Michael Chung, celebrated film maker and faculty member, just put the finishing touches on a new film about student life here at the MFA Products of Design program. We have always been huge fans of Michael's work, and were thrilled to engage him in putting together a video that would simultaneously show what it was like to be a student in the program, along with providing a broad representation of the kinds of people who, well, "live here." We asked Michael about challenges of the project, along with the role that video now plays in the designer's toolkit.
"Too many good quotes and too little time!"
Products of Design: What were the biggest challenges with putting the video together?
Michael Chung: I feel that this is such a rich program, and honestly we had too many great stories we wanted to tell. Trying to narrow them down and fitting them into a few-minute timeframe was really our biggest challenge—too many good quotes and too little time!
Another challenge is the fact that we shot the film during the final few weeks of the semester—of the year, really. Everyone was pretty stressed out, but certainly we got some very raw and very honest footage. It was a hectic time, but I think we pull it off nicely.
PoD: What were you trying to accomplish with the video and its story-lines?
MC: The folks here at Products of Design—the students, staff and faculty alike—are having a truly amazing experience. I wanted to capture that inside vibe. The learning, the hardship, the friendships, and the hope for a better future—I wanted to show it to world, so that that viewers of the video can get an authentic taste of it.
PoD: What would you like a prospective student, looking for a design program, to take away from the video?
MC: I'd want them to experience that we have amazing PEOPLE here! The leadership team of the department has worked really really hard to set up this environment for these exceptional faculty and students to interact and cultivate each other. Certainly the department has cutting edge facilities, equipment and hardware here, but the most important assets that this program has are its people and its culture. If we are in the consequent business then it's the people we are serving here. Once you have been baptized by this human-center design experience through the program, you are ready for the real design world in this new era.
My tip for designers these days is to constantly think about what kind of stories you want to tell about your product at the end…but while you are designing that product.
PoD: And what about video helps you to tell design stories in general Michael? You've been at this a very long time, helping brands and organizations express their missions and their dreams.
MC: As design as a profession has evolved into a human-centered practice and catalyst for social change, storytelling has become an essential tool in articulating ideas and conveying emotions. And among all the means to tell those stories, video is taking center stage since its end product is so portable and effective. As a result, filmmaking has become another skill that designers need to be equipped with for today's design practice. It’s a relatively new design discipline, but it’s rapidly becoming an essential one.
PoD: Any pro tips for film makers out there? (Besides, of course, "shorter is harder"!)
MC: I always remind my students that what makes a great design film is its emotional hook. With today's technologies, it is easy to shoot beautiful images—but those images cannot mask mediocre storytelling. Your design film should not be a spec sheet or feature list; rather, it needs to be an authentic illustration of your product aimed at creating emotional impact. My tip for designers these days is to constantly think about what kind of stories you want to tell about your product at the end…but while you are designing that product. Here, you can use storytelling as a litmus test for your concepts. Because in the end, if you cannot think of a good story to tell about your concept, it might not be that good concept after all.
Featured in the film are multiple students from the past two years. Lots of others (including faculty) are shown, but those who speak in the film, in order of appearance, are:
Souvik Paul, Class of 2016
Lucy Knops, Class of 2015
Isioma Iyamah, Class of 2016
Steve Hamilton, Class of 2015
May Sun, Class of 2015
Brandon Washington, Class of 1015
Tahnee Pantig, Class of 2016
Jonathan Lung, Class of 2016
Julia Plevin, Class of 2015