The following are a few field logs that I compiled to describe my journey in discovering the diversity of design over Summer 2018.
Field Log 1 – An introduction
I have the amazing opportunity of working with a designer who has built a library of knowledge so diverse and with such depth that he is considered an Engineer. So far, my time with Professor Felix Beck has taught me to pursue what interests me, regardless of how unrelated it may seem from my “primary interest”. I am taking this advice to heart, and will, both inside and outside of the workplace, take on opportunities that interest me, and take the time to learn the skills necessary to advance the appropriate field of knowledge. My role at his Narrative Technologies and Spatial Installations Lab is similarly diverse, placing me in such positions to expand my interests. I will be working on a number of projects, involving media and marketing of the 2-year-old lab, marketing and design of corporate identity for external and NYU clients, aesthetic design for both the campus and off-campus clients, content and media development for 3 museum and history-related projects. The most challenging aspect of this has been the constant shift in project focus. As new information is regularly collected regarding our projects, they must be worked in parallel with one another. With some rigorous planning and organization, however, I think completing these projects will be smooth. Another challenge lies in the governmental entities with which we will work on historical projects. Many laws, regulations and bureaucratic processes must be overcome in order to move forward with our design and content creation. I think my strongest contribution, with my current skill set, will be in 2D creative content conceptualization, 2D design, and writing. However, I hope that I can contribute at equal capacities with other skills. By the end of this assistantship, I hope to gain substantial skills in 3D modelling, software and hardware handling, visual communication, narrative and creative content conceptualization and development.
Field Log 2 – the organization
I am working in the Narrative Technologies and Spatial Installations Lab run by Felix Beck. It has been created around 2 years ago, and so far, has functioned through Felix’s work and his work with student assistants. Felix studied visual communication I Germany for his undergraduate degree and through much hard work found himself working in diverse studios around Germany. What I’ve learned from his experience is that he considered the skills he was gaining, as opposed to the profession he followed. Being an abused graphic designer in his first studio did not come to define his career. Instead he spent his free time seeking projects that would give him a diverse skill set, and would engage his design-mind. I too want to operate in this manner, design is a field that I love, but I can engage with design as a designer in numerous ways and in numerous sectors.
The primary goal of this lab is to produce technologies, designs that engage numerous narratives that clients desire. Whether this is media, presentation, and content for a museum, or a holographic interface for an archive, the lab does not distinguish. I, personally, find it interesting that a studio like our is called a Lab, and it is something I value deeply. I have learned much about the perceived illegitimacy of the Designer and Studio, as tasks, roles and duties of individuals within the studio become pigeon-held into menial tasks and software usage. Of course, what I have learned is that organizations such as design studios have staff that function on many levels, programming, marketing, researching, communicating, and, of course, designing. Therefore, I understand the value of naming such a space a lab, but I also have begun to experience the diversity of design and designers’ engagement with society. I love it!
I would love to work in a space similar to this after I graduate, in fact, I would love to work here. I am able to constantly engage different parts of my brain, and I have understood truly that this is design. I have spent a little time speaking to Felix regarding similar opportunities in my distant future in places like New York or Germany. What I have learned is that it is possible to attain such positions, but in smaller companies as a fresh undergraduate. Degrees in media design, graphic design and/or visual communication prove incredibly useful in legitimizing one’s skills and also securing positions in larger and more famous design companies such as Sagmeister and Walsh.
Field Log 3 – Professionalism/work ethic
The professional culture of my research assistantship is, what I expect, one that transcends fields as it is based on trust. Felix was out of the office the past week, and I was tasked with presenting some work that both he and I have been working on, and others on which I was only briefed. I was also asked to begin working on some textures for a hologram that we are building for narrative purposes. During this time, Felix took a hands-off approach, trusting me to complete, or at least begin, tasks with little to no guidance. This, I feel, is an interesting shift from my previous work with more corporate workplaces, where I would feel obliged to check with my supervisor at every small step and refuse to take initiative. This may be a point of personal growth, or it may be a function of working in a design-oriented environment; either way, I am satisfied with the trust that Felix and I are developing. I only hope to strengthen it.
My daily expectations, when Felix is in the office, is similar. I either walk into the office with a clear set of tasks to complete based on previous discussions or shift gears slightly to complete a small ad-hoc project when requested. For example, the past few days I have been working on the aforementioned textures with little guidance. After a general layout was created, I checked in with Felix. He would provide feedback, and I would work until 6 PM and continue the next day. Sometime during this process, I was asked to assist another professor with a print, and the two of us also ran some more experiments with the carving machine. Such projects run in parallel should they arise, but our larger, more pressing projects (ones that are tracked on an elaborate system of sticky notes) remain a priority.
Today I was experiencing a little frustration as I felt the need to check in with Felix a little more often than usual. At first, I thought it might be unprofessional to do so, but I concluded that it was an important point in my learning process. The general layouts for the textures we set, and naturally, a point of greater precision was necessary, meaning nitty gritty pixel perfect alignments and close attention to user experience. This is an incredibly long process. And although this process required a regular check-in with Felix, it was essential in ensuring that I learn, deeply, about alignment, grids, and user experience.
Field Log 4 – networks
Today was my last day in the office, and although I am sad to leave, I have spent some time with Felix not only developing our work relationship but my connections to the design world. This manifest both in the people he has introduced me to, as well as the strategies and techniques of one in the field of design. At one level, I have expressed in working with Felix once I return from New York in the Spring. This, I think, is an incredible opportunity, as there are many, many interesting upcoming projects. Felix is also helping get in contact with designers and studios in New York so that I can continue to develop my skills while I am there.
As I have been working with Felix alone, there are few other professionals that I have had prolonged contact with. Nevertheless, I have been lucky enough to engage with individuals in the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Engineers at NYU, and designers across the globe. Even if briefly, this is such an important aspect of feeling the culture and community of design. It gives me hope for my future endeavours.
Although difficult, Felix has expressed to me that the best way to connect with other designers, especially those deeper in their career, is to “show up, and show them”. No conversations, no small talk, just show. This can prove to be a challenge, as I have to continue to develop my portfolio, but I hope to gain the confidence to be able to show then converse. I truly love design and the design world, and I look forward to further research with Felix.