What kind of designer do I want to be?

When I was little, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought about becoming a teacher, an artist, or a designer. As I became older and these paths started to diverge, I was certain that becoming a designer was my mission in life. But soon after that I got caught up with the next question, “What kind of designer do I want to be?”. That was a tough question for a 15 year-old. Not just making something that was visually beautiful, I wanted to be a designer who could build something functional, useful, and valuable in making the world a better place. At that time, I didn’t know what kind of design profession would allow me the opportunity to do all the things that I wanted to do.

After finishing my undergraduate education in Taiwan, I moved to Japan in order to pursue my dream of becoming a designer. I entered a graduate course that was focused on design thinking where I learned the steps in designing a service, a product, and an experience that tackles problem solving and suits people’s needs. After graduate school, I started to work as a product designer. I was very proud of myself. I thought I already had what it took to be a designer. Yet right away I hit a wall.

My first task was to find a market for the company’s existing product. I focused on applying what I had learned; I believed that as long as I focused on human-centered design, I would definitely build something that early adopters would love. Our users were happy with the product and the sales were on the up, but somehow I was struggling to find the missing piece of the puzzle: “How would this product contribute to the market and to the users in the long run?” There was something else. Something more than just making things work and solving current problems.

I didn’t know what I was lacking as a designer. It was then that I got an opportunity to become an intern at Reaktor Japan. For two months, I was in an environment where we were always focusing on helping clients in different industries tackle new business problems that required new ways of designing. I realised that there was more to consider than the user’s needs. Design companies have to come up with different business models to solve problems. When something is not working, the root of the problem goes deep down to the problems in the industries. I realised that through designing a service, a product or an experience, I am also designing a business for industries to solve their problems and to adapt to a constantly evolving future.

Through this internship, I have gained a new perspective in what kind of designer I want to be. I want to acquire the ability to foresee how industries will evolve in the future, what kind of business models are going to be vital, and what kind of products and services would help companies in finding the avenues for innovation both in the short term and in the long term. I have realised that I want to be a designer who builds at the intersection of technology, business, and human values.

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