Designing to enrich and improve lives
For Kevin Ong, studying interaction design has allowed him to engage with marginalised communities and reflect on what it means to design inclusively.
Breaking away from the desk in Texas
Before starting the master’s programme, Kevin was working at a design agency in Texas.
“I worked in industry for a year after my bachelor’s degree, but so much of my time was spent at a desk in front of a computer screen and I missed working with my hands. I wanted to break out and learn more about the field, which this programme has definitely given me the opportunity to do.”
Kevin has dual citizenship between America and Sweden, so Malmö was a natural choice.
“My mother came to Sweden as a refugee following the Vietnam war, so I have a lot of family in Malmö and knew the city pretty well,” he says.
Design is not an island
One of the main things that appealed to Kevin about the course was the diversity of the classroom.
“The fact that our professional and geographical backgrounds are so different means you learn not only from the programme, but from what each individual has to offer.
“Team work is also really important, and we are continuously reminded that design is not an island. Interaction design is not just about the way we interact with digital media but about the way we interact with others and bring people together in this new age,” says Kevin.
One of his own projects — creating a light installation in a socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhood of Malmö — reflects this sentiment.
“The idea behind the installation was to create a network where people in the community could share their skills. By meeting and getting to know each other, the hope was to close the generational and cultural gap in the neighbourhood.”
He also appreciates how broad the programme is in its scope and opportunities.
“For example, during our last project one person created a game, one worked with immigrants, another with machine learning, while I worked with food. I just love how interaction design can be augmented into all these different aspects of our lives with the goal of enriching and bettering it.”
In it to win it
Kevin was recently selected as one of nine finalists selected to compete at the Student Design Challenge, an international contest held in Lyon. His team impressed the judges with their take on designing for people with disabilities, and took first prize.
“I heard about the competition through one of my lecturers. I’ve never submitted anything to competition before so when I was chosen as a finalist, it was a pleasant surprise.
“The experience was exhausting but also incredibly rewarding. It was amazing to see brilliant minds come together, and know that there’s such a large community out there that are passionate about interaction design.”