Xiaoyong Wang, IDSA

Xiaoyong Wang, IDSA
Pratt Institute

IDSA Northeast District Graduate Student Merit Winner 2018

Northeast District Graduate Student Merit Award winner Xiaoyong Wang, IDSA, can trace his design approach back to a favorite childhood pastime. “When I was younger, I liked to do crafts and build objects like model ships and cars. These early interests … determined my own design approach today.” Wang’s time assembling models had a profound effect on his creativity, the numerous steps and pieces required of each model honing his skills of observation. “I believe most people who have creative pursuits,” he says, “are very sensitive to details. Whether it is art or design, we must first learn to observe, in the process of learning and understanding, what already exists; we then contribute our own ideas and creations.”

Wang graduated from Northeastern University with a BS in marketing in 2015 with plans to work in a product-promotion-related area, though his attempts to exploit the space between product details and sales would require a bit more patience. “[I had] many new ideas about product design; however, these [ideas] are hard to explain to someone through simple storytelling, especially when talking about something that does not exist and when there’s no analogy to use. Therefore, I decided to study design in a graduate program and … learn how to express my ideas visually.”

Wang found a home at Pratt University, meeting professors and peers who shared his belief that the study of design is diminished when it is done in isolation—that is, separated from the humanities. Throughout his graduate career, Wang was encouraged to render designs that went beyond the superficial and to consider deeply design’s relationship with the client and with the environment. “In the graduate ID program at Pratt,” he says, “there are many topics focusing on the humanities and the environment that allow students to think about design in a caring manner. … I am very happy to see how design in recent years has moved toward thinking more about people’s experience and paying more attention to the impact of … design on society and the environment.”

Wang adds that 3D forms and their relationship with space was also an essential component of his studies at Pratt, which he says deepened his understanding of how the human body encounters design: “Because human interaction with a designed object is an emotional reflection, [and because] design involves physical contact with our bodies, designers cannot avoid exploring the actual materials and forms.”

Pratt University’s multidisciplinary approach to design exposed Wang to a diverse and comprehensive network of research methods. As schools become more inclusive in their curricula, he says, the extensive practice of sketching and rendering is supplanted by more subject-based research; this integrative approach will help ensure that design education remains relevant beyond the academic arena. “I think in the future, with the influence of biotechnology and artificial intelligence on design, the scope of design can be further extended and design education will not be as specific because more fields and disciplines will be involved.” Such changes, he warns, will no doubt result in design students who are expected to “not only understand the emerging fields but also have sophisticated reasoning skills while still being equipped with skills in visual communication.”

As the skill sets of designers become more inclusive, Wang says that it is more important than ever for young designers to decide where their passions truly lie within the realm of design, with the understanding that graduating from school is merely the precursor to a lifelong creative journey. Though he is confident that every day he is arriving closer to locating his own particular passions, Wang confides that the question of what industrial design means to him is still revealing itself: “Many people ask me, ‘So, what exactly are you designing? Furniture? A car?’ I find this question difficult to answer because industrial design is not just about designing certain types of products but also the ability to continually innovate and optimize existing products … in the context of ever-changing technology and new materials.”

Looking to the future, Wang hopes to contribute in some positive capacity to the larger design industry, specifically that belonging to China.  “As an important part of the world’s production and manufacturing, particularly in the next 10 years, the Chinese design industry will go through more changes, and I hope I will be able to contribute as a Chinese designer.” Wherever he ends up, Wang says that he looks forward to further diversifying his skill set and remaining open to the evolving nature of his field. “Industrial design,” he concludes, “is a habit of observing the surroundings with independent eyes, an ability to propose a more optimal solution than what’s out there now. … [It takes] a lot of effort, but if you really enjoy design, then the happiness and accomplishment will be worth it.”