Graduating Into a Pandemic: Angad Singh
It’s been about a year since most of North America began social distancing to combat COVID-19. How has this strange and difficult time affected young people entering the design profession? We checked in with students who graduated last spring from university programs in North America; below is the first of four stories. The others feature Francis Ho, Damini Agrawal, and Michelle Chan.
ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA
I was at ArtCenter for three years, and throughout that time I felt like the school was oriented toward professional work. They gave me a lot of information, which helped me understand what making a living as a designer might look like, as well as how you can look at businesses and understand them from a design perspective. Our second year of classes were oriented around creating a startup, which got us thinking about product-market fit.
In our final year we shifted the focus outward with our thesis projects. Our professors made it clear that these should not be simply abstract concepts, that they have the potential to get picked up out in the world. They also talked with us about what being a designer looks like at different kinds of companies. I wanted something a little smaller, something where I’m more involved in the decisions that impact the company’s work.
When the pandemic hit, though, we were four or five weeks away from making our final presentations. It was a strange time, and it was hard to cope with being at home. The weather was also weirdly gloomy in Pasadena, which added to the sense of uncertainty. The faculty rallied around us, motivated us by emphasizing that we were about to embark on something unique. “You’ll be the first, and hopefully only, class to say that you graduated into a pandemic!”
The waiting was tough. We had regularly scheduled interviews during the graduating process, but many companies were not sure whether they could hire anyone. Graduation itself was bizarre. My parents live in India; they were on Zoom with me. I realized I needed to lower my expectations of what I can do, how I can show my work, in interviews, while at the same time making sure that I treated it as a formal process. Do I dress up? How?
I was thankfully not in limbo too long, as I knew I was going to teach when the next term began in early summer. One of my teachers is the creative director of GoNoodle, and she had spoken with me a year earlier about offering me a job. It turned out they couldn’t hire me full-time, but I got in the door with contract work. Both those things offset the anxiety I was feeling.
My work, at the moment, comes from opportunities laid in front of me by faculty. Things are falling into place. The community within the school looks out for you, even after you graduate. If you’re active, asking questions, and communicating with your professors they will look out for you, make sure you do alright.
I’ve been grateful for what has happened over the past ten or eleven months. But I’m still anxious about what happens next. What will work life be once we’ve transitioned back into offices? I haven’t worked in an office in the United States. It’s still a strange time.