Past IDer: Colleen Murray

by New Idiom


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Colleen returned to ID during the Intersession to teach the Applied Design Research course, so it was a great opportunity to ask her about life after graduation.

Please quickly introduce yourself in a sentence or two. Where are you from? When did you graduate from ID and which program?

“I’m originally from Chicago. I have by B.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Graphic Design. Before ID I worked as a Graphic Designer for a few years. I was lucky to have gotten a range of experiences doing everything from print design to web design to Information Architecture and Interaction Design. I found myself interested in supplementing my design skills with user research methods just about the same time that the dot-com bubble was bursting. It seemed like a good idea to go back to grad school. ID offered the program closest to what I was looking for. Since graduating from the Design Planning program in 2003, I have lived in San Francisco. I now work at Jump Associates as a Project Lead. Jump focuses on helping companies find new ways to grow. Basically that means I get to work on helping my clients solve really complex, open-ended business challenges such as what’s the future of health or how are Boomers changing the landscape or how to get kids to eat their veggies.”

Married? no

Children? no

Politics? no

Religion? I was raised Catholic. I still have a lot of guilt.

In which ways and dimensions do you think ID changed your career?

Having a degree from ID has opened doors for me. I don’t think that I could be doing what I do today without it. From the content perspective, ID gave me a great introduction to the landscape of strategic planning. Perhaps even more valuable was the folks I met while at ID, the network I’ve built and the things those folks have taught me along the way. A few of us have started a Bay Area ID Alumni Chapter. Although we are just getting started, we hope that it will be a great way to stay in touch with a wide range of alumni.

What are the skills learned at ID that you use the most in your current practice?

There are a lot of skills that I found I needed to be a success at ID. The challenge is that many of these things are not explicitly taught at ID. On the flip side, I became much more conscious of having to work on getting better at these things. I’m still working on most of them today. Some of these skills include:


  • Intense teamwork and collaboration

  • Time management

  • Juggling multiple projects and a heavy workload

  • Explaining the value of strategic research and planning

  • Presentations (both creating and practice presenting in front of people)

Looking back, I learned a lot from Vijay’s visualization methods. A&T sorting has been a lifesaver more then once! The frameworks introduced in Keely’s Design Planning class have been invaluable in pretty much every project that I work on. And Grimes’ Photo Workshop completely reframed for me the way that photos could be used in design research to help tell a story.

What hard times did you have at ID while a student, and what got you through them?

I think the most challenging part of ID was the commitment it took to be successful. Quitting my job and not working for two years was hard. But strangely enough, I think that this is also the best part about it. This was before the part-time MDM program began. All the students were there full-time. I think that this experience helped everyone to bond and make the most out of the time at ID. In my experience, extreme commitment often leads to successful outcomes.

Now that you’ve spent a week here on the other side of the teaching fence, has anything surprised you about ID? Have you noticed anything that is the same or different from your time here?

Besides the new faces, things don’t seem that different from five years ago when I was here. Being gone and coming back with new experiences, I did notice a few things. One, that ID students are great at taking their content and turning it into presentations. This sounds silly, but in my experience, many folks aren’t well versed in using digital tools to tell their story. And why aren’t there recycling bins?

What other advice do you have for current and/or future ID students?

As you are exploring what to do after graduation, I would suggest talking to as many people and visiting as many companies as you can. Most folks are happy to share with students their thoughts and experiences working in this space. Especially ID alumni! Organizations are very different. And they employ skills learned at ID in such a variety of ways. It’s not as simple as deciding that you want to be a researcher or a product designer or a planner. Find a place that feels right for you.