Setareh Shamdani

Global Innovation Design MA

Before coming to the RCA I was working as a senior designer at a graphic design studio in Vancouver. We mostly worked in the not-for-profit sector, on projects that were related to social change and helping the local community. I was also writing and editing for Neshan Magazine, a quarterly Iranian graphic design publication.

I knew about the RCA from my undergraduate programme, and a few friends and colleagues (including my creative director in Vancouver) had received their Master’s degrees from the RCA. I did a lot of research on different institutions and programmes. To me, the RCA represented an extremely innovative and multi-disciplinary environment.

There’s an incredible level of excitement from everyone who has been involved in bringing about this programme. It’s encouraging to be surrounded by that energy, when you know that as the first batch of students, there’ll be many challenges. It’s been really good so far. The five weeks of induction in London were intense and inspiring. In New York, it’s been interesting to have been incorporated into an existing programme, and we’re also getting to know the students who may end up in London next year. 

On a personal level, there’s a constant effort in trying to keep a balance between control and letting go. Part of being the first group of GID students is being prepared for the surprises that come along and accepting the constant change. At the same time, there has to be a level of control to make sure things get done.

During the induction period in London, we worked on an interactive project that involved the use of Arduino. Our group created a ‘shy mirror’ that responded to movement and turned away from people who approached it. It was a play on vanity and mischief, with a reflective surface that wouldn’t allow people to see themselves when they got close. We had a lot of fun with this one.

In New York, there’s another group project I’m involved in that’s quite exciting. We’re designing a lamp that reacts to the lack of sunlight and opens and closes based on the weather or the time of day. We’ve been working on the skeletal structure of it so far, and will be programming it in the coming weeks.

 So far, my focus has mostly been on projects in the not-for-profit sector and I’d like to continue to be involved in politically-driven initiatives that have a positive social impact. There’s great value in cross-discipline collaborations and I’m really interested in finding out how the application of design thinking can help improve living standards of communities.

"It’s an amazing experience to be exposed to three different schools of thought and to learn by being immersed into such incredibly diverse centres of technology and innovation."
Setareh Shamdani
Setareh Shamdani