By Yiran Feng, BEng07
When I was in high school in China, I visited an exhibition by the renowned industrial designer, Luigi Colani. After reading some books and articles about industrial design, I made up my mind that this was exactly what I wanted to study. One of the best schools for this is the Royal College of Art in the United Kingdom, but it’s for graduate students only. I sent an email to their industrial design department in 2002, inquiring which subject is the best to study at the undergraduate level in preparation. The answer that came back was, mechanical engineering.
Luckily, there was an agency doing promotion for Concordia University in Shanghai. In January 2003, I travelled abroad for the first time. Montreal, the unknown city, full of French and a blizzard! The foundations were just then being laid down for the Integrated Engineering and Visual Arts Complex.
For me, Martin Pugh was an excellent professor. I miss his lectures in material science. He later became a very helpful tutor for my final year Capstone project. Because of the timeframe for applying to the Royal College of Art, I actually had to do my Capstone project in my third year, which is unusual. Luckily, everything went very well. I had a great team. We won the department’s Richard M.H. Cheng Award for excellence in an engineering design.
That award became a pivotal piece in my portfolio. I got an interview with the Royal College of Arts in March 2007, so I had to fly out to London from Montreal. My professor for my course in product design and development, Mohammed Abdo, told the whole class that I was going for an interview at the world’s best design school. It was a very memorable three-day journey. Air Canada lost my luggage in transit and sent it to me the last day of my stay.
My acceptance letter finally came in April that year! I moved to London that fall and began work on toward a double degree, MSc and MA, from the Imperial College and the Royal College of Art. I have always liked working with light, so after graduating, I did an internship at United Visual Artists, a top interactive lighting design studio. I then found my current job with CU Phosco Lighting. This is a family business, dating back to 1920. The company designs and manufacture exterior lighting luminaries, floodlights, lighting columns and masts.
The most valuable experience I picked up at Concordia is the relationship skills needed for group projects. Knowing how to deal with a person you like or don’t like is very important, which also applies to work. Overall, to be a good designer, it’s important to get inspiration from everything in the world. Enjoy all sorts of movies, music and playing games—but don’t get addicted!