It's summer, which means I've been in summer mode for a couple weeks and away from school things (like finals.) With this distance I've started to reflect a bit on being halfway through the Transdisciplinary Design program at Parsons and what I've learned/experienced.
It's a bit weird that it went by this fast. I feel like I just applied and got in! But my second year cohort has graduated, and my cohort is starting to think about thesis while we're off doing summer internships around the world. So that reality is starting to set in.
So here are some of things I've realized while in this program, both about the degree itself but also a bit on design. These are of course my own opinion and don't reflect the larger group or alumni, but this is my blog so :)
1. You have to fight for what you want.
No one is going to give you anything. You have to go out and find professors to work with, people to get advice from, events that interest you. This is probably obvious, but it's so important to state. Grad school isn't undergrad.
2. Design is a mindset.
Graphic design, product design, social design, design this, design that, blah blah blah. Design is a terrible catch-all right now for pretty much anything creative and as a result, no one knows what you are talking about half the time. However, the way you approach problems, and the way you include and reference people, is a mindset and at the core of design. Learning this, and how to communicate with others in a creative way, is a true strength of the program.
3. Classes aren't going to give you everything you want.
A lot of my cohort has had a rough time accepting how our classes go. They have high expectations, which is amazing but also frustrating when you don't get what you want.
The best thing I've been able to do is come in with an open mind, take what the professors give us, and see how I can apply it in my own practice. Now this doesn't mean to roll over and just take something as it is (see point 1), but it does mean trying something before judging it. Because is it sometimes frustrating that I'm paying a ton to essentially cherry pick what works for me? Fuck yeah. But that's life, no?
I might be lucky because I don't have a design background and a lot of this is new to me, but I have a feeling that being open minded has helped me a lot.
4. Experiment now, because you might not be able to later.
I had jobs where there was little room to try new things. I have a feeling this isn't abnormal. In the TD program, we're allowed to do new things all the time, from make movies to products to coming up with new policies and theories. By testing these out, I've come to realize just how important storytelling is to connecting with people, how much things are interconnected, and how all of the things might work in my practice going forward. Having permission to try and to fail is liberating, and I know that future jobs won't be so lenient, so taking advantage of trying things I've always wanted to do is not only fun, but I think will help me in my career.
5. The people make it all worth it.
The heads of TransD have a knack for choosing amazing, thoughtful, creative, intense, caring people. Working with my cohort has been the greatest asset of TD and I'm so so lucky to have them on this journey with me. Plus, they're from all over (Egypt, Guatemala, Mexico, India, Japan, China, Chile, Germany, across the US), so we get insight from all over which I love.
And I don't think this is just my cohort. During the end of the semester, I had the chance to work with my second years (class of '18 heyyy) and see their reflections on their time at Parsons. You can see some of those thoughts below! (Also, sorry for the sound! I lost my SD card :( with all the recordings on it.)