Life Before Parsons


While going through the various folders on my laptop in search of documentation and sources of inspiration, I happened across one that made me stop and take a prolonged look: my application materials for applying to the Parsons MFA Design + Technology program. It’s inspiring and energizing to read my own excited words from over a year ago, and a solid reminder of how lucky I am to be in a place like this…even if the work is grinding us all to a pulp.

The full text of my Statement of Intent:

Since age five, I have struggled to discover my raison d’être, proclaiming at various intervals that I would someday become a veterinarian, an artist, a graphic designer, a sports medicine specialist, an economist and a web designer (to name a few).  Unfortunately, however, none of these professions ever seemed to satisfy more than one facet of my personality. Even in college, where my economics major allowed me to exercise my quantitative abilities and explore the social sciences, the associated heavy course load made it impossible to study abroad to entertain my love of languages, and left little time for visual expression. After graduation, I turned down an offer to become an investment-banking analyst—a job notorious for its lack of work-life balance, let alone art-work-life balance—deciding instead to take a job with my father’s economic research firm. The position placed me in charge not only of economic research and data analysis, but also graphic and web design—the closest thing I’d found to a job that addressed all my interests at once.

About six months ago, I stopped to think about what kind of career would make me happy on a daily basis. I realized that the time I had spent doing graphic and web design for my current job directly corresponded to the times that I felt the most productive and happy. With this knowledge, I immediately started to study design and web technologies as fast as I could absorb the material, taking a full schedule of training classes in everything from the full Adobe Creative Suite all the way to object-oriented programming in JavaScript and PHP. During my programming classes, I suddenly found myself getting disproportionately excited about each and every little thing I told the computer to do (and which it did in return!)—and realized something had clicked.

Having now had time to consider the how and why of this epiphany, I’ve realized that the visual and tactile applications of computer scripting and programming, especially in web technologies, represent a convergence of art and technology that perfectly fits my varied interests. Working with technology allows me to apply my affinity for learning new languages to learning new programming languages, while simultaneously exercising my analytical and artistic sides. The technical aspects of the field constantly challenge my left-brain while my right-brain can express itself by applying these technologies to web design, user interfaces, and other tactile user experiences.

Studying at Parsons would allow me to develop this new way of thinking—a framework that puts equal emphasis on the creative and the technical. I’ve learned a lot from classmates and teachers throughout my life, in subjects ranging from drawing, printmaking and design to linear algebra, microeconomics and computer coding; but while these experiences have been invaluable to my growth in each field, they have rarely crossed disciplinary lines to flesh out the bigger picture. I look forward to meeting other students like myself, and learning how to collaborate across different backgrounds and skill-sets. I also believe that seeing how students with different backgrounds approach a problem will help strengthen my ability to view situations from others’ perspectives, and help me break out of my own comfort zone to tackle problems in ways I’ve never tried before.

I often think of life as a series of languages—both literal spoken languages and more abstract ones, such as the languages of social interaction, the analytical language of technology, or the visual language at the heart of art, design, and nature. I have spent a lot of time immersed in the visual language of design and fine art and will continue to strive to improve my skills in those fields. I’ve also spent my share of time dealing with the peculiar dialects of economic research, finance and the business world. And while I have only just begun to delve into the language of computer and web technology, what I’ve seen so far has made me more excited to learn new things than I have been since my first day of college. I want to immerse myself in this new language and absorb as much as I possibly can through the lens of art and design; and I cannot think of a better place to do that than a program whose whole purpose is to live at the intersection (and push the boundaries of) design and technology.

By studying at Parsons, I hope to work towards a level of “fluency” in this new hybrid language—not only to discover how to stretch my imagination to envision new and exciting ideas, but also to learn the technical abilities required to take these ideas and turn them into reality. 

Interaction Design, with an emphasis on web design and web technologies, has been a great source of excitement for me as I enter this next stage of my life, and is a large part of why I’m pursuing graduate studies at Parsons’ Design and Technology Program. I have always been fascinated by the interplay between design and its effects on the user experience—I believe it is critical for any user interface to be as well-designed on the front-end as it is well-developed on the back-end—and want to sharpen my skills so that I can attack problems with an equal focus on both criteria.

There is much room left to explore regarding the seamless integration of well-informed design and its technical implementation. Since most people are stronger either technically or visually, this is often achieved through collaboration between designers and programmers; but while collaboration is an indispensable tool in any field (and interaction design in particular), combining essentially two different people—a designer and a developer—into one mind can greatly streamline the creative process.

My goal is to work tirelessly to become this person; to seek out training in any and all technologies that might allow me to better execute the design concepts I am able to dream up. Hosting both sides of the creative process within my mind would eliminate any miscommunication risk and the transaction costs of passing concepts back and forth. And when the scope of a project extends beyond my capabilities, I will be that much more proficient at collaborating with a specialist by being able to accurately explain my ideas, and by thoroughly understanding the possibilities and limitations of various media.

People often laud the ability of ‘creatives’ to spur technological innovations by asking “what if,” unconstrained by preconceptions of what is and is not currently possible. I would argue that while there is much to be gained through these channels, even more can be accomplished by having thorough knowledge of both what we want to achieve and how we might be able to do so. By using the creative side of one’s mind to push the boundaries of what could be possible while also deriving inspiration from what already is, we are able to take advantage of preexisting capabilities that simply have not yet been utilized to their full creative potential. Often times there is no need to reinvent the wheel—just a need to examine that wheel from a wholly new perspective and give it a new life.

My goals for postgraduate study in the field of interaction and web design are threefold. I want to hone my visual design and technical computing skills to the best of my abilities and use them to create beautiful, functional, groundbreaking interactive designs that push both sides of the envelope. I hope to learn from the students and faculty around me and translate what I learn into projects that could help to shape innovations to come—projects that I don’t even have the framework yet to imagine. And above all, I want join the army of innovative minds that is rapidly changing the way we see both each other and the world we live in.

Category : Life Before Parsons | Blog