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From the IxD Studio to the Field: A Conversation with Alum Kinza Kasher

In the SVA MFA Interaction Design program, students arrive with a variety of goals, motivations and past experiences. To gain insight into the unique journeys of IxD students, I spoke with three alums: Kinza Kasher (Class of 2019), Young Kim (Class of 2023), and Jason Branch (Class of 2019). This series of interviews focused on each alum’s current roles, past experiences in the program, memorable courses and lectures, and how their education at SVA has influenced their career paths.*
 

First, I spoke with Kinza Kasher (Class of 2019), who is currently a senior design consultant at Deloitte

Black and white photo of Kinza, with red and white scribble pattern

YK: Can you introduce yourself?

KK: I graduated from IxD in 2019. Currently, I work at Deloitte, focusing on research and strategy. In addition to my role at Deloitte, I am an adjunct professor, teaching innovation, research, and design to undergraduate seniors. I also co-own a consultancy, BRIO, with two of my fellow SVA alums, Paula Daneze and Glenda Capdeville. 

Outside of my professional life, I am an entrepreneur involved in several small businesses. On a personal note, I am a proud pet owner of a gray parrot, who holds a special place in my heart.

YK: Can you tell me a bit about your background and professional experience before joining the program?

KK: Before the program, I was deeply involved in freelance work, handling various small projects from photography to graphic and logo design, a passion I pursued since my early teens, inspired by my father’s creative studio. My experience broadened while working with local agencies during undergrad, but a significant milestone was my tenure at Hogarth Worldwide, part of WPP. Post-Hogarth, I took a break to focus on my thesis, which I later sold, leading to a role in digital product design and eventually joining Deloitte for research and strategy. Throughout, I’ve balanced professional work with entrepreneurial ventures, like co-founding BRIO, working on diverse projects, including significant clients like Crisco.

YK: What inspired you to pursue a Master’s degree in interaction design?

KK: I was motivated to pursue a Master’s in Interaction Design to broaden my design expertise. Having completed four years in the field and with extensive work experience, I sought something distinct and more expansive. A close friend from my undergraduate studies, who was exploring various design disciplines, further inspired this decision. This led me to seek a program that offered a wider perspective on design.

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YK: Why did you choose SVA’s Interaction Design MFA program?

KK: I chose SVA’s MFA Interaction Design program after being accepted into several prestigious schools and even turning down a full scholarship. My decision was driven by my long-held admiration for SVA’s ethos and creative spirit. A defining moment was my interview at SVA, where we discussed how its alumni have pursued remarkable entrepreneurial ventures. This conversation, as well as the inspiring faculty, played a huge role in my decision. Reflecting back, I value not just the education but also the incredible network and community spirit at SVA. The connections made there, both professional and personal, are priceless. It’s amazing how alumni stay connected, forming lifelong bonds. The spirit of the program has deeply resonated with me.

YK: How did the program’s curriculum and faculty help you develop your skills and knowledge?

KK: A standout class was SIPSD (Strategic Innovation in Product/Service Design), which provided a comprehensive blueprint for my academic and professional approach to design. This class was incredibly influential in shaping how I teach, work, and run my business.

Another transformative experience was a course in entrepreneurial design, where we launched a Kickstarter project. The instructors’ approach to teaching, focusing on real-world applications like fundraising and social media presence, was invaluable. The program covered a wide spectrum of topics, from ethics to physical computing, allowing me to explore various interests. I was particularly drawn to research and strategy, finding these subjects resonating with my career goals. Another memorable feature of the program was the connection to real-world entrepreneurs. Hearing first-hand from people who built businesses and agencies provided practical insights and inspiration. These experiences, even years later, continue to influence my professional life profoundly. The program offered a bit of everything, which I deeply appreciated, and the knowledge gained from these diverse classes has left a lasting impact on my career.

YK: How did the IxD program prepare you for your current role?

KK: The program emphasized empathy, improved listening, and communication skills. It trained us to dissect complex problems, enhancing strategic thinking. This comprehensive learning approach made me more open-minded, a better listener, communicator, and thinker.

Professionally, it instilled a strategic, methodical mindset, crucial in various jobs, projects, and entrepreneurial ventures. Additionally, the program provided a valuable network and association with a prestigious institution. Ongoing community engagement, like our active Slack channel, keeps me inspired and connected.

In my current role, I apply the skills and knowledge from the IxD program, especially in strategy. Working with financial services and insurance companies, I blend user-centric and business perspectives. The program also underscored the importance of ethical implications and sustainability in tech.

Overall, the program prepared me to balance user needs, business objectives, and ethical considerations, vital in delivering comprehensive solutions in my career.

YK: What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities you have faced in your career?

KK: In my career, adapting to various workplace environments and overcoming imposter syndrome have been significant challenges. I learned that every organization operates differently, with its own tools and culture. To navigate these differences, I relied on my design, research, and strategy skills acquired through my education and focused on my strengths. This self-belief was key in alleviating doubts about fitting into new roles.

I found opportunities in blending my interest in design with business and research, particularly in financial services and insurance sectors. Employing an empathy-centered approach, I focused on understanding user needs while considering broader business implications. This involved evaluating desirability, feasibility, and the ethical aspects of solutions.

The current tech landscape demands not just user-centric products but also sustainable and socially beneficial solutions. Professionally, this means creating balanced solutions that align user interests with business objectives and ethical considerations. Personally, it requires the same commitment as in my academic years, but with added adaptability for each unique client and project.

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YK: What advice would you give to the interaction students before joining the workforce?

KK: For students in interaction design entering the workforce, my advice is to embrace the challenges and uncertainties of the professional world. Recognize that each workplace has its distinct culture, tools, and team dynamics, and it’s natural to initially feel like an outsider. Overcome imposter syndrome by acknowledging your strengths and applying the design, research, and strategy skills acquired in school.

Be open and honest with your colleagues about your feelings and remember that your education has equipped you for this journey. Whether working in strategy, UI design, or graphic design, blend your business acumen with your research expertise. In my own experience with financial services and insurance companies, I prioritize empathetic user research while keeping in mind the broader business context.

Modern work isn’t just about creating user-centric products; it also involves considering sustainability and ethical implications. Reflect on how your work can have a positive, long-term impact.

Carry the dedication and discipline from your academic experience into your professional endeavors, and be adaptable, as each client and project is unique. Strive to excel by balancing user needs, business goals, and ethical considerations. These challenges and opportunities are integral to a fulfilling career in interaction design.

*Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.