Experiential Learning for Design Education in Los Angeles, California – Ben Mosher

1. For my STEP project I visited Los Angeles, California to attend a Visual Interface Design Workshop, a Design Sprints Seminar, A UCLA graduate student Design Media exhibition, and three of the most profound Art & Design museums in the country, MOCA LA, The Broad and the A+D Architecture & Design Museum. This experience was a comprehensive educational journey aimed at bringing transformative depth to my experiential knowledge and creative skill-set as an Industrial Design student.

2. Much of what transformed in me deals with the way I accept and process advice, feedback and knowledge. I have found that after many semesters in the same Major, within the same school, with the same people, it can become easy to operate on the assumption that certain people’s feedback is more important than others, I know better than certain people, or that I know what works in a familiar environment. With familiarity comes comfort, and sometimes too much consistency that can lead to halted progression or growth. It is necessary to remove yourself from what is familiar, in order to reset and reassess how you approach problems, assignments, goals and learning.

Stepping outside of one’s zone of familiarity can be shocking and ultimately enlightening, as new viewpoints and perspectives not previously considered can become assets to your own knowledge base and personal viewpoint moving forward. I learned, and transformed in a sense, by experiencing a new city and culture vastly different than the one I all home, and learned that I have a lot to learn. Attending these workshops, seminars and exhibitions put me in the position to hear from, learn from, and get feedback from a variety of accomplished and unfamiliar figures in the Design community, an experience that opened my eyes to the value of seeking guidance and learning in a variety of places, from a variety of people with various skill sets, concentrations and backgrounds. This was transformative in that, it shaped how I will evaluate and process learning experiences and seek out opportunities going forward.

3. The first specific occurrence that contributed to this transformation happened during the Visual Design workshop I attended on March 9th. I remember that it was towards the end of the session, when we were put into collaborative groups to work with Adobe XD software to Design a brand language overview sheet for Hawaiian Airlines. I was unsure of my classmates backgrounds, assuming they were all college students. During the collaborative discussion, I was critiqued on something by another person in my group, and took their advice into consideration, reevaluating my work, ultimately for the better.

I was more accepting and welcoming of critique by a peer in this circumstance than I feel I would have been in class, because I was in another state, attending an unfamiliar event. Following the end of the class, I spoke with this person who I had assumed was another student, but was actually a working professional in the UX design field. This was an enlightening moment for me because I realized that being accepting of critique, and listening to what a colleague has to say is vitally important to learning, especially in this case, because had I dismissed this critique as simple feedback from someone I assumed to be another college student, I would have missed out on what was actually very valuable insight from a working professional.

This experience made me realize that in the future, I need to be open and accepting to advice and feedback from everyone, as you never know what type of skills or experience they have that gives them more knowledge base than you. It was transformative in that I recognize now, and reevaluated the idea of critique and feedback from peers as a valuable element of the learning process. This is an experience that I will remember and apply the learned knowledge to all aspects of life moving forward.

Another learning experience I had that resulted in transformation of outlook on learning and relationships occurred as I interacted with various students within the UCLA Design Media program. I got the chance to talk to a few students and get an idea of what their perspectives are as students similar to myself in an entirely different environment. This was an overarching lesson in the value of connection on commonalities between peers in order to establish enriching and potentially beneficial work relationships. It became clear that networking with other students and figures in my field is a valuable opportunity for growth and professional development.

4. This change is significant and valuable to my life because it will shape how I go about interacting with others within a learning capacity, school environment or professional sphere. The idea of constant and perpetual learning and adaptation is an important value that I feel I may have lost sight of to some degree as a student who may become comfortable with the idea of just wanting to finish school, get their degree and move out into the real world. I feel this experience opened my eyes to the immense scope of opportunity for learning and experiential knowledge development that can come from travel, attending academic or professional events, and interaction with peers in one’s field. There is always more to be learned, and knowledge must be sought out in all parts of the world, and from all types of people. This experience has been entirely transformational in that it sparked the drive to continually seek out learning opportunities, and value the insight and knowledge that people can offer through collaboration and interaction. I will take this with me to all other aspects of life, both personally and professionally as I work to become an Industrial Designer, operating in a highly collaborative field in a dynamic work environment where continued learning, external feedback and idea development are of the essence.