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Student Story: Fernanda Dobal, Global Innovation Design, 2017–

Fernanda Dobal
Fernanda Dobal
Fernanda Dobal came to the RCA to study MA Global Innovation Design (GID) after studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at University of Pennsylvania, and working, most recently, at Zearn, an education technology non-profit organisation based in New York. Fernanda’s work aims to help children discuss ethics and connect them with nature.

When did you first hear about the RCA, and why did you decide to study here?

Global Innovation Design seemed to be a Programme that rewarded being interdisciplinary. I remember researching master's degrees during my lunch breaks at work, and I saw Global Innovation Design and thought 'this is what I want to do'. I thought that the partnership with Imperial College was an interesting opportunity. Unlike a lot of other places, it seemed like a place where my non-traditional design background could be an advantage.

When did you first hear about the RCA, and why did you decide to study here?

GID is unique because we spend two terms in London, then we go away for almost a year, either to Tokyo and New York or Beijing and Singapore, before coming back for two terms. At the beginning you're thrown in the deep end: there are so many opportunities it's kind of dizzying. The Programme is very self-directed; it's up to the student to make the most of what's available. Being split across the RCA and Imperial, we have access to very different sets of tutors, which has been mind-opening in a lot of ways.

How has your work or thinking developed while you have been at the RCA?

I've grown more confident as a designer, as someone without a traditional design background. I feel more comfortable calling myself a designer. I feel I understand what the broader definition of what design is: it's only getting broader, but it's getting more important, too.

Planet Greenhouse, 2018
Planet Greenhouse, Fernanda Dobal
What is the mixture of students like, and what are the benefits of being in an international community?

Most of us on GID aren't from one place. It's a very international Programme with a broad range of experience. Roughly half of us come from a design background and half, like me, don't. Learning from one another has been a really big part of the Programme.

What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA?

The connections I've made with other students have been really rewarding. The conversations that spring up, whether academically or socially, are quite intense. Having spent four months living together in a dormitory in Japan, we end up being very close. That's been such a lovely aspect of the Programme: being surrounded by intellectually like-minded people.

Have you faced any particular challenges while you have been here?

The totally immersive aspect of GID is challenging for everyone at some point. When you're abroad, you can't go home at the end of the day. The course becomes everything. Learning how to juggle so many things and almost project-manage your life is a challenge.

What are your plans for this year, and what do you intend to do after you graduate?

For now, I'm focusing on my final major project and engaging with stakeholders here in London and trying to find partnerships. I'm designing educational interventions that help children discuss ethics and connect them with nature while learning about science. At the moment things feel wide open, which is both terrifying and exciting.

Advice for students applying?

Do it! I didn't have a comprehensive design portfolio before I applied, which made me doubt whether I could get in. Don't let that stop you. The RCA is looking for people who are intellectually engaged in whatever area they are pursuing. Reach out and talk to people.

Find out more about MA Global Innovation Design and how to apply.