Eun Kyung Shin
Why did you decide to study at the RCA?
Before coming to the RCA I studied BA Industrial Design Engineering in Korea for four years with a focus on product design. I chose the RCA because I wanted to expand my thinking and approach to design. Before my focus had been on the end product. I wanted to engage more with the user, ideas of socially engaged design and circular economies.
What are the main differences between your expectations of studying at the RCA and the reality?
I expected it to be tough working at master’s level and in some ways it can be very intense. Because it’s a joint course with Imperial College everyone is very busy. Pretty much every day you have a tutorial and we often work late in the studios, but everyone really enjoys the work. The atmosphere is a lot more supportive than I expected. In the IDE studio we are one big family, everyone is always open to sharing ideas and helping each other.
What is the mixture of students like?
Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) is a really international programme, but people also come from very different subject backgrounds – such as engineering and computer design but also fine art, architecture and even astronomy. In the studios first and second years are mixed, so you meet people and know what projects they are working on even if you aren’t working directly with them.
I’ve learnt so much through working with other students. For example, when prototyping I learnt a lot working with engineers, and when testing materials, it was great to work with material scientists who know the properties and capabilities of different materials.
Have you worked on any projects that have had a significant impact on your practice?
I really enjoyed the GoGlobal project. We visited South Africa and were challenged to co-design with entrepreneurs, responding to the local environment and context. Our group worked closely with a carpenter in one of the townships. Being in South Africa was really eye opening. At first I was quite shocked to see the difference in living conditions between central Cape Town and the area we were working in. But it was a really great learning experience and made me realise the importance of understanding the environment you are designing for.
How has your work and thinking developed at the RCA?
Before coming to the RCA my design thinking was very much focused on the final product, thinking only a little bit about the user. On the IDE programme we work on different types of projects, which involves lots of testing and experimentation, taking into consideration user feedback. I’ve realised that input from users is vital for idea development, innovation and creating new products and solutions.
My ideas are much broader than before, and I consider the social impacts of design and technology more. I’ve come to realise technology has to be used in the right way to suit human behaviour and that the designer plays an important role in shaping the way technology develops, taking into account ethics and the impact and needs of users.
What are your plans for this year, and what will you do after you graduate?
For the rest of the year I will continue to develop my solo graduation project and work on our team project, which is about using technology to create a personal space within public space. When I leave I want to keep designing with a focus on human experience, exploring the best ways to use technology. Mainly I want to continue the adventurous feeling of projects that I got from the IDE programme.
Do you have any advice for students applying to IDE?
Even if you don’t realise it at first, lots of experience is connected to developing a design philosophy. Try to get exposure to lots of ideas and designs, but most importantly do what you really like, keep an open mind to everyone and observe everything, lots of looking is the best way to learn.
"I’ve come to realise technology has to be used in the right way to suit human behaviour and that the designer plays an important role in shaping the way technology develops, taking into account ethics and the impact and needs of users."