Contextualizing Design



My collection of objects is made up of keepsakes from experiences and gifts from friends and family. Because I don’t think of myself as a sentimental person, I was surprised to find I could gather so many items just from the things left over in my college bedroom. Each item holds memories and lessons that are meaningful to me. Through this collection, I got to revisit what I value in life, relationships and experiences.

My items are split evenly into gifts from friends and family and memorabilia I’ve kept from past experiences. The gifts signify the value I put on relationships and the memorabilia signifies the value I put on experiences.

Notes from classmates:

Note 1:

All of these artifacts, I assume, are very personal; kept like leaves in a book to document a journey across far lands. Except in this circumstance there are hand written notes from friends, a diary, a personalized wallet, a snapped wrist band, and perhaps most intriguing: a bottle of bullets and an almost empty box of beats by Dre headphones. Considering the items of the pen, the diary, and the birthday card, I was most surprised that there was no personalized inscription for the book about friendship. I am having trouble figuring out how the box helps tell the owner’s story. Perhaps it is a representation of how they value music?

Note 2:

Memories stemming from experiences you’ve shared with other people

Possessions representing experiences that can sum up what you remember when you revisit said object

Which possessions would you define as yours? Which ones have been given to you or passed down to you that you now claim as your own

Bullets as something that you were given and may represent someone from a memory of yours

Writing down thoughts you have while experiencing something new

Cutting off the wristband is freedom from an experience that lasted a brief amount of time

Why this book out of all the books you own?

Note 3:

Objects seem event-focused: study abroad/travel journal, birthday card, wristband, perhaps Deloitte cards

Other objets seem very utilitarian…maybe not sentimental? pen, Beats headphones packaging, leather card pouch

Very curious about significance of bullets! Seems like they could be very significant based on what they were used for or they could just be really cool objects that you collected

No idea the significance of the book but the light-heartedness and playful illustrations speak to your personality! :)

An Archaeology of Self


When thinking about the five objects I would take with me into the afterlife, I wanted the collection to communicate my accomplishments and values. Each item is very personal and lends perspective into what I value.

1. The hard drive represents the work that I have created and will create in the future.
2. A meaningful book that a friend gave me Freshman year that reflects my personality.
3. A personal journal that demonstrates my views and thoughts at any given period of my life.
4. A collection of memorabilia from experiences that have taught me about myself and my values.

5. The last item would be a collection of letters I exchanged with an elderly neighbor when I was in elementary school. I don’t have it with me at school but I think the letters will provide insight into who I was at a younger age.

Each item connects to something or someone in my life.

You, Designer


Design is a way of thinking applied to problem solving.

If I were to design something right now, it would be a data visualization of minority and immigrant contributions in the U.S.

5 Keywords I use to describe my design ethos are engaging, fun, social, thoughtful, surprising.

What do you value in the designed world?

The potential to improve the world in big (future) and small (daily) ways.

Emphasis on intuition and intent.

Ability to elicit emotions and actions.

What are your concerns as a designer? i.e. where are you headed?

I want to maintain emphasis on person-to-person interactions and experiences. I think it’s very easy to get sucked into designing for digital spaces (guilty) because of constant developments in technology, but I hope to improve in-person experiences in the physical world as well.

Wandering and Wonder


This week, I wandered around Pittsburgh looking for different ways design encourages or deters human engagement. I also observed the behavior of people on the streets, either interacting with each other or their devices.

Furniture and product arrangement in different stores. Each different service or product offered (carpets, food, bikes, antiques) calls for a different arrangement in the store so that customers can have the maximum amount of engagement with the product. I think the rug store does this best by drawing all attention to the product and providing minimal distractions.
A woman walking her dog is on the phone. How to encourage attention in a neighborhood or street that she probably walks around on a daily basis?
People waiting for friends at coffee shop are on phones instead of observing or engaging with the physical space. There is no alternative stimuli, so the phone is the easiest place to escape into.
Uber driver is on the phone even though his attention should already be occupied by a task in the physical world. How to break the habit of diverting attention (half-present)?
Too many things calling for attention or engagement. How can this be organized in a better way that is more inviting?

A Hypothesis


Through our discussions in Wonder Lab, I’ve found myself cycling through states of confusion, reflection and enlightenment.

Before CMU, I viewed design as a technical major centered around good craft and making pretty things. My dream was to layout magazines or build furniture. Since freshman year, I’ve tried to define design as a tool, a different perspective, or a way of thinking. While these are all forms of design, it doesn’t express the core purpose of design. Where and why do I apply this tool, perspective or way of thinking? For me, design’s intent is to connect. Nowadays, with so much clutter around us, it’s hard to fully engage with any one thing.

Last week I said I was concerned with the growing emphasis on designing for digital over physical spaces. However, I’ve realized my real concern is the decrease in active, present engagement. While technology often diverts attention, it’s not the root cause of human disconnect. In fact, it can be a great stimulus for active participation (ex: Twitter).

The real problem is we are overstimulated by our surroundings and devices. In a world oversaturated with choices and curated tastes, we should strive to create genuine engagements instead of superficial interactions.

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