Finding Direction Through Design


April 25, 2017
Caroline Rock (standing) presents during a class discussion in Jai Dandekar’s Spring 2017 Portfolio Critique course. Photo by Jai Dandekar.

By Caroline Rock, 2nd Year English/Japanese Major and CID Student

The summer before going to college, the advice I received most often from well-wishers was: “Don’t worry if you change paths. Everyone does at some point.” This was great advice, so naturally, I ignored it.

But, coming to UT from a small town, I realized I didn’t know much at all about what the world has to offer. My fail-proof plan for college wasn’t working out as I’d anticipated. After my freshman year, I decided that I wanted to be a designer, drawing back on some experience that I had from high school. Of course, at the time, I had no idea that I was designing anything, I just thought I was making my school’s yearbook. It’s funny how our past experiences can unknowingly shape our futures.

I started researching opportunities to learn more about design at UT when I stumbled upon the new Center for Integrated Design. I learned that they were offering four courses for Spring 2017. Of course, I signed up for all of them.

At the time, I was already considering changing my major to design (turns out those well-wishers were right after all), and I thought the CID courses would be a great way to get my feet wet. They offer a lot of one-hour courses that are easy to fit into my schedule. Then I learned that the CID would be offering a Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP) certificate in the future. This motivated me even more to take the classes, because receiving a certificate in a field I’m passionate about is a great incentive to keep taking the courses. 

The most rewarding concept I’ve learned through the CID is that design thinking and related skills are teachable. You don’t have to be a born artist, developer, or anything else to learn about fields and apply them in your professional and personal life. In Intro to Integrated Design, each week panelists from a variety of professions shared their insights on how design thinking applies to them each day, whether it’s someone involved in medicine, architecture, business, engineering, or any other field. As someone who is interested in design and design thinking, this reinforced my belief that teaching these skills are crucial to the education system in order to motivate students to think critically and creatively, present their ideas with confidence, and display breadth and depth in their thought processes.

The most valuable skill I learned actually came from the Sketching for Thinking and Communication class. I always tended to be shy about my drawings because in my mind, they never looked as good as everyone else’s. But in this class, I learned to embrace my style of sketching and use it as a tool for communication in the workplace. Until taking this class, I didn’t realize the benefits of being able to do that. Now, in my other classes, I never hesitate to pull out a marker and sketch an idea to a classmate.

I feel very lucky to have become involved in design at such a promising point in time. Programs like the CID emphasize the importance of design thinking in education, in turn enriching and transforming the journeys of students. Before learning about the CID, I had a gut feeling that design was the path for me. After learning more on my own and through class, I see that “design thinking” is much more than a buzzword; it’s a skill set, a way of thinking, and a bridge between professionalism and creativity that enables students to stand out by celebrating their ways of thought and creativity. This driving force coupled with the prime location of Austin – whose design and tech scenes are overflowing with innovation and opportunity – makes the CID a powerful resource for students who hope the get the most out of their education and careers.

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