Wen Hua, IDSA

Wen Hua, IDSA
Georgia Institute of Technology
IDSA South District Graduate Student Merit Winner 2018

Having earned his BS in mechanical engineering from Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Wen Hua, IDSA, admits that he was initially intimidated by the eclectic nature of Georgia Tech’s Master of Industrial Design program. “I was overwhelmed by all kinds of new terms and job titles like UX/UI and interaction designers, and creative and design engineers,” he says. “My classmates were learning new skills like software prototyping and UI design, [and] I was not sure whether I needed to learn any of those.”

Hua quickly adapted to the program, diversifying his skill set and seeking out new mediums to express his thoughts and ideas. “To build a beautiful portfolio,” he says, “I learned web development to control all the details. To create an elegant animation, I learned motion graphic skills to ensure the quality.” While the process itself is challenging, the South District Graduate Student Merit Award winner believes that it will prove to be an asset when he is serving clients with varying ideas and expectations, and for this he owes a debt of gratitude to his father: “My dad graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, [but] now he is more than an engineer. He taught himself coding, mechanical engineering and how to sell products. …Like [him], I also love learning things from different fields.”

The professors and faculty members of Georgia Tech’s graduate program welcomed Hua’s multidisciplinary mindset, encouraging him to think in new and innovate ways during his time there. When asked what he enjoyed most about studying industrial design in this kind of atmosphere, Hua remembers, “Our professors would always tell us ‘You are [at] Georgia Tech’ when we thought our ideas were too futuristic. There was no limit [to our] imagination.” When his ideas approached the edges of industrial design—as they often did—Hua sought out the advice of individuals from other fields. “In most classes, we could cooperate with students from various backgrounds like computer science and mechanical engineering. Ideas could be realized and tested through cross-major collaboration.” 

Hua is confident that this cross-functional education will lend itself to solving real-world problems and will help him advance beyond the theoretical-based designs of his undergraduate career. “Among most of my projects in my undergrad, I didn’t really focus on solving the problem itself. Those projects were meant to practice design skills like 3D modeling and prototyping. So I wanted to pursue a master’s degree [to] apply my design skills and learn more … like design research, iterative evaluation and design thinking.” Only by working together and building a diverse skill set, insists Hua, can young designers like himself hope to respond to a world that is constantly changing and adapting. “This is why design itself is so charming. The problems we are solving now are evolving with the world.”

Much of Hua’s portfolio demonstrates an earnest desire to respond to real-world problems. Balancing a minimalist aesthetic with straightforward, functional application, Hua’s website describes his process: “I don't think [design] is only about color, shape, texture, material, visual design skills, [or] physical prototyping skills. I learned how to apply [a] design thinking method in a broader and more creative way, [and] delivered successful solutions based on insights from user research and by communicat[ing] with customers.” These projects include, among others, a 3D-printed manually operated centrifuge for international CDC labs without stable electricity (a Core 77 Design Awards 2017 honoree and a Dubai Design Week 2018 featured project); algorithm-implemented custom-fit eyewear for increasing the workflow of eyewear customization services; HourGlass, a mug that allows the user to track the time inconspicuously without disrupting the flow of conversation; VA Wheelchair Management, designed in response to the rising number of wheelchairs stolen from public facilities each year; and Smart Cane, assistive technology designed to help visually impaired individuals shop independently.

Having graduated with his master’s degree, Hua now works in Huawei, China, as an industrial design engineer, though he says that he has considered returning to the Unites States for his PhD in industrial design next year. His skill set remains as diverse as ever (he has since added generative design and parametric modeling to his list of creative interests), and he often visits the IDSA website for further design inspiration. Though Hua is looking forward to the day when he will have his own design studio, he is eager to learn as many new skills as possible in the meantime and to encourage others to do the same. “Learning Sketch 3,” Hua concludes, “wouldn’t make you a UI designer. Learning Cinema 4D wouldn’t make you a graphic designer. Learning some HTML/CSS wouldn’t make you a developer. All these skills could make you a better industrial designer and problem solver. … Do not hesitate to learn anything new.”