My first view of Richmond was riding down Monument Avenue admiring its iconic statues of Confederate leaders. Beneath their impressive bronze facades, though, are their subjects’ controversial opinions that have shaped this city in so many ways. For better or for worse, Richmond’s culture seems to revolve around debate, particularly when it comes to race and class. The push-pull effect of gentrifying neighborhoods, large municipal art projects, and the city’s cash-strapped public schools beg us to confront each other with empathy and perspective. I’ve found that Richmonders are a people who love to argue (merely mentioning the prospective baseball diamond usually riles them up) and I, for one, love the debate.
Despite having a wealth of skills in design and animation, I haven’t been able to make the leap into experience design because of, well, experience. What led me to apply to the Brandcenter initially was its impressive job placement statistics, but the boot camp-like curriculum quickly got me excited to learn more. Speaking with my friend and current XD student Mason Brown made me realize the Brandcenter is a fantastic way to launch one’s career and gain hands-on experience working with real companies, and it would be a thrill to be part of such a collaborative, tight-knit group of talented people.
In the summer of 2014, I impulsively started writing a graphic novel. Told through the eyes of 11-year-old Clara, it detailed her transition into middle school through making new friends and a myriad of preteen experiences like going bra-shopping with her mom. I had sketched about 100 pages before I realized the book didn’t have any semblance of a plot and I had no plans for an ending. Being aware of the sunk cost fallacy, though, I recognized that I needed to scrap the book and do something else with my time. One day I may come back to Clara, but ideally the plot structure would be mapped out ahead of time so the story doesn’t wind up meandering aimlessly.
Though students in all five Brandcenter tracks collaborate to get things done, Experience Design students have the unique power of bringing projects to life. After gathering information on the spaces, platforms, and the types of users they are designing for, XD students build apps, objects, and interfaces of all kinds from concept to production. Their focus is not merely visual design but how the interaction makes people think and feel. Incoming students have a variety of backgrounds in business, creative, and technology fields that lend them a certain flexibility after graduation: many work in UX/UI or broader fields of multimedia design at agencies, software and service companies, and startups.