I’ve always had a keen interest in design.
In high school, I joined yearbook (persuaded by a friend who told me, “people throw away papers after they read it, but they keep yearbooks for life,” when choosing between journalism and yearbook; no offense, I love newspapers, too!) and was introduced to the world of editorial design: pretty fonts, polished photos, and picas in between. I admired all the graphic elements on an InDesign spread and by hobby, began to flip through magazines and scroll through websites to look at beautifully designed pages. To me then, design was a symbol of aesthetic beauty.
Although I loved design in that sense, I didn’t pursue studying it further because I thought I wasn’t talented enough; there was no way I could create something so modern and beautiful, enough to satisfy my own taste and others. However, in college, I stumbled upon a course on hotel design and had an opportunity to gain exposure of another type of design: architecture. Curious, I found myself interning in the business office of an architecture firm that following summer. There, I saw the similar elements of design—beautiful facades, shiny interiors. But there was a greater sense of function and purpose added to form in these architectural projects; the buildings weren’t just to be looked at, but to be occupied in. The idea of “function” grew even bigger after I attended a lunch & learn hosted by urban designers at the firm. Wow. You didn’t just design books and buildings, but also cities and spaces.
More intrigued, I spent a semester in Copenhagen, Denmark to further explore urban design. I was fortunate to meet several great minds in my design studio, including Rasmus (speaker of the TEDx video above), who was the instructor. As we walked through and discussed designs of streets, parks, squares, waterfronts, and residential communities, we carefully observed the sites and the people that were there (rich and poor, young families and elderly, students and drunkards). In designing a space, the purpose and function always had priority over form. It was most important to consider the users and the future users in their shoes. Design perhaps is one part creating something beautiful, but through my study abroad, I realized that it is more a tool to make positive change for the future.
Design, as a process and a way of thinking to improve something—building, service, communication, process—can be utilized by anyone and is enriched through various perspectives. It’s not just for the artsy creatives; it’s for whoever needs it.