Happy new year +3!

What follows is my experience in 2007 as a graduate student and the opportunities it afforded me, as well as what I will be doing in 2008. Finally, I mention the blizzard that is about to hit Mammoth Lakes, California, where I currently am.

Design School and 2007

Two thousand and seven was a great year for me. I have no regrets about taking two years out of my work life to indulge in the grad school experience. People say that you don’t need to go to grad school and that you can get the same experience in the working world. While that may depend on the program, in my case, I wholeheartedly disagree.

The interaction design program at the CMU School of Design has changed the way I think about what my purpose is in the world and how I think about life. I’ve had a chance to learn under some great people—Shelley Evenson, Richard Buchanan, Dan Boyarski, John Zimmerman, Jodi Forlizzi, Ben Fry, Golan Levin, and Kristin Hughes. And I have had the pleasure of being in the company of my peers, a range of interesting folks from various backgrounds with perspectives I truly appreciate. I learn a tremendous amount from them. My coursework has also provided me with real-world experience working for clients like Motorola and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

This past fall semester I taught Design Computing (digital prototyping with Flash) to a mix of graduate and undergraduate design students. It was my first time teaching, and was both challenging and rewarding.

I also had the opportunity to direct the school’s second annual Emergence conference, which was a great honor and privilege, though a lot of freaking work. But becoming acquainted with folks from Adaptive Path, Apple, Cooper, Core77, Electronic Ink, Engine, GM, Google, IBM, IDEO, live|work, Method, and Swisscom Mobile, eased the pain a bit.

Most of the companies listed above also recruit from the school. This past summer I worked at Adaptive Path in San Francisco, which I would not have had access to without going through the IxD program. There I worked on the Charmr project, a diabetes management device with a focus on the diabetic experience. It was very rewarding and a lot of fun.

Finally, my grad school experience has also truly turned me into a designer. So to answer any question as to whether grad school is worth the $70,000 I will owe upon graduation, for me, the answer is yes.


Enough about last year. The year ahead will bring a slew of new adventures. For one, I will be graduating in May. After that, I will likely move away from Pittsburgh, where I have been living since 2003, to wherever it is that I find work. To prepare for this, during the winter break, I have been building a new portfolio and redesigning this site, which I hope complete before the semester begins on January 14.

This semester I am taking courses with Richard Buchanan, Kristin Hughes, and Shelley Evenson. In addition, I am teaching Basic Interaction Design to design, computer science, and HCI undergraduates. Given my enthusiasm for interaction design and the design process, I am very exciting about this.

In February I am heading to Savannah for Interaction08 to the first ever interaction design conference. I would also like to attend SXSW Interactive, but it may not be in the budget.

Speaking of conferences, I am also currently working on a Work-in-Process submission for CHI 2008 in Florence, Italy, due January 8. My paper is on my thesis project work regarding opportunities for interaction design to support identity change. Submission to CHI is a requirement of my thesis advisor.

Mammoth Blizzard

I am writing this post from Mammoth Lakes, California, where my brother, Matt, and his wife live. I have been here (Flickr photos) since December 20. It has been quite relaxing and a good break from my near constant design thinking. That said, I started off 2008 on somewhat of a design note when I met up with Dan Saffer (Designing for Interaction author, Adaptive Path Experience Design Director, and Interaction08 co-chair, MDes IxD CMU) who just happened to be in Mammoth at the same time as me. Dan will be guest lecturing at CMU on January 16 in Jodi Forlizzi’s Seminar 2 class for the first-year interaction design grads. Good beer and good conversation with Dan in an unlikely meeting place provided a fitting start to the new year.

Dan left Mammoth the next day, due to the upcoming storm. Conversely, I extended my stay.

The National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Warning for Mammoth Lakes warning of significant snow accumulations and strong winds that have the potential to create dangerous winter driving conditions Friday through Sunday. Four day snowfall totals of 5 – 8 feet are possible through Sunday in the Sierra.

To leave Mammoth, I need to fly out of Reno, Nevada, which is already a harrowing experience given the winds the whip over the surrounding mountains. The impending storm will only increase those winds. So I changed my flight from this Friday to Tuesday, January 8, so I could both avoid potential delays or cancellations and also see such a massive amount of snow. Friday’s prediction is three inches per hour.

Line at grocery store in Mammoth before snow storm The fear of storm produced the longest grocery store lines that I have ever seen, stretching from check-out all the way down the aisles to the back of the store. The shelves were being emptied. Got to love people. (We were only there for a few ingredients needed for last night’s meal.)

So day three of 2008 finds me well, looking forward to the storm, the semester, and whatever lies beyond. I hope it finds you well, too.