From Hesitation to Design Major: Stories of Three Graduating Students

Are you considering design as your major? For some, choosing to study design may seem like embarking on a wild journey—especially for those cautiously tip-toeing into the design world from another major. In this two-part story, we share the intriguing journeys of three graduating students that share their history of having hesitation toward studying design and their advices to those that are still pondering.

Meet Yerslan, Yeji and Wooseong

By the end of 2023, we met with Yerslan, Yeji and Wooseong. We invited them because they did not choose design as their major initially yet successfully graduating UNIST as designers. Yerslan Abayayev has strong passion not only about service design but also filmmaking. Yeji Park, holding a double major in Design and Electrical Engineering, specializes in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Wooseong Kim, with dual majors in Design and Computer Science, directs his focus towards UX/UI design. This diverse trio, each with their unique interests bring distinct perspectives to this story.

Yeji sharing her experience in designing bbb Korea‘s volunteer-based interpretation app while in EXPC | Photographed by Byeongkuk Kwak

The workshop commenced with Yerslan, Yeji and Wooseong sharing their recent project outcomes. To mention their most recent projects, Yerslan designed MedAssistant for his diploma work, a digital platform that connects pharmacists, patients and family members for improved medicine intake. Yeji designed O-K Text, a novel text input method for the upcoming era for virtual reality. Wooseong’s graduation project, Pipettex, facilitates hands-on learning of micropipette techniques with its vivid scenes in VR environment. Their shared journeys towards finalizing their bachelor study fostered a sense of community and setting a collaborative tone for the sessions ahead.

MedAssistant by Yerslan Ababayev
MedAssistant, design by Yerslan Ababayev
O-K Text by Yeji Park
O-K Text, designed by Yeji Park
Pipettex by Wooseong Kim
Pipettex, designed by Wooseong Kim

Then we asked the three to visually map their transition to studying design reflecting upon the past, present, and future. This introspective exercise provided insights into individual experiences, we well as the common challenges faced by those who come to design during the later part of bachelor’s study. We then discussed what advices they would give to those that may still be pondering about studying design.

The workshop was filled with lively discussion and constructive comments to each other | Photographed by Byeongkuk Kwak

Yerslan — Designing and filmmaking

Yerslan’s journey involved a struggle with his identity as a computer science major during his second year at UNIST. Battling depression and demotivation in his previous major, he found solace in his passion for filmmaking through design. Studying design became the avenue to improve his filmmaking skills leading to a fulfilling internship at New Design Studio. For example, he could combine service design and filmmaking by creating onboarding video for NDS or create a series of videos for UniPlanet project.

Yeji — Finding her own identity in design

Yeji shared her initial concerns about majoring in design, especially as her choice looked unconventional to her engineering-focused friends. Despite the doubts at the beginning of double-majoring journey, her interest slowly grew as she discovered the virtue and practical aspects of good design. Her journey, marked by experiences like the bbb Korea project while in EXPC, emphasized the importance of bridging the gap between engineering and design.

Wooseong — Navigating through options

Wooseong, having delved into humanities during his high school time, explored various options before settling on design. His quest for practical skills and the ability to solve real-world problems guided him to design. His exploration of different departments through courses helped him realize the impact design could have on society alongside with his internship at OND Lab.

Three visual maps layered on top of each other | Photographed by Byeongkuk Kwak, edited by Seungho Park-Lee

Three reasons they chose design

Below we share the reasons identified from their discussions–because the shared experiences and reflections helps our community grow stronger and more diverse.

  1. Real World Impact

Design goes beyond aesthetics; it’s a powerful tool for creating solutions that matter. Yeji’s journey emphasized the importance of design being accepted in real life. Her story isn’t just about crafting beautiful screens; it’s about unleashing design’s potential to break down real-world barriers. Her experience in developing bbb Korea app, a volunteer-based interpretation service born during the Korean-Japan World Cup to solve language barriers, showcases the tangible impact design can have. This example highlights that design can go beyond mere aesthetics, becoming a bridge that connects people of all cultures and backgrounds.

bbb interpretation app designed by Yeji and her teammates at EXPC is available for iOS from Android

2. Diverse Skill Set and Purposeful Understanding

More than just a career path, design ignites a unique blend of expertise and empathy, crafting solutions that speak to the heart of people. Wooseong’s journey to design highlights that this field offers more than just a versatile skillset—it cultivates a purposeful understanding of human needs forging deep connections with users, their aspirations and frustrations. Through empathy and user research, Wooseong transformed from a technical expert into a designer who creates solutions that resonate meaningfully, proving that design’s true power lies not in pixels or polygons, but in the profound bridges it builds between people and their needs.

3. Continuous Learning and Personal Growth

BRIGHT designed by Wooseong Kim

Design isn’t just about learning tools and skills—it’s about personal growth. Yerslan’s story shows how design transformed him from a struggling student studying a major he didn’t love to a thriving one who can tell interesting stories as a filmmaker using the principles learned from design. He gained a fresh perspective and technical skills that helped unlock his creativity and build resilience. Yerslan’s journey proves that design goes beyond techniques—it’s about discovering inner strength and pushing creative boundaries.

Videos created by Yerslan for UniPlanet project, probably the most played video series in UNIST history | Visit UniPlanet on Instagram

As you can see above, everyone has had different pathway in their becoming a designer. Are you still pondering? It’s okay, perhaps it’s your rite of passage. But still, why not try just like the three we met here today?

In our next post, we share the advices Yerslan, Yeji and Wooseong wanted to share to their younger selves. Perhaps it could useful for you, too.

Stay tuned!

Workshop planned and executed by Aziza Abdyrazakova, Gail Rayla Emanuelle Parayno and Byeongkuk Kwak. Text written by Gail Rayla Emanuelle Parayno and edited by Seungho Park-Lee.