This week, we sat down with Lulu Guo, a senior in Industrial Design at Illinois, about her experiences on campus, the museum, and her award-winning photo in the campus photography competition "This Learning Life."
KAM: Tell me a little bit about yourself: You’re studying Industrial Design. What interests you most about that field?
Lulu: I am from China, and transferred to the University of Illinois from Seattle in 2015.
I first heard about Industrial Design from a friend who was in this major and it immediately piqued my interest and appealed to my intellectual side. I spent the next few weeks learning more about the field and transferred from Bioengineering to Industrial Design.
I love handcrafting, sketching and coming up with innovative ideas that solve daily problems, such as self-made trash can or supports for my plants. How to make a product appealing and easy to use for people is what interests me most in this field.
To me, Industrial Design can be described as coming up with an idea, molding it in a professional way, and making it come to life. We brainstorm, sketch, research and create a CAD model, come up with foam models and 3D print them. There are a lot of techniques in Industrial Design that allow us to bring our imagination to the real world. I remember every moment I’ve been impressed by the brilliant products, and I want to be the person who impresses others by being a part of the team that creates such products.
KAM: Does your academic work bring you in contact with the museum?
Lulu: Yes, one of the courses I took was Design History Survey. As a part of that course, I wrote a paper comparing the Farnsworth House and the East entrance of the Krannert Art Museum. Farnsworth House is a famous structure designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Krannert Art Museum is inspired by his style.
Also, I had a Juno Lightning project in my junior year, for which we were given a tour of the museum by Walter Wilson. He specifically taught about the track lighting. It helped us a lot in understanding how the track lighting works in a big gallery and what we should keep in mind when we design museum lighting systems, like the damage light may cause to the artwork.
KAM: Have you had classes here or done projects based on art you’ve seen here?
Lulu: I once took a course on masterpieces of East Asian literature which is taught in this building. For the course, we read a book, The Tale of Genji, and that’s when I noticed the museum has three works of art in the collection about the story. It was an excellent experience to be able to see historical pieces about a book I’ve read.
KAM: What type of art inspires you?
Lulu: The products, like tools, and decorations that people used historically inspire and amaze me. For example, from the exhibition, World on the Horizon, I am impressed by the door frame which has the floor plan on it, as well as the seat which has a coconut opener attached. These everyday objects demostrate the intelligence of humans in different cultures.
KAM: Do you have a favorite work of art at KAM?
Lulu: Yes, I enjoyed looking through the photographic portraits in World on the Horizon. They tell stories about aesthetic trends across the Swahili coast. Moreover, the portraits display the very early stages of adding effects to photos. As an art student who works a lot with photoshop, I was highly attracted by how people arranged the layouts and effects on the portraits before they could use software.
KAM: Do you have a favorite gallery here?
Lulu: Yes, I love to work in the Bow gallery. The art gives me a peaceful and creative feeling. I am extremely impressed by the design of the gallery; I like how it makes the maximum use of the natural light and the high ceiling just adds to the effect. Coincidentally, on my trip to California last summer, I came across a copy of the sculpture Descending Night in Hearst Castle. It became the highlight of my trip.
KAM: I understand you recently won the campus photography competition called “This Learning Life”. Tell me about your photo. How did you decide what to show about learning at the U of I?
Lulu: While I prepared for this competition, I came up with three ideas. While working at KAM, I noticed that a lot of groups came to visit. So I thought it would be a great idea to show how people learn from the art and the experience in the museum. For this, I took a picture of two kids while they were performing activities in the KAM lower level.
The second idea came to me while I was making the prototype of my project. I wanted people to know about the excellent woodshop in Art and Design Building, and the fact that the mold-making process requires patience and a clear mind. To depict that, I took a picture of a classmate when he was working on his yellow foam model.
The idea for the third photograph, that ended up winning the prize, was to describe the early product development process in Industrial Design. This idea popped up during my studio class. As a part of the lecture, everyone in the class working on their project. I decided to record the real studio environment to convey the specialty of this major.
Describe the photo that won the prize — what did you want people to see?
Lulu: The photo is called, “A design student sketching in the studio.” It describes the real story of an Industrial Design student doing ideation sketch of her senior thesis.
I did not have to plan a lot for shooting this photo; all the objects appearing in the photograph are what we have in the Industrial Design Studio, because I wanted to demonstrate the real learning environment.
There is a laptop for the market, CMF, and user research, we had notes on the paper next to it that gives the clear idea of what we want to be doing.
I took the photograph from the top, so we can clearly see what the person is sketching for ideas. Beside her, there is a knife and pieces of wood, which represents drafting tools and materials. I want the viewer to have the idea of the Industrial Design major and the sense of the early product development process.
KAM: How did you feel when you found out you won?
Lulu: I was very surprised and honored because I wanted to show the real learning process, I may have put a lot of thought into the ideas, but I didn’t think I put as much time as others did on shooting the photos. So I did not imagine I would win the prize. It was a very welcome surprise for me and an extremely happy experience.
KAM: Do you take photos as a hobby or just for this event?
Lulu: Taking photographs is my hobby, especially when I am traveling. I have never taken a photography class.
However, for presenting projects, a design student usually has to take a huge amount of photographs of the prototypes in the studio. That’s where I started photographing. I learned the basic SLR shooting skills from studio photography, then explored more when I traveled. I like to record the beauty of nature.
KAM: Do you have a favorite place on campus?
Lulu: Yes, I like to go to Japan House on sunny days. I really like the peace of the place.
KAM: What are your plans after graduation? Is there a certain type of work you hope to do?
Lulu: Industrial Design is a field that requires a lot of working experience. So I am planning to work in the industry for a year before I go to graduate school. I am currently looking for a job or an internship which could contribute my creativity and passion for design.
Design is a broad field, it has a lot of possibilities and opportunities. My dream job is to stay with a group of creative and passionate people, to create easy-to-understand and user-friendly products, mostly for daily use.