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From the IxD Studio to the Field, Part II: A Conversation with Alum Young Kim

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.*

In this installment of the interview series, I spoke with Young Kim (Class of 2023), who is currently a UX designer at Google.

Photo of Young Kim in front of blue background with illustrated pattern.

Yuri: Can you introduce yourself?

Young: I graduated from IxD in May 2023, and moved to San Francisco Bay Area after graduation. Currently, I am working on enhancing the calling experience for Google Pixel phones. Last year, I interned in the Google Analytics team. Before attending SVA, I had six years of experience as a UX designer both in Korea and the US.

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

Young: I studied graphic design in college and initially worked in editorial design. Later, I transitioned to the tech industry, primarily working with small startups. My design work covered various form factors, including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and a business networking platform. 

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

Young: I wanted to delve deeper into UX design. The curriculum at SVA covered a broad range of UX design methodologies, which perfectly aligned with my learning goals.

I started my career in UI design with a background in graphic design, eventually expanding into UX design before moving into a product designer role. Throughout my career, I’ve often used similar methodologies, which led me to realize that something was missing in my skill set. This motivated me to explore different UX design methodologies more comprehensively.

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

Young: When I reviewed the SVA MFA Interaction Design curriculum, I noticed that it comprehensively covers all aspects of UX design, from A to Z. This extensive coverage was the primary reason I chose this program. My professional experience extends across Korea and Chicago. While working in Chicago, I learned the importance of considering diversity in design. Upon returning to Korea, I maintained my focus on designing for diverse populations. This realization further motivated my decision to study in the US, as I believe the US, particularly New York, offers valuable opportunities for developing skills in inclusive design.

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

Young: In SIPSD (Strategic Innovation in Product/Service Design), we learned new methodologies adaptable to the UX design process over the course of 15 weeks. This class wasn’t limited to UX design; it encompassed a broader scope, from business aspects to product management, teaching us to develop MVP products. Each week, we were introduced to new methodologies, which I found invaluable in honing my skills.

The Research Methods course was another favorite, as I have a strong passion for research. Before the program, I conducted research for small startups, but I always wondered if my methods were correct. This course provided a comprehensive framework for conducting user research, from start to finish, which has been immensely beneficial in my work.

Finally, the half-semester digital accessibility class was certainly memorable, with many opportunities to learn more about accessible and inclusive design. 

Yuri: What was the most impactful project you worked on during the program?

Young: The Smart Objects course ultimately proved impactful by pushing me beyond my comfort zone. It involved designing a physical product, diverging from my usual screen designs. Our project involved creating a system where a beverage container would interact with Amazon Echo to indicate when supplies were low. This project was significant in expanding my horizons into product design beyond digital interfaces.

Additionally, my thesis project was a pivotal part of my program experience. It allowed me to delve deeply into inclusive and accessibility design, areas I was eager to explore. This project played a crucial role in enhancing my design skills and broadening my perspective.

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

Young: One of the biggest challenges in my current career has been collaborating with other designers. Each designer has their distinct style and approach. This becomes particularly challenging when I’m working on projects that require a horizontal, holistic view across siloed features of a product. In such projects, I interact with designers responsible for siloed features, each with their unique design perspective. My role involves taking a more comprehensive, overarching approach, requiring coordination and integration of these varied design. Balancing these diverse perspectives to achieve a cohesive product design is a significant and ongoing challenge.

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

Young: The UX writing class was really beneficial. There is a book written by the instructor, Scott Kubie, called Writing for Designers, which helped me understand what writing means to a designer. The course itself was closely related to what UX writing is, and the professor emphasized that they design through writing. This perspective changed my concept of what writing means in design. Now, after taking this class, I begin my design process by writing down the problems and their logical solutions. This process shifts to how I can visually represent these ideas, fundamentally changing my design process. This class transformed my approach to designing, and since adopting this new process, I find that I miss fewer details along the way. 

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

Young: In interaction design, especially, the field encompasses the entire spectrum of UX design. The usefulness of what you learn can vary depending on the company, team, and product you work with. Therefore, I would advise taking your studies seriously, as education is a precious time to acquire a wide range of skills. Even if there are aspects you don’t particularly enjoy, it’s important to persevere and engage as much as possible.

Acquiring a broad and deep skill set forms a solid foundation for your career. These skills serve as a ‘base camp,’ equipping you to refine and enhance them further in the workplace. The SVA IxD program is excellent for building this comprehensive base of skills, preparing you for various challenges and opportunities in your professional journey.

*Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.