from a student’s inbox

Rachel Rosenson
Sep 6, 2016 · 6 min read



because I’ve spent a night morning drinking and a day drawing by a river and then another day considering whether to get a haircut or not

and because the coworker told me over road trip omelets to stop reading design books and start reading Buk

and because the man up norths email said sell out now so you can know what it feels like

and because I ran into an old roommate on the bus and realized we hadn’t spoken since we had a home

and because an old teacher and a new friend asked me if I was happy over coffee and all I could think was I’m drinking coffee because that’s what you’re supposed to do

and because I have a retirement plan but not a career plan but good to know there’s a safety net in 50 years

and because I don’t know how to start things or end things but I’m very good at kicking up dust in the middle

and because I’m really bad at saying what I mean but I’m getting really good at explaining what I meant to say

and because run on sentences never cramp up

and because the calendar is always balanced never steady

and because Chicago kids take Yeezy verbatim

and because it’s the 365 day anniversary of the time I didn’t mean to drop out of college and I still don’t know how to explain myself or if I want to explain myself but the internet is for declaring very certainly things that you are very uncertain of and so here is my contribution to the data center.



Hi Rachel-

We are planning for Fall and I wanted to write and check in with you if you are planning to join us for senior year. I am not sure how much contact you have had with the class behind your original class, but they are full of power.





Hi K+H

Hope all is lovely! Sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been minus laptop plus mountain for the past several weeks.

Simple answers are boring. And you know I love a good rant. In short — I have decided not to complete my education at CCA. In long — see rest.

As for me, it’s been quite a path indeed. As for a brief synopsis of my year: I spent the summer home in Chicago with IDEO, then went off to Google London for the fall, and spent this past spring with an experimental graphic design studio, Trapped in Suburbia, in Holland. In between I’ve fallen in love with art again, made some things that have hit some spots, and ate loads of soft cheeses. I’ve spent the past year practicing getting lost, getting quiet and being present. The sketchbook is full. The future doesn’t seem all that scary. The feeling is happy.

To me, a thesis isn’t just a talking point for the first post grad job interview, but rather a time of self-exploration for who you are as a designer, a teaser of the mark you aim to make, and a platform to launch your personal practice. While I wasn’t in the thesis class this year, I lovingly called this year my [anti]thesis, and I aimed to knuckle those notions as well.

You guys know me, I DIEHARD for school. CCA was the first place where I was part of a creative community that got the itch, was mad enough to scratch it, and brilliant enough to keep iterating on the perfect back scratcher. I knew I could rely on you and my teachers for guidance, my peers for a push, and the studio to always be my safe place to fuck up drastically and electrocute myself mildly. But that’s my problem — CCA has become too safe for me.

This year I’ve made screens, services, prototypes and products. But I also explored relationships with material, the future of analog, and the role of visual queues in sexual innuendos. I wrote in new code languages, I wrote in a journal for the first time, and I wrote a mix tape in the south of France. I thought about how we see touch and touch sound and hear each other and how we make ourselves heard. I accepted job offers that I was sure were sent to the wrong email, challenged designers I lauded, and worked in disciplines way above my head. I’ve gotten lost in 9 countries, on every type of transportation system, where they don’t speak my language and (worst off) don’t accept Visa. I’ve been alone, unsure and really, really scared. I got professional and childish and practical and aspirational and realistic and creative and stronger and looser and fuller and hungrier and it all feels good. I’ve made a lot, and thought a lot, and crashed my bike a lot. But if art has scratched me an inch, it’s only to say that you have to be pissed off, petrified or batshit crazy to make something that hits back. And I aim to make stuff that hits back.

My [anti]thesis is simple: I want people to feel good on a Friday night and not regret it come morning. I want to make the words come easier and the food chewed slower and the big breathes deeper. Because I’ve met people from all over the world and tried on new cultures and observed different ways of life and realized that while the world is a vastly diverse and differentiating place, people are all people. Situations vary, but needs remain constant. We all want to feel independent but a part of something, confident but growing, secure but not stagnant. That’s where I want to help. And I don’t want it to look like 80’s sci-fi.

So perfect! I have realized my [anti]thesis, now I just need to come back to school to make it. Can’t. School is a safe place and I do my best work trembling.

But there’s always something more to learn! Exactly. There will always be something more to learn. I chose this career not because of free coconut water and frequent flyer miles, but because I aim to be a student everyday. I learned this year that I don’t know everything, but I have the ability to learn anything. Now I just need to go learn it.

There’s a chance I’ll regret this email and want back in. There’s a chance in 5 years the sentiment of a degree will become meaningful to me. Or maybe I’ll just feel burnt out and crave the structure school affords. In which case, I’ll reapply with my tail between my legs. My design process has never been linear, I don’t expect my personal practice to be either.

It wasn’t til a couple of weeks ago that I realized why I needed this break. I was in a weird place of valuing my teachers and peers opinions too much. Not out of insecurity, but because I genuinely think they’re so incredibly brilliant that how could you not hang on their every word? Throughout this experience, the combination of constant change, solitude and exposure has brought me back in touch with my gut, and that’s what my work was missing. Because it wasn’t until this year that I realized you can do all the prototyping, research, testing, and data analysis you want, but you will always get to a point where you just have to step back and pull the trigger saying “It’s not perfect, but it’s ready”. And that’s the most honest assessment I can give myself right now.

I truly love the IxD program and am indebted to you two and everyone there who has pushed me and supported me and challenged me and shaped me — especially those that questioned me and answered me and told me to shush. But there’s only so much solid footing I can have if I want to keep moving. I’m a bit sunburnt and a bit blistered, but this is where I’m at. So I just wanted to let you know. And to say thanks. And thanks for always listening to my rants. Just because I’m not enrolled doesn’t mean I won’t stops sending them. Apologies in advance.




Rachel Rosenson

Written by

. Writing to keep from talking to myself on the bus.

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