A few weeks ago, I found out that our school offers a sustainability minor. It’s odd that that this option has never once crossed my mind until this time of the school year. Back in high school, I’ve dedicated a decent amount of my time to inform myself about the biggest, overarching environmental problems of the 21st century. I’ve poured a calculated amount of my time into drafting up local public transportation campaigns as a fellow for Alliance for Climate Education, into learning about CA’s progressive (relative to the rest of our country) lead on environmental policies, and advocated for bills SB1383 (short-term climate pollutant one) to our Assembly members at the CA State Capitol. As bureaucratic as the inner-workings of our state government is, it was still quite a surreal experience to step into a space that decides the legislative fate of our state. I was especially mesmorized by the historic architecture of the capitol building, the way light casts sharp shadows off the edges of railings and windows. On top of that, I was involved with Greening Forward — a national student-run non-profit organization as a youth council member and assisted with writing blogs/organizing the annual IYEYS conferences.
Anyway my point is, I was quite passionate about environmentalism. And yet, I had never intended to major in an environmental-related major. Why? The short answer is that I was simply more gravitated towards the break-through research in neuroscience — the fast-paced unraveling of the human brain that still veils so many secrets. The more I read about neuroscience and dug into research papers, the harder it became to comprehend since everything in this field is deducted from the minute details at the cellular and chemical level. In sophomore year of high school, I found that there was an emerging, newly put-together major called cognitive science — an interdisciplinary program that mashes neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, and computer science all into one. Shortly after, I found out that people can actually study design in college, and that design is actually a part of tech? That it wasn’t just an intersectionality, but a vital part of any developmental process. Prior to that realization, I honestly had thought that design was merely just the placements of simple geometric shapes, and that traditional art was superior to this seemingly oversimplified art form in every way possible. There was fashion design, I knew that, but that sector had just never crossed my mind as something I’d be into. Now looking back at it, does my own sheltered oblivon to the world of design means that I’ve been surronded by good design all my life, since “good design is invisible” — or does it just mean that the field of design hasn’t gained much traction until very, very recently? As the years went on, my understanding of what design entails jumped from graphic design (which is just the visual aesthetics of a two-dimensional digital piece), to interaction design/UX design, to web design/development, HCI, etc. — areas that I would’ve never known had existed or that I’d get myself into if you were to ask my 17-year old self in high school.
I don’t believe in going to a vocational school or art school solely for design. Design — unlike traditional line of work such as engineering, law, medicine — isn’t something that thrives inside a contained box. Design is meant to supplement everything that the human race has conceived to do, and it should be a foundation in all we do. Design is more than a set of skill sets. The more time you spend designing, the more it becomes ingrained in your thinking, the more it becomes a lifestyle, the more it becomes a mindset — a different way of looking at the world. It stretches beyond the aesthetics that we think we know — the lines, the pixels, the colors. It taps into the subconcioous core of the human experience.
I see design as a catalyst in environmental advocacy, civic engagement, public school, the U.S. public school education system, healthcare, and many more sectors that had not been traditionally associated with design.
Anyway, I’m still in my freshman year of college and I think I’m going to go for a minor in sustainability. Having a broad worldview — a good grasp on different subject matters that give you a more holistic understanding of how our world had become the way it is today — is so important. But on top of that, having an expertise in an area is even more important.
I’m a maker by heart.
Find what excites you & make that your expertise.