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Convocation Spotlight: Carolyn Yip
Carolyn Yip began her degree at SFU in the Fall of 2016 and graduates this week with a Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Arts & Technology. During her time as a SIAT student, Carolyn was involved in the IAT student union and took part in several co-op internships at companies like Destination British Columbia, Plasmatic Technologies, and Railyard, a branding and design internship run by Dossier. In these co-op roles Carolyn was able to gain experience in various fields including video editing, user experience design, and entrepreneurship.
Carolyn is now working as a UX/UI designer at Artefact, a strategy and design firm based in Seattle.
Find out more about Carolyn's experience in SIAT, her advice to new students, and her new career below:
"It feels like ages since I’ve been in Studio B, and eons since I’ve visited Studio A. Some of my favourite moments in SIAT came from the design, film and entrepreneurship courses. I remember sitting in Digital Arts (IAT 100) in first year and feeling so excited. I think from the start I was excited to join the SIAT and I became pretty involved participating in different programs and clubs, including our student union (IATSU).
"Over the course of my degree, I interned in three different co-op roles as a video editor, user interface designer and an entrepreneurship co-op. Eventually, I discovered I had an interest in business and design, so in my fourth year, I applied to intern at Railyard, a branding and design internship run by Dossier. That experience was quite pivotal. I realized I was passionate about working with a critical, responsible focused lens specifically in the area of user experience design. That’s how I ended up where I am today, a UX/UI Designer at Artefact.
Outside of design work I enjoy hiking, volunteering, and picking up hobbies like crocheting and bouldering. I’ve also always been interested in film and using video to share people’s stories, recently I worked on a documentary called What Happened on First Street (2021)."
Why did you choose SIAT for your studies?
"Coming out of high school I really did not know what career to pursue, I had always been interested in art and creating videos though. I had never even heard of UX. I only knew that I wanted to do something related to art, but I did not want to go down the traditional fine arts route.
"I ended up applying to a film program and some other visual design programs, but I chose SIAT because it seemed like a good mixture of design and technology that could be directly applicable to industry careers."
What was your favourite SIAT course or instructor?
"Interaction Design Methods (IAT 333) and Critical Design (IAT 431) were two of my favourite courses taught by professor Will Odom. IAT 333 was my first introduction to the user experience design process and though I really struggled at first, I also loved it. IAT 431 really showed me how to bring concepts to life to evoke critical thinking. My team’s final project proposed a speculative company that sold Tula (Tarantula) Meat to critique meat consumption. We made ‘tarantula’ legs out of green beans and tempura, I’ll leave it at that.
"I would be remiss to not mention professor Carman Neustaedter! Coincidentally, I had the chance to learn from him in many different settings first through the Connections Lab, then through IATSU organizing events, and finally when he was my team’s project advisor for my capstone project. He was always incredibly supportive and his advice really helped me to understand the design process and grow as a designer.
"Interaction and User Experience Designers course (IAT 438) introduced me to the design mindset and methodologies that I still use today, so it’s also definitely at the top of my list."
What was the highlight of your undergraduate career or your best learning experience?
"It’s hard to decide on the best experience, there are many small moments I remember, but here are some fond memories I have from my undergrad:
- Pulling up at 5AM in the dark at a café on main street with a car full of equipment, and a crew composed of 14 friends, friends of friends, and student actors, to film our IAT 202 short film. I’m still amazed to this day that we were able to get so many university students to wake up that early to come film with us, IN A CAFE.
- Meeting up with my teammates, now my close friends, to figure out what our business offering was at the incubator space in SFU. We received support to develop a studio we were interested in creating, from the SFU Venture Connections Incubator. Though we are less active today, it was a truly unique experience that encouraged me to grow and showed me how I could actually make a difference if I have an idea and want to make it real.
- Ordering a 3D printer because the 3D printers on campus were closed due to the pandemic, and setting it up with my roommate so we could finish our capstone project (IAT 499). Setting up a mini photoshoot and maker space in our apartment was one of the most fun things we did while everyone was in quarantine."
How were you involved in SIAT and how did these oppotunities benefit you?
"Early in my undergrad, I volunteered with Enactus and CaseIT. Through these business extracurriculars I had the chance to practice design and photography, make new friends outside of SIAT, and also gain a new perspective on how design and business are interconnected. (Plus, I traveled to different provinces for competitions, which was a bonus!)
"I also served on our student union (IATSU) for a couple of terms, first as TV Lead and then as President. Stepping up to lead in that role was outside of my comfort zone. Many of the responsibilities I learned how to do while in the role. It was stressful at times but rewarding meeting new faces and advocating the students’ perspectives. I definitely gained some useful event planning and team management skills.
"Outside of coursework, I also was a Research Assistant for professor Carman Neustaedter’s ConnectionsLab. I helped with some user interface designs and videography work to support the graduate student’s projects. It was really inspiring to be able to collaborate with them and see how they are furthering the field of human-computer interaction."
What was your favourite part about the SIAT community?
"SIAT students are always on campus. I remember going into studio A and B in the late hours of the day to finish up a project and seeing friends and teammates working just as hard. It’s the SIAT grind. There’s a shared feeling that ‘we’re all in this together.’ Everyone was always sharing the latest design tool they found (back then in 2017 it was Figma) or cool new ways we could work together."
What is next on the horizon for you after graduating?
"This past year I have been working as a UX/UI Designer at Artefact and I will be continuing to do so after graduation!
"I first heard of Artefact when their Tarot Cards of Tech pack was referenced in my IAT 333 course. Artefact is a strategy and design firm that focuses on creating preferable futures. When I heard of an open entry-level designer position, I connected with an alumnus who works there to learn more about the role. After a series of interviews and a final presentation, I ended up where I am today.
"So far, I’ve worked on projects from concept envisioning to digital product design and research for companies like Samsung, Mozilla, and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
"It’s been really inspiring to work with designers and researchers who think critically about the future and are passionate about approaching design work with a responsible lens. For example, the other day we had a studio-wide workshop discussing design ethics and the responsibility we have as consultants."
Do you have any advice for incoming students considering SIAT?
"Follow your curiosity and what seems genuinely interesting to you. I think a lot of the time I found myself initially making choices based on what I thought I should be doing compared to others, rather than what I was truly curious about. If you’re curious about something, follow it.
"Also, in design there will always be a grind, so don’t forget to take time to pause and connect with the teammates and friends you are learning together with and to take proper care of your own physical and mental health. Burnout is real!"
Is there anything else you would like to share about your SIAT experience?
"There were many hours of hard work during my time in SIAT, but I look back at it fondly. Many memories were made, and it was an amazing chance to learn together with a group of peers who were all just as passionate about learning as I was.
"I always thought that there was pressure to have everything figured out before graduation, but I realized after having worked these past couple of years, that it’s still alright to be still figuring things out after you graduate. I still am!"