June 23, 2016

The Common Thread

Two weeks ago, I was working on a project to help me reflect on my past two terms and plan for the third. I found myself struggling to find a common thread between them. I felt stuck and I couldn’t seem to make sense of it. It was hard to focus and I felt like I was moving forward aimlessly. Even though I’ve learned a lot and feel more confident in myself, questions flooded my mind. Did I pursue the right opportunities for my terms? Did I make a mistake? How do these three experiences even relate? And how does this help me after I graduate? For three days I sat on these questions until I was reminded of something quite simple. If I could just go back to where I started, I might find some answers. I remembered that before joining Ei, I was at a crossroads in my life where I wanted to learn more about people and their choices rather than more about visual design. At the time, I was a visual designer for brands and advertising, but I wasn’t really getting to the heart of the matter. I wasn’t solving the bigger obstacles and questions, I was just making things look good. I was interested in complex problems, finding solutions to tough issues, and identifying the motivations behind why certain decisions are made. I was interested in helping others, in making things easier, in meeting needs that people didn’t even know they had yet. To me, it all revolved around having deep understanding of human behavior and design. Throughout my year with Experience Institute, I’ve had the privilege to work with and learn from some remarkable people. From Chicago to New York and places in between, I’ve discovered a deeper understanding of myself – of my motivations, values and goals. During my first term, I had the opportunity to work alongside one of the world’s largest ad agencies to build a digital product strategy for organizing and encouraging community outreach and social responsibility. I learned the value of teamwork, time management and standing up for your ideas. I witnessed the process of how progress happens in a very large corporation and I realized the importance of truly keeping people at the center of a design. I then joined a team of brilliant innovators and designers to help them further understand and develop their on-boarding experience, employee culture and use of physical space. I practiced the principles of design thinking while co-leading these projects. I observed a culture of excellence and integrity, I saw compassion meet diligence in a refreshing way and I redefined what design means to me. Soon I will be starting my third term by partnering with a Chicago-based artist and entrepreneur to help strategically design for business growth. In addition, I will be curating stories about the artist, his work and its continuing positive influence. I look forward to the many learnings that will follow. I came to Ei because I realized that I could actively explore this intersection between behavior and design. I could work for organizations that were already in the midst of it and learn from people who had years of experience understanding the connections. Today, when I look upon my terms with Ei, I can see the common thread between them is a desire to design behavior change and improve or create a user's experience. Each of the projects I’ve worked on have brought me much closer to becoming the designer I want to be. One that understands people almost better than they know themselves for the purpose of creating products, services and experiences that improve their lives. I want to put people first and design second.

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