Why I chose to study Design for Change - MA
My decision to study Design for Change at ECA was driven primarily by the unique nature of the course's curriculum and the relevance of using design thinking skills to drive solutions. Graduate studies were also relevant to my educational and work experience at the time and were a suitable springboard to my envisioned career path.
ECA is rich in resources ranging from workshops, facilities, the library and many more, and I was excited to experience all these and learn through the process. I explored various making and forming processes in the workshop with a range of materials, and these sparked my curiosity and interest while studying.
A diversity of backgrounds and ideas matters a lot to me, and this was visible and active during my study period at ECA. I embarked on group projects with fellow scholars from a vast range of design disciplines and cultural backgrounds. This enriched the conversations we had and made my time at ECA enjoyable yet challenging too. I also enjoyed access to lecturers and tutors that offered a wealth of knowledge and experience in and outside the classroom; the professional network to be gained was another reason for choosing to study at ECA.
My time at ECA
The majority of my academic projects were within groups, and they involved social, environmental and technical change projects. Some of these projects focused on tackling homelessness, redefining displacement and refugee migration, and ecological conservation. The most exciting aspect of each project was the openness and flexibility to develop data-driven solutions that are localised and specific to the problem at hand. Another exciting Technical-Change project involved a breaching experiment on life without electricity as the status quo and envisioning alternative energies. My dissertation project focused on incorporating design interventions to improve the beekeeping value chain for farmers. This dissertation equipped me with in-depth insight into agricultural economics and how social change can improve business.
During my time at ECA, I went on a class excursion to the industrial village of New Lanark to study and experience a civilisation built on utopian ideals in the 19th century. This experience consolidated relevant lectures and projects and formed a basis for further class discussions and conversations. We also got to network with professionals from the UNHCR to co-solve challenges in the industry regarding refugee displacement and resettlement. Outside of ECA, I embarked on a student-led change project between the university and a neighbouring community. This project enabled me to utilise skills gained during the study to offer live solutions. Unfortunately my industry experience opportunity could not happen due to the pandemic and travel restrictions in place at the time.
If afforded another study opportunity, I will engage better in college activities and be more intentional about networking with fellow scholars in other design disciplines.
My experiences since graduating
Life after ECA came with the mixed emotions of nostalgia for the memories and experiences gained but with the excitement of what career prospects hold for me in the future. My career plans changed during my study period, and I am now tailoring my career to consulting in the aspects of user-experience design and service provision. Graduate studies prepared me adequately with the analytical and critical thinking skills which I utilise currently. I have also learned to problem-solve more efficiently and distil complex problem sets into simpler and manageable chunks. Since leaving ECA, I am most proud of attaining a much-desired certification and am currently working on a nanodegree programme in user-experience design.
My advice to new and current students
Dear incoming Design comrades! Explore the richness and wealth of knowledge that the ECA has to offer. Collaborate a lot, share ideas, rub minds together, make lifelong friends that hopefully become professional collaborations.
To the about-to-graduate cohort, be intentional about the next steps along your career path, harness the rich network you have built, and have a robust plan with backups.