July 16, 2013

Diane Chiang: Why I'm Here

Chapter 1: The Designer

For the longest period during elementary school, I obsessed over "Choose Your Own Adventure" chapter books. I found all of them in the school library's measly collection and then I read them over and over again and made sure I reached all of the possible endings. Occasionally I would reach the same endings twice.

I loved being the protagonist and picking my next adversaries and paths. If I didn't like where this one was heading… well, I'd flip back to the last section and made a different decision. (Yea, totally cheating, I know.)

It was the same with video games in middle school. I could pick and choose to my heart's content what skills and helpful items to pick up along the way. Equipped with the best, I was ready to save the world.

For the same exact reasons, this is why I'm here at Experience Institute. I'm here to take charge of my education. I'm here to seek mentors and experience that will help me become a visionary and a leader. I'm here because I need skills to supplement my current skills.

Currently, I am studying product design at Art Center College of Design. When I introduce myself as such, most people ask me, "Oh, so you're an artist? You just draw all day right?" WRONG. And then I have to spend the next twenty minutes explaining what it is that I do.

In short, my job is to change the world by creating objects that help people. As a product designer, I love being able to learn many different subjects in a short amount of time and hear people's stories. I think abstractly in big ideas and then zoom in microscopically to figure out mechanisms and user interaction to physically make it happen. Most importantly, I look for answers.

If you ask me for a title, I have many: designer, inventor, craftsperson, researcher, strategist, engineer, entrepreneur, and marketer. "Jack of all trades" may come to mind and the terrible subsequent phrase "master of none" may be the one most take away. But this is not true. We spend years perfecting our crafts. We are masters of our own kind.

Ironically, design appears effortless because designers make it seem so. When dissected, product design is actually a complex but beautiful culmination of design, business, technology, and social innovation. In school, the design process is often romanticized as business is taken out of the equation. The importance of business and the intersection between business and design is often forgotten. The truth is, design is business driven. Design is also driven by technology and social innovation. As designers we don't predict the future; we create it. With convincing strategies and big ideas, we are creating the world of tomorrow.

Thankfully, as a designer, learning never stops for me. Learning never stops because every piece of information and knowledge I take in is interrelated. There is no end to the pursuit of knowledge. Thus, learning shouldn't just take place in a classroom. Learners must be thoroughly immersed in the environment conducive to learning and problem solving. After all, being insecure ignites the spirit of wanting to succeed.

Learning is also about seeking resources outside the ones that are presented. It is building my own arsenal of skills and mentors and then being continuously inspired. Learning is networking and making connections to build my community of peers and mentors that will become lifelong friends and family.

When a friend showed me the EI website, I was ecstatic. I am still ecstatic. I plan on being part of the EI program before I graduate, as I am accumulating the basic skills necessary for product design. When I believe I am ready to rack up experience, I will knock on the door.

My journey is my own and the path… I will pave.

By Diane Chiang

Diane is currently studying Product Design at Art Center College of Design, but is heading off to Singapore next semester for a short term study abroad at INSEAD, a graduate business school. She also started a Twitter recently to compile things she's learned in design school. Find her musings on her Twitter.

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