Research Team

Simon Kwok


I first have to just say that I learned more than I ever imagined.  Not was it only knowledge about design, but a lot of life skills and street smarts as well.  In fact I'm only going to mention things that are not about design because that portion I feel is well covered in the rest of our website. 

Being the first time on a plane and away from home for so long, I was a bit uneasy at the thought of living on my own.  However after the first week, I already felt more independent.  Living with twelve other people was also quite the experience and it was definitely important to try to work things out.  I saw them every day and was sharing a rooms with someone at all our stops.  You really understand why Russell emphasizes the importance of group dynamics before the trip.  You need to work with these people and live with them from the pre-trip study in to the fall semester where you compile the data.

An important skill I acquired from this trip was how to enjoy a city for what it is through its culture, people and spaces.  It is important to take the time to understand what you're seeing and appreciate it.  I found the most memorable and enjoyable moments was just sitting in on place and absorbing what was around you.  It is important to understand what a place is truly about and not the façade that tourism has built up.  Florence was perhaps the city where this applied the most since the city had so much to offer, but how to get to it and timing was extremely important.  But once you get it, it will be a rich and unforgettable experience.


At first thought, the answer to this question was an undoubted "yes!".  However, I believe that this program is not for everyone.  As I mentioned, team dynamics is extremely important.  You need to live with each other for 7 weeks and at times there will be high amounts of stress.  Second, things go horribly wrong sometimes and prepare to be disappointed.  You'll often hear wonderful stories from people who have gone in previous years, but the trip itself had its lows.  Thirdly you need be able to switch to working mode quickly as projects are intense and interviews are sometimes literally one after the other.  You learn a myriad of things, but all in a very short time and near the end of the trip, I would be at a blank as to who we interviewed or what we did in the morning of the same day.  In any case I think tolerance and conflict resolution is vital to this trip.  As Russell likes to say the highs will be high and the lows will be low, but in my opinion, the highs really make up for everything.  Also the ability to focus and be on task, remembering that you are not there for vacation but to learn.  This is undoubtedly a chance of a life time and if you are able to cope with the things I have said, it will perhaps be the best time of your life.


  • Group dinners were the most warm and memorable times I had there.  We had good food, good conversations, good laughs, and we really felt like a family.  Of course some of us got along with each other better than others, but we could always get together in one table and have a great time.  I remember the first Italian lunch we had with very simple but truly authentic Italian food in a Trattoria that Russell Taylor found just outside Piazza Navona.  I remember the first dinner at Camping Tiber that really broke the ice between everyone. I remember the dinner in Trastevere with the Italian folk music/songs that went around, being stuffed for the first time in Italy, being introduced to Grappa and finally gasping at the ridiculous amount they charged us on for the bill.  I remember our dinner outside with Marino in Doliciano drinking the awesome Vino di Nobile.  I remember our picnic outside a monastery eating cinghiale and pecorino *drool*.  Finally I remember the last set of dinners in Milano where we slowly diminished in numbers until our last “group dinner with the remaining five of us in Obika. 

  • The sight of thousands of birds swarming above the Victor Emmanual II Monument (in Roma) all lit up at night
  • Wandering around Rome by myself for the first time
  • Fighting the waterfall at the sulfur baths in Saturnia
  • Being completely lost in La Sterpaia in a ranch surrounded by horses
  • My interview at Danese and the tour at Segis
  • Making it on the train to Naples two minutes before it left
  • All the street lights going out at once right before the fireworks in Florence began
  • Being mortally disappointed at one point in the day and incredibly fulfilled later on


The courtyard in Santa Croce.  This place was unbelievable serene and peaceful.  It felt sacred, a haven in the middle of the busy and tourist infested city of Firenze. It's a place of learning, a place for reflection and a place of peace. People that enter there only dare to whisper.  There is nothing visually spectacular about this space you simple have to be there and feel it.


3rd year Interaction Design student.


My Portfolio

Being an interaction designer, I would most prefer to be in a position of researching and developing new ideas for a company in terms of products, technologies or spaces.  I have acquired many methodologies and theories of design and applied them to various projects at school.  I really want to be able to apply what I've learned to a diversity of different companies and different ways.  Things such as branding, business consulting, industrial design, designing gadgets, etc.  I have a passion and a goal to create designs that will improve people's quality of life and create sustainability in our world.


I was born and raised in Canada.  My family isn't that wealthy so I never got the chance to travel much.  My trip to Italy was in fact my first time on a plane and first time I left the continent.  It was an amazing new perspective for me and really allowed me to understand the complexity of the world.  Having entered the Interaction Design program at SFU, I have gained a passion for design and an appreciation for the improvements to our lives design has brought us.