Fuzzy Math: I know you’re currently in grad school – What is the degree you’re seeking?
James Laslavic: I’m halfway into earning my Master of Arts in Design Studies at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. To give a brutally short summary, the term “design studies” embodies a discipline that researches and critically examines the methods, theories, history, and potential futures of design. It also looks at how design affects and is affected by other fields and the world at large.
FM: How will your internship at Fuzzy Math apply to your studies?
JL: The field of design studies is currently composed mostly of non-designers, so I think that taking things from design practice (Fuzzy Math) back to designs studies is especially important. My own practice is interaction design, so that’s the particular branch that I focus on in design studies. I want to connect high-level design theory and ground-level design decisions for the benefit of academics and practitioners alike.
FM: Now the reverse: How will you apply what you’re studying to what you’re working on at Fuzzy Math?
JL: For a long time, I mistakenly thought that “human-centered design” just meant advocating for the wants and needs of users, and that “goal-directed design” just meant making sure design decisions were based on how well they’d meet objectives. I used techniques like wireframes, personas, and design principle lists to explore and explain solutions. About a year ago, I realized that the big thing I was missing was how these methods could (and should!) be used to methodically determine and filter the goals themselves. Human-centered design and goal-directed design are as much about setting aside the wrong goals as they are about pursuing the right ones. While at Fuzzy Math this summer, I’ve had a chance to see how my interaction design chops benefit from what I’ve been exposed to during the first half of my masters program. What I’ve found so far is that design studies is providing me with an especially rigorous approach to identifying the factors that actually matter when determining goals, making design decisions based on the resulting goals, and assessing how well my methods serve those decisions.