Why I chose to study Design for Change - MA
I had trained as a tailor, worked in the fashion industry for several years and graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Clothing Technology. Despite gathering experience in different surroundings and countries, I felt that my view on the industry and its position in the world was quite narrow. I was looking for a master’s programme in which I could build on my existing knowledge in the clothing industry but also gain insights and perspectives from fields (seemingly) unrelated to fashion.
I lived in Germany most my life but have close family ties to Edinburgh – and have always wanted to spend more time there. Hence, The University of Edinburgh’s course catalogue was the first I scrolled through in my quest for next steps in life. Cosmically, the Design for Change MA was the first programme to catch my attention and within minutes of reading the description, I knew it was a perfect match. I visited the open day at ECA, met the course director Arno and a couple of prospective students from various disciplines. The buzz at ECA, the diversity of people and courses, plus the topics and format of Design for Change MA designated it to be my primary choice.
Tell us about your time at ECA
Design For Change MA is made up of three core courses and a set of electives. I chose from a list of recommended classes but also appreciated being able to pick from more or less any class offered across the whole university.
My first semester focused on the sphere of the Social. In Design for Social Change we explored topics of urban accessibility, homelessness, climate change displacement and migration. I supplemented this with courses outside of ECA: Within Anthropology of International Development and Understanding Technology I got to know the School of Social and Political Science.
In the second semester I engaged with Design for Environmental Change – exploring how to view the world from a less human-centric perspective and relating to the lived realities of other species. Similarly, Design for Technical Change invited us to un-learn the Known – for example, by practically living through an experiment of ‘three-days-without’ a designated technology and infrastructure. The course Business of Craft made my semester complete, allowing me to conceptualise a potential business and gaining and exchanging valuable practical insights with other designers and practitioners.
The academic experience was extremely rich. Gathering from the above I wrote papers and built projects around Climate Change Migration and Garment Workers, Climate Change and Systems of Clothing Consumption, Gender Politics in Garment Technology, Clothing and Survival, Modular Clothing as Social Service. All this fed into my final dissertation project titled ‘The Human Touch - An Ethical Discussion on the Digital Transformation of Sewing Technology’.
A reflection on my time at ECA would not be complete without mention of the outbreak of the pandemic that forced everyone to shift to new ways of living and engaging with each other. Unsettling as it was, the community, and academic and friendly exchange translated even within the purely digital environment. This highlights the best part of my time at ECA: meeting so many bright minds from every continent of the world. Every day, I would learn something unexpected but insightful from a fellow student’s comment, presentation or just within a casual conversation. Hearing and discussing everyone’s thoughts fundamentally impacted and enriched my view on the world.
My experiences since graduating
Graduating during the pandemic, the goodbye to ECA and Edinburgh was a quiet one – no graduation celebration, no proper get-together with our lecturers and fellow students (which is hopefully still to come). More prominent were questions around navigating lockdown restrictions, quarantine rules and social distancing. It quickly became clear that many employers were cautious of hiring new people. Simultaneously, the values and topics of Design for Change seemed more relevant than ever, giving many of us confidence to find means to contribute constructively to the changes ahead.
After graduating, I continued to develop my dissertation project. ‘The Human Touch’ which aims to visualise the human agency in clothing manufacturing. For this, I cover my hands in paint whilst sewing to imprint and trace the human dexterity, handling and manipulating across the fabric. Along with this made-to-order business, I also had the opportunity to speak and write about the project and the background concept of ‘sewing technology as a social technology’ at different panels related to sustainability in fashion.
I was eager to maintain a link to the clothing industry, so began working in parallel as a menswear product developer for a large fashion company in Berlin. I am very happy to have achieved my goal of continuing my individual projects whilst also staying in touch with clothing technology, expanding my network, and learning new skills.
My advice to new and current students
Explore Edinburgh and the campus straight away! Take advantage of events, talks, studios, machinery, and the many opportunities to meet other people.
Whenever you are stuck on an assignment: Focus on what is most interesting to you! You are the authority of your time at university – use the luxury of doing exactly what you want!
Come graduation: Apply for all the jobs! The process is a great learning experience and helps you navigate what’s out there and find what you really want to do.