Studying Industrial Design in Boston, MA

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Boston Public Library. One of my favorite go-to places during my day off.

Finance, Economics, Computer Science, and Engineering may be the most popular majors among Indonesians, but Shabrina chose to pursue a slightly different path. Here, we follow her journey as she starts her undergraduate studies in Industrial Design.

Some of my friends and colleagues have been asking me, what is Industrial Design? What do you do? Will you work in a factory? Let me tell you. As an Industrial Designer, I build, create, and develop concepts for manufacturing products, usually in certain categories such as automotive, houseware, fashion, or furniture.

As an Industrial Design student, it changes who I am. It changes my perspective on the world, and what it’s like to create and develop a product. I never knew that it takes two to four weeks of workload on a single project. When I design a product, first I have to sketch it, redesign, consult with the professor, create the 1st, 2nd, 3rd revision, final draft, and final product. Among the things I have learned are:

  • How to sketch everyday products such as stools, water bottles, salt shakers, etc.
  • How to sketch from different perspectives.
  • How to create and develop a product for a specific customer. For instance, for the final project of my freshman year,  I built a bar soap based on my selected customer.
  • Learn to have an open-minded, and share ideas.
  • How to have a discussion with the professor, and exchange thoughts.
  • How to create a 3D model from various materials: paper, wire, foam, etc.
  • Details, details, details. Attention to details is the key.
 "Concavity Project. The idea of this project is to create a curve by substituting a cube". Materials: Chipboard, 3D Laser Printing, Elmers glue
“Concavity Project. The idea of this project is to create a curve by substituting a cube”. Materials: Chipboard, 3D Laser Printing, Elmers glue

In addition, as a designer, it is not surprising if you have to work late. We are expected to stay late on campus and work on our project 24/7. We are also expected to revise our designs several times until it gets into the final designs.

In every major that we choose, there are challenges that we will go through… In my case, it can be described as culture shock. Everything is strange. Not being familiar with the environment is my first challenge. On my first day of class, I got into the studio, grabbed a chair, then the professor started the class. What surprised me was, we immediately started working on our very first project right after a 20 minutes introduction. I had no idea what or how should I do my very first project, but I observed my classmates and asked my professor for help. I remembered we were asked to build the perfect cube out of paper in just one hour, without any instructions. I created my first (of course) imperfect cube within 1 hour. It was an interesting experience.

Surrounded by entirely new friends and being the only Indonesian in my major was my next challenge. I had to push myself to start a conversation with others. To be honest, even after a year at the university, it’s still hard to start a conversation with new people. Yet, as the time goes by, I learned that I can’t stay with the same group of people forever. I had to step out of my comfort zone.

One of the developed sketches for my final project in Spring 2018. We built a bar soap for a specific customer.
One of the developed sketches for my final project in Spring 2018. We built a bar soap for a specific customer.

The last challenge was the amount of workload that I received as an Industrial Design student. Moreover, the first semester is always the hardest. I had to work on my project every day, even on the weekend. Most of my weekends were spent either in the studio or library. As for me, I get off class at around 5 pm but had to stay until anywhere between 11 pm and 3 am to finish my project. It may seem normal for a university student to work on their project until late in the morning, yet a design project is different from the usual report or homework. We put in twice the energy to work on a design project than on normal homework.

One day, during finals week I was staying late to finish my final project, and it was my first time staying on campus until midnight. I worked on my project, and even after the clock showed five minutes past midnight, I still hadn’t finished my work. I continued to work on my project, until the moment when it was finally done and ready to be submitted. The clock showed 2.30am. I finally got into my friend’s car and went back to my apartment to get a few hours of sleep before the “final” day at 8 am. Additionally, being an international student who lives miles away from family, I had to do everything by myself. Which I don’t mind, but there will always be a moment where I hit my maximum ability and just want to let everything out and don’t stress about it.

Casual weekdays on the T" - Boston Public Transportation
Casual weekdays on the T” – Boston Public Transportation
Hanging out in downtown Boston on a Saturday Night
Hanging out in downtown Boston on a Saturday Night

Despite all the busy work, I still find Industrial Design an interesting field to study. It might not be a well-known major in the Indonesian community, but it doesn’t stop me from choosing this major. If any of you are interested in either majoring or just want more information about Industrial Design, feel free to email me!

Photos provided by author.

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Hey there! I am Shabrina N. Laksmana but preferred to be called Shabrina. I am Originally from Jakarta, Indonesia and I have been living in the United States for 2.5 years now. I'm the third child of 4 siblings. I am studying Industrial Design at Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston, MA. I love traveling and explore new places. Fun fact about me, I have an advanced scuba diving license. One of my bucket lists is to travel to all islands in Indonesia. I enjoy photography, meeting new people, and learn something new. Nice meeting you guys! See you!