What Do I Want to Get out of the Senior Project?
The prompt of writing thoughts about the thesis has reminded me of the challenging hike I did today, which its experience may be very similar not only to my past design experiences but also my future one on the thesis.
My classmates from my senior thesis class and I went for a hike on September 14th (the special Friday when our usual senior thesis class got canceled). Since we would like to see the sunrise, we left our house at 5 AM. The tiredness and excitement we experienced are exactly what I feel like whenever I am starting a new project— brainstorming problem areas and doing secondary research.
Even though we were departing early, we still missed the sunrise. The sun was high in the sky and its light was reflected on the sea. The scenery might not be what we expected but was still beautifully worth seeing. This is often what happens when I am doing primary research— I may not be able to reach out to people who I want to interview or end up not getting my ideal amount of interviewees, but the treasurable insights I learned from my participants continue to lead me forward.
After visiting a few famous spots, we started hiking. In the beginning, the paths seemed to be manageable to everyone because they were flat and wide and we were energetic. This is similar to my ideation phase— thinking random ideas without worrying about consequences. Then, we found a delicate riverside to take rest and have lunch. Once we saw the river, we expeditiously took off our shoes, sank our sore feet into cold water, and splashed each other's faces like children. I always experience the same kind of thrills when I successfully pick a few ideas that may both be creative and practical.
We then headed for Alamere waterfall. However, not until we arrive at the shore did we realize the only way to reach the destination was cliffs, not the man-made paths we had experienced. The cliffs seemed to be so steep that we would fall with a tiny slip. Most of us were scared, wondering if we should continue or give up. This is like the struggle I face when I start turning my ideas into prototypes. I may suddenly discover how naive my ideas are and what elements they are lacking, as well as struggling to fulfill those flaws.
After discussion, we decided to climb the cliff by developing a strategy — people who were more experienced and well equipped would go first. Whenever completing an obstacle, that person waited and turned around to support the next person behind. I think this team bonding experience is similar to usability testing. My participants often co-create the work by pointing out my problems that I am not conscious of or come out with valuable insights that pull me out of hours of spirals.
Fortunately, we conquered cliff climbing as the spectacular waterfall came into view. When Elvin was taking pictures for the rest of the group, we shout out “Come back” to him whenever waves were approaching so his shoes would not get wet. However, since he ended up running back and forth so many times, he just gave up— he disregarded the water and took out his shoes to take photos for us. These hilarious and precious moments are like those times when I finally finishing my final prototypes with iterations.
Finally, we started heading back. It wasn’t hard since we were doing the same paths, but it was painful because we were nearly running out of the water and our energy. At that moment, I started to ask myself why I chose not to lay on my bed but do a 10 miles hike on a no-class special Friday. Without knowing exactly how long we would arrive, we always lied to ourselves that “there are only 10 minutes left” as we walk. In design, to me, this is like doing visual mockups or coding— it is tedious, tiring, and the only hope to hold on is to believe that everything will end soon.
The hiking experience has helped me recap my past design experience as well as foresee the challenge I will face when I am working on the thesis. I have heard a saying: “it’s very hard to work with the topics that you personally really care about.” I agree with it after I start to work on my thesis and suddenly realize how ridiculous I was that I used to be a naive kid who was annoyed and tired of being assigned prompts by professors. The thesis may be more difficult both practically and emotionally since it may be hard for me to have a normal and healthy attitude towards it while knowing it is kind of a big commitment and an uncommon opportunity— spending a year to do a project that I personally really care about.
Therefore, the goal I set for myself toward the project is to design freely and devoutly without worries— utilizing the most chances to be me, to be honest to myself by not getting influenced by others without critical thinking, devoting effort to my passion and step out of my comfort zone without worrying too much gain and lost. Also, time management skills are my weakness. Hopefully, I can plan out my time wisely and my passion for the thesis can be strong enough to conquer my procrastination. In terms of practical skills, I would like to enhance my visual and coding skills, which are things that I used to be avoiding. If I can accomplish these goals, I will say that I accomplish a successful project.