Pursuing a Different Design Field

Jessica Lin, COL & SEAS ’23, Long Island, NY

Throughout my time at Penn, I have been lucky enough to explore various art and design-related fields. When I first arrived on campus three years ago, I was sure I would pursue a career in architecture. I am interested in biomimicry and how nature can inspire sustainable design decisions. I also knew my passions lie where I could help others while still being creative. For me, architecture was a way to combine sustainability, innovation, and social good. After taking three architecture studios at Penn and participating in two internships in fine arts and performing arts the previous summers, I made the decision to switch to product design right before the start of junior year.

This summer, I got the opportunity to pivot into product design. I got to work with Calico Sol, a sustainable furniture start-up, as a Product Design and Marketing intern. Calico Sol is producing a modular couch that is designed for the circular economy. Users can replace certain parts of the couch, instead of throwing out their couch entirely and getting a new one. Over the summer, I worked on revamping the website to attract our target consumers to the company site and increase engagement. I also created content for Calico Sol’s social media in preparation for the reveal of the final iteration of the couch to be sold to other businesses and organizations who are interested in contributing to a more sustainable world through the furniture they use. One of the most interesting parts of designing digital content to market a product is altering similar assets to target different segments. Moving forward, I will continue working with Calico Sol to finalize the design of the couch and plan a pop-up event to have community members engage with the product and provide feedback. I am grateful that this experience has allowed me to get a taste of both physical and digital product design.

While exploring product design, I also got to do some architectural drawings professionally as an effort to see if my decision to change career paths was the right choice for me. Since my architecture experience had come solely from the studios required for my major, I wanted to see if I could enjoy this field professionally. I got the opportunity to spend part of my summer making architectural drawings for the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I appreciated that it was finally able to produce drawings of existing buildings instead of working on theoretical ones for my studio classes. However, I remembered that it was the feeling of being stuck working on rectilinear existing buildings that pushed me to seek out an alternative career. This summer has encouraged me to pursue my passion for sustainability and social good through a career in product design. This year, I hope to gain more clarity on whether I would like to work on physical or digital products or find a way to design for both.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services