College Bound: seniors plan to major in product design

December 4, 2016 — by Ava Hooman and Ami Nachiappan

Senior plans on going into product design

In July at the Tech Shop in San Jose, senior Neythra Srinivasan sat atop a metal stool and adjusted her goggles. She set the laser cutter’s line width and cutting speed and began carving her multistep vase, made out of wood and acrylic.

After investing so much of her time to create the final product, Srinivasan knew that designing products was something she wanted to pursue as a career.

“I spent hours building my vase and wouldn’t even realize that so much time had gone by,” Srinivasan said. “I think when you find something that you’re passionate about, you’re just able to feel it.”

At the Tech Shop, a community based-workshop that provides access to instructional classes and professional equipment, Srinivasan has been able to hone her machinery skills for the past two years. After completing a three-hour class to learn how to use the equipment, Srinivasan spent two to five hours on weekends working with a mentor to design products using design software, laser cutters and 3D printers.

“I realized how much I love building products that people can actually use, such as clocks, vases and coasters,” Srinivasan said.

She has always enjoyed art, taking fine art classes since freshman year at Art Hub Academy, located on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road. At the studio, Srinivasan learned how to draw in several mediums, including oil, watercolors and charcoal.

“Learning how to draw technically is really important because the whole idea of product design is to make a sketch that manufacturers will understand,” she said.

In the beginning, Srinivasan was uncertain of art as a potential career path, but decided to research about product design, the process of designing and manufacturing practical and aesthetically pleasing products. She soon found that product design allowed her to incorporate both graphic design and technology in a career.  

Because product design includes a technological aspect, Srinivasan chose to take the Project Lead the Way courses that the school offers. She has taken Introduction to Engineering and Digital Electronics and is currently in Engineering Design and Development (EDD).

In EDD, students are presented with a year-long project where they attempt to solve a challenge that society faces. Srinivasan’s group chose to create a portable shelter for the homeless, creating the product using circuits, design kits, laser cutters and 3D printers.

“I really like EDD since it’s cool being able to create something that will end up helping a part of society,” she said.

After enrolling in art classes and STEM courses throughout high school, this past summer, Srinivasan honed in on her college list, which consisted of schools that offered prestigious product design programs, such as Carnegie Mellon University and Georgia Tech. She has also applied to University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles, even though their programs are more geared toward digital media, a blend of technological, analytical and artistics skills.

“Digital media is where most people start out, but product design brings it one step forward and into the real world, which is what I really want to do,” Srinivasan said.

While many students who apply to product design majors include only a fine arts portfolio, Srinivasan has chosen to also enhance her portfolio with 3D work, including a pen cross-hatching of a dog and an oil painting self-portrait.

“A lot of people haven’t had the opportunity to experience making things by using machines, but I have been fortunate enough to do so since I have taken so many classes,” she said.

Senior Nimisha Devanagondi, who plans to major in human computer interaction, a mix between cognitive science, computer science and design, has also been presented with the task of creating a portfolio that demonstrates all of her strengths.

“When I think about college, I just want to be able to learn a lot about a lot of different things, rather than restricting myself to one field,” she said. “I really like math so I wanted something technical, I love art so I needed a creativity aspect and I wanted wanted to learn about how people think.”

Devanagondi has applied to University of California, Irvine and Carnegie Mellon University, since both offer an HCI major. For the schools that do not offer HCI, Devanagondi is applying with a cognitive science major and a design minor.

“HCI is really career oriented, which is why a lot of schools don’t offer it,” Devanagondi said. “It’s more of what you would find in a master’s program, but I feel like learning it as an undergrad would be beneficial.”

Devanagondi has skills in computer science as a current member of the on-campus club Girls Who Code and and interest in photography and Photoshop with her Facebook page “A Thousand Pixels,” where she posts photos that she has taken of her friends and family to fundraise for charity. She hopes to find a career that incorporates both computer science and art.

“Right now, art and technology are being combined to build products that have really good design elements,” Devanagondi said. “Just like Apple and Android interfaces need a good design aesthetically before people want to buy them, I hope to use design aspects to create something that people can use every day.”


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