Design Assembly profiles MDS grad Sophie Tse

Each summer Design Assembly profiles a selection of the top design graduates coming out of our tertiary institutions. They welcome these talented emerging professionals to the design industry, learn about their passions, final projects, developing creative confidence and ambitions for the future. Read on for their interview with our recent Bachelor of Media Design Graduate, Sophie Tse:

Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?

I have always been a visionary and a creative, I knew it was what made me happiest and is my greatest strength, so very ideal to make that into a career! The beauty of design for me is its unique blend of psychology and art – I love empathising with an idea or human issue and getting into its nitty-gritty detail, then to create something beautiful out of it that people can relate to.


Can you tell us what your graduation project focused on?

My graduation project ‘Heal by Nature’ is a campaign bringing awareness to Forest Bathing, the practice of immersing oneself in nature for healing. This simple action has an abundance of health benefits both mental and physical. I was inspired to explore this as I find even 5 minutes in nature releases a whole lot of tension from my body, helps me see a lot clearer and even be more creative! It brings me back to who I am despite the drama of the moment. I think people tend to forget the benefits of nature time or even prioritise their own health, especially when we are wrapped up in the rush of busy working life.


What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?

In the research stage, I was particularly fascinated and impressed by Ancient Maori wisdom. Human life was about aligning oneself with nature and living by ‘Kaitiakitanga’, which established guidelines for healthy land and defined the health of those living with her. Humans and nature were inseparable and humans were not superior to nature! 

Credits to: Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, ‘Kaitiakitanga – guardianship and conservation – Connected to nature’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, guardianship-and-conservation/page-2 (accessed 26 August 2020) 

Another exciting discovery was how people responded to my exhibition. I provided a bunch of native plants and encapsulated my design collaterals, to somewhat provide the Forest Bathing experience. I was pleased to see it attracted a lot of attention and people relaxing within the space, engaging with my project and saying things like how much they loved the smell of the plants!


What did you enjoy most during your course at MDS?

Probably the very human way of learning that makes MDS special, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else. The lecturers do a great job at engaging the students and having a degree of empathy to understand your project and journey. The school also embraces individuality, which I believe is important for coming-of-age adults, particularly creatives.


What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?

Year 2 was particularly stressful juggling living out of home, part-time work and full-time uni. A discovered a healthy work/play balance was necessary – spending time with my inner child to help keep those creative ideas flowing!


What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your studies?

Don’t focus on being right or being the best, focus on learning. Perfectionism can restrict yourself to your comfort zone. Studying is the best time to experiment and make mistakes for the better and I wish I did it more!


How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?

I entered study knowing what I was good at and interested in – art and empathy. At that time, the ‘design process’ was such a foreign term to me. Now I know it’s something I’ve always been capable of doing. I started study with low confidence, thinking I had to acquire all the knowledge I would learn whereas now I know a lot of it comes naturally. I am now a Motion Graphics Designer, back then I had no knowledge of Motion Design or ever considered doing it as a path until MDS introduced me, then I fell in love!


Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?

‘Heal by Nature’. The illustrations and animations were really fun to do and I’m particularly proud of the animated transitions from the grey working environment to nature! It has achieved its purpose of raising awareness of Forest Bathing as people explained it as well-articulated, fascinating and easy to understand. Woohoo!


How do your interests outside of design inform the work in your portfolio?

If you see my portfolio (please contact me if you’d like to!) you’ll see a consistent theme of compassionate and nature-related projects. I’m passionate about the natural world and the care and preservation of it, it brings me joy to use design as a tool to support what I care about.


Why did you choose to study at MDS?

I chose MDS because of its intimate learning environment, which allows you to build strong relationships with your lecturers and peers and that’s how I learn better. It’s also the closest study environment that resembles a real-life workplace, which is a good preparation for the real world.

How are you feeling about the future?

Hmm probably more optimistic than most! Yes, it sucks that it’s more challenging to get work due to COVID but I think the whole lockdown experience was a cloud with an underrated silver lining. It’s given us time to contemplate and prioritise things that matter, such as looking after ourselves, finding moments of stillness, being in nature and spending time with our families. I can’t say this goes for everyone of course though, those unfortunate enough to have unstable home lives… but yeah, I think priorities are shifting, which is a good thing. Design will jump on the back of these new themes too which is something I’m very excited about!


What does your dream job look like?

Once I have a few years experience under my belt, perhaps leading a group of people specialising in  human and environmental care and positive activism design. If not a leader, then a freelancer working with companies that do good things for the world. Between now and then, getting as much design experience as I possibly can working with a range of briefs which I find exciting!


How can people get in touch and see more of your work?

You can check out my work on Instagram at @soph.creativee or contact me via 021 178 9267 or (my portfolio website is to be released soon!). Thank you for taking the time out to read about me – if you think I can help you with anything I would LOVE to hear from you! 


Article originally posted on Design Assembly.

Sophie Tse
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