Past IDer: Joyce Chen

by New Idiom


Please introduce yourself in a sentence or two.

This California baby grew up outside D.C. (in Silver Spring, MD) but returned to the West coast for college and post-graduate employment. I moved to San Francisco after getting my MDes in Planning in May, 2007 and now live with two fellow ID grads (Mario Ruiz and Enric Gili Fort), working as an interaction designer and strategist at MetaDesign.

Married? Nope
Children? Someday, I hope.
Politics? Shamefully not on top of current events, but generally left-leaning.
Religion? Curious about all of them intellectually, but don’t prescribe to any.

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

It gave me a set of tools and frameworks that have helped me become a better problem-solver and planner. Having had more experience in the user research phases of design before going back to school, ID helped me develop the skills to analyze and synthesize qualitative research findings in structured processes that can then be easily communicated to others. Moreover, I’ve found that all of the strategy and planning projects have given me a leg up on other designers in that I am able to contribute to projects that involve more strategic and business-oriented thinking.

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

  • Telling a good/convincing story: In pursuing client projects, I’ve been pretty involved in helping MetaDesign pitch proposals in creative and convincing ways, and ID gave me a lot of good practice and instruction (particularly Chris Conley) in developing this skill.
  • Working in teams: lots of people complained, while I was a student, that we didn’t get enough instruction on how to work on teams. It’s true that we didn’t get a lot of formal education on teamwork (though I’m glad that things are changing), but the very experience of managing so many team projects was incredibly valuable. I got pretty good at working with a variety of people, scheduling, and tackling complicated problems in both collaborative sessions and divide-and-conquer individual work.
  • Analyzing and visualizing data: I have Keeley’s frameworks set and Chuck’s Structured Planning book sitting on my shelf at work, and have referred to them often when thinking about how to organize and analyze large amounts of complex data.

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

I think everyone generally suffers from this feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of work that we have as ID students, which is partially a consequence of our own ambitions to tackle the really big, hairy problems. Having great teammates who are good at communicating helped a ton, as well as forcing myself to maintain some modicum of balance in my life on the whole. Many students felt that it was impossible to find time to exercise, cook meals, etc., but I found those activities to be the critical ones for staying sane. That, and partying with fellow classmates on weekends to release any built-up tensions from the week.

If you could have changed one thing about your time at ID, what would it have been?

Too difficult a question. I feel like designers want to change everything around them all the time by nature. Everything could be improved and there are endless new ideas to explore. I trust that those who are currently involved in IDSAB are still giving—and will continue to give—a lot of their precious time to reshaping and redefining ID so that it may continue to fulfill students’ needs and remain relevant in the world.

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

The more you invest yourself in school and in your classmates, the more you will be rewarded by the experience! Get involved in making ID better in whatever way you can. Employers like designers who care as much about making their company better as making their clients happy.