t design really just an intuitive thing or just a natural thing or…” As we know as designers — well if you draw 52 frogs, there’s a lot of failure between frog one and frog 52, you know. And so, it is that notion I think we’ve forget that our sketches, our iterations are all of these kind of mini rejections. I like this, I’m going to use this, but I’m going to go on and do this. I like this, I’m going to use this, I’m going to go on and do this. We are really skilled at accepting rejection and moving forward. And so, the more that we can be comfortable with those spaces, I think the better off we are. Plus, the more we know our vocabulary of design the better off we are going to be. (laughs)

“We are really skilled at accepting rejection and moving forward. And so, the more that we can be comfortable with those spaces, I think the better off we are. Plus, the more we know our vocabulary of design the better off we are going to be.”

 

CHAD:

Yeah. As Jp always says, “Fail harder.” And, I like to say, “It’s only failure if you stop.”

KAREN:

Yes.

JP:

Oh, I like that.

KAREN:

Yes, that’s good.

CHAD:

It’s only failure if you stop.

KAREN:

If you stop. So don’t stop. Keep going, Chad, you’re almost there.

JP:

Insert the Journey song at this point, and go. (laughs)

Well Karen, it has been a pleasure as always to see you and have a chance to come in and talk to you so thank you.

KAREN:

Thank you. Thank you for including me on this. Great work.

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