Q: What drew you to the design profession, and what’s keeping you here?
A: From a young age, I had this longing for a life rich with experiential and emotional stimuli; a world in which to explore in creative means and methods, and people to share with. Growing up as an Asian American, you’d be surprised how stunted this outlook might actually be. When it came time to apply to schools and pick a major, I had no concrete plan other than the desire to be in a creative field—possibly to be something, anything that felt free, and felt individually me. I pushed for fine arts, photography, considered writing, and even culinary school, but the thought of all of those made me think of “the starving artist” and the hesitation of the reality of my dad’s own struggles as an artist, and my family’s situation growing up.
Enter The Ohio State University. I thought of architecture, but had been failing math since 7th grade (let’s say it was of my own volition, somewhere between not desiring the weight that came with being “the smart Asian kid”) I then thought of design: OSU’s “interior architecture” program piqued my interest, a program run by architects interested in more abstract and artful ways of thought and exploration. My path of least resistance was over, or so I thought, as there were just days left to submit an application for the program’s entrance exam.
The entrance exam was an unexpected second wind that ushered in buried passions and instilled motivation. I remember nights staying up with my dad sketching side-by-side various still-life compositions we threw together in the living room. What came from this process of focused days and nights was a silver lining in collectively reclaiming pieces of myself—creative, explorative, abstract, discreet, quiet—at a time of genuinely not knowing what I was going to do with my life. The following years there plunged me into the multi-disciplinary education of design: not just expression and creation, but also problem-solving between the minds and personalities of many people.
And here I am now. I’ve been an interior designer for 7 years. What got me here is the build-up of my past, as cliché as that sounds. What keeps me here is a sense of fulfillment in a profession and environment that encourages all to create, express, challenge, learn, and ultimately contribute pieces of the self, to the built environments that objectively and subjectively support others as they go about experiencing and sharing their very own stories.
Q: What role does diversity, inclusion, and engagement play in the design profession at large?
In my brief opinion, the role of diversity, inclusion, and engagement in the design profession is to ultimately cast a wide net of opportunity. As design professionals and as people, we owe it to ourselves to be open-minded and all-inclusive when facing design challenges and any means, methods, and mediums that could potentially contribute to a solution.
Q: Tell us about a time when you met someone who told you your project had somehow uplifted them, or improved their life—what did that person say, and how did it make you feel?
A: I worked on a project where Change Management was a part of scope—it was my first experience with the process. Our team was tasked to organize and partake in an expo for a client whose culture was in need of a voice that could communicate upcoming changes, both architecturally and organizationally, across a five-phase timeline.
Change is always difficult and can be daunting, but the logistics, packages, and deliverables we designed for what we called “The Expo” resulted in overwhelming feedback, mostly positive, but at times truthfully negative. At times, the interactions were stressful—objectively explaining the “what’s” and “why’s” to certain individuals sometimes felt as though our project, something we put our strongest efforts and beliefs into, was like building one giant sand castle and kicking all others down. Other times, it was the complete opposite where an individual might suddenly feel optimistic, having gotten the opportunity to speak with the designers behind the madness, and not feel intimidated in expressing thoughts or questions to team leaders and corporate.
In the end, we managed to receive 350-400 filled-out feedback response cards out of the 700 we provided and distributed. I was so happy knowing that our design, albeit still intangible, was somehow already present then.
Q: In what positive ways have your experiences at Perkins&Will changed you, personally or professionally, and/or your outlook on the world?
A: My experience with Perkins&Will Boston so far has fortified my belief that within design, inter-disciplinary engagement and an open-minded approach towards design-thinking and mediums of communication will lead to success. Design at Perkins&Will is impacting local and global locations, leading to positive changes for so many people it’s sometimes difficult to fathom. I think it’s neat to be a part of that contribution to the world.