Owen Chen, VFS Digital Design grad and current UX/Visual Designer for Bing Social at Microsoft was recently in town and did an impromptu presentation to current students just before the Digital Design Showcase. Entitled Three Things I Have Learned So Far, Owen’s talk was brief but entirely to the point, and just the thing the students needed to hear to encourage them at this point in their studies.
Here are the highlights from the three things he has learned:
1. Pay Attention to Detail
Owen told a very interesting story about how the he struggled to find a good name for his portfolio. He didn’t want it to just be his name, Owen Chen — he wanted to say something about his approach. So, he came up with the slogan Ideas That Ship. It wasn’t a popular choice with senior instructor, Myron Campbell, but Owen fought passionately enough for it that Myron finally said, “If you believe this strongly in it, then you should go for it.”
Fast forward to when Owen first starting working at Bing, and he noticed that a number of people had little plaques on their desks that read “Let’s Ship It.” He wondered what that meant until he presented an idea to his boss who showed his approval by saying it was ready to ship. Soon, Owen had his own little plaque with the saying on it, and it made him wonder, when his portfolio was first reviewed during the interview process, had the title he chose for it resonated with the man who hired him because it just happened to fit in so nicely with their culture?
So, your portfolio is more than just an opportunity to show off your work — it’s an opportunity to shape and tell your story.
2. Find Something You Truly Believe In
Here Owen outlined the value of doing what you love. He came into the Digital Design program enamoured with motion design, but Head of Department Miles Nurse saw the potential in him to be an interactive designer, and pursuaded him to follow that path. As it turns out, this worked out very well for Owen, leading to his current position, but also fitting more perfectly into what Owen believes design is all about. As he says, “I see design not as a visual enhancement or afterthought, but a product or service as a whole that combines technology, user experience, and storytelling.” It wasn’t just about making motion pieces, it was about the total experience, and it made him put the focus on the things he really believed in, and on learning how to communicate that in his portfolio.
3. School Is Awesome
Owen admitted this might sound a bit obvious or trite — but he stands behind it being utterly true. As he put it, “Once you are out of school, you may miss having had the chance to work with amazing instructors, who genuinely want you to do good. In the working world, there are office politics to deal with, you don’t necessarily get to do the project you really want to do, and the people you work with are focused on doing a great job themselves — there are opportunities to collaborate and learn, but you may never have the same opportunity to focus solely on your own development with the complete support of incredible instructors, mentors and fellow students that you are with while at VFS. School is your only chance to do that — So, cherish your time spent here.”
These were words that definitely resonated with students in the audience.
Congratulations to Owen for all of his success, brought on by his hard work, his passion, his attention to detail and his commitment to what he believes in.