“In terms of design, the past two years have been some of the most explorative and engaging in my education and development as a designer. My master’s degree through KISD has challenged me in ways I could not have fully comprehended at the beginning of this process.“ In her report alumni Katie Murdock states how studying at KISD changed and extended her perspective on design.

Prior to this experience, I was so used to being guided in a specific direction or towards a concrete outcome, rather than formulating my own solutions and ideas. Learning how to question design, designers, solutions, design philosophies, and myself was a technique which I had to develop in order to be successful not only in this program but for the future of my career in design. As a designer, my beliefs and values have also shifted and changed to accommodate for new experiences and skillsets I have gained during my time at KISD. One of my biggest takeaways or perhaps reconfirmations, through this experience, is my belief in what design is and its purpose. While this is something unique, personal, and ever-evolving for each designer, my stance on design has remained fairly consistent since I first chose to enter the field. I have always had an appreciation for beautiful type, clean interfaces, and engaging user flows, yet the real reason I became interested in design was for its capabilities for widespread connection and as a tool for awareness. From this perspective, design comes secondary to the narratives which can be visualized and the causes which can be amplified. Expanding into my master’s degree, design received a new series of perspectives and lenses that I could view the world with.

In reviewing the courses, I participated in during my time at KISD, it is clear that my professors wanted to explore design from a multi-directional context which would lead to unexpected results or processes. While this felt entirely uncomfortable at the time, it did lead me to push myself beyond what I thought I understood about design and to consider possibilities I would have initially disregarded. My relationship to design has widened and includes a level of depth which it did not possess previously. I can fully say that the diversity and variety of directions and course concepts in regard to service design, gender design, and overall design research allowed me to reassess my own beliefs about the limits of design and its applications. While the courses at KISD all greatly affected my view of design and my relationship to it, my thesis was the culmination of my changing perspective which has affected not only what I design but the way I design as well. As I mentioned before, I have always been more interested in the people behind the design than the design itself and my thesis was no different. However, spending time abroad, meeting new people, experiencing new ideas, and learning about cultural oppression, allowed me to reassess how design can be used as a method for creative and authentic representation.

A quote from Lee and Sayed (2008), is one aspect of my updated design philosophy that I will continue to revisit and challenge myself to incorporate into my design career moving forward. The quote states, ‘We need to actively retrain our gaze to see a world that is teeming with possibilities that do not exist in our own version of modernity.’ This concept was something I struggled with regularly in defining my thesis outcome and one that I was continually worried I was overlooking in trying to create something fresh and explorative. As a designer born and educated in the West, I have been conditioned to update, improve, and modify yet sometimes it takes more knowledge and experience to know when something needs to be celebrated as it is. This is a skill that I will further develop and continue to reference because it is an integral part of decolonizing the methods and processes of design as we know it.

Looking back now on all that has unfolded over the past two years, I am so grateful for this opportunity to explore design from a more human perspective that melds together the digital world with the physical one. My values and beliefs as a designer have developed to allow for new perspectives which encompass how design can be a part of nearly every field and used to discover an unlimited range of possibilities. My final thesis outcome, Spoken Tatreez, is something which I continue to be proud of and — for me — perfectly weaves together the need for connection, representation, and authenticity with incredible experiences and subjective storytelling that highlight the importance of making space for diversity. In specifying the values which form me as a designer, which have both guided me and strengthened my beliefs, I would have to highlight inclusivity, whether that means from a cultural perspective or one of accessibility and personalization, in regard to authentic, local solutions that truly represent the people they were created for. Finally, I would have to speak directly to the name of this degree — integration — and the need for creative perspectives, ideas, and outcomes that combine multiple areas to ultimately bridge gaps and facilitate connections in a way that singularity never could.