How University of Utah Students Evolve Along with their Design Process

Zachary Kay shows Adobe’s Tara Knight the physical product he and Erica created as a fundraising incentive to compliment their digital product.

by Patrick Faller

posted on 02-22-2019

In the University of Utah’s Multi-Disciplinary Design Program, students that take part in the Field Studio walk away with all the skills they need to enter the product design industry; but that’s not the whole intention of the program. It’s during this hands-on project that these undergraduate students see how their design skills can influence people and create change. This is when Elpitha Tsoutsounakis’s big lesson finally becomes real; the students learn that it’s their responsibility to use these skills for good.

While the end results of the projects are truly exceptional, like Erica Fasoli and Zachary Kay’s fundraising experience and Steven Calhoun’s distance learning experience, the transformations of the students over the process of designing and prototyping their experiences have been even more remarkable. Coming from diverse backgrounds, the students have evolved as they’ve begun to think like designers and design leaders.

“When I came into this program, I didn’t really know what design meant. I thought it was a product design program, and I was going to design products. I think what’s really unique about this program, and different from a lot of others, is that we focus on process, not product. Through our process, we all are learning about ourselves,” said Erica.

The Wild Spectrum.

“I would say, if you asked me three years ago if I’d be standing here today, the answer would be no. But I’ve fallen in love with everything about design, and I’ve surprised myself every day with what I can actually do.”

Learning to ‘lean in’ to digital design techniques and principles

Erica’s project partner, Zachary, walked into the program knowing he would enjoy building physical products. He transferred from mechanical engineering, but says the faculty convinced him to really give digital design a shot. He learned multiple Adobe products and how to translate his real life experiences into digital products.

For Zachary Kay, creating a physical product for The Wild Spectrum’s digital presence required a fusion of his engineering and product design expertise.

“I know how things can be displayed, represented, lined up — how all of these digital aspects play to the physical world, and vice versa. They’re no longer separate, they’re very much linked. That’s what Erica and I tried to do within our project. I’ve come to recognize that the physical and digital world is no longer separate; one assists and aids the other cyclically,” he said.

Steven, on the other hand, learned to ‘lean in’ to his love of everything digital. Coming from a background in fine arts, he says he pushed himself to try to love physical product design. Throughout his studio project, he came to realize his existing skill sets in drawing, watercolor, and physical design techniques could help him achieve his dream, rather than pulling him away from it.

“The program helped me learn how my skill set translates into the digital realm, and I just realized that I am much better at creating a digital product. After that ‘aha moment,’ I went 100 percent full steam into digital product. Since that moment, every single project I’ve done has a digital element. I even got an internship at a tech company, and then got hired full-time, and it was all purely from just recognizing the process I was doing, and how it aligned better with the digital realm,” he said.

Steven relied heavily on design process to make sure the Yellowstone Forever Learning Portal was engaging and user-friendly enough to achieve its primary goals.

In our final piece of this collection, Doing Good with Design Education featuring the University of Utah’s Multi-Disciplinary Design Program, we take a look at how the students’ design education has opened up career opportunities for them and instilled a sense of deep responsibility to be a force for good with their skills.

If you missed any of our collection or articles, Doing Good with Design Education in partnership with the University of Utah, check out the others below.

To learn more about how Adobe Creative Cloud can empower students to think creatively and turn their classroom ideas into college and career opportunities, visit the Creative Cloud for Education homepage.

Topics: Creativity, Design, Education

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