“What is effective visual communication?”

Perhaps the most unique part about Quest, more so than the small student body and classes, amazing campus, block program, and general warm-fuzzy feelings, is the ‘Question’. Instead of majors, we (often shakily) define where we will fit into the academic world from this point on. In fact, we take an entire block to figure it out. At the end of the block, we not only emerge with a “Question,” but we have a stronger sense of purpose and direction, and an official approved document stating that we know what we’re doing and we’re allowed to do it (not to mention hilarious awards from our teachers and a special bond with everyone else who took Question with us). We sign our lives away (ha ha) to a new mentor (a faculty member who will guide us through concentration years), anticipate the end of foundation courses (though we loved them so…) and look forward to taking the classes that will shape the rest of our education.

I’m three paper edits, two official forms, and one consolidated PDF away from wrapping up my question block. I’ve never read, written, or doubled back so often in a block. My desk is a mess of papers (and dishes I have yet to do), my Zotero is chock full of new references (note: if you write academic papers and you don’t have Zotero, you need to get Zotero. It does your references for you), and I feel like, for the first time since I made the initial decision to go to Quest, I’m terrified and excited about the road ahead.

The question block, like any other, lasts three and a half weeks. We spent the first week reading, reading, reading some more, writing and re-writing versions of our Questions, brainstorming, taking personality tests, and reflecting on our progress at Quest thus far. We spent the second week reading. Then reading some more. Then frantically browsing the UBC libraries to find books. Then crying because we could only take out 5. Then making the best of it. Then speed reading them. Then writing literature reviews. We spent the third week taking everything we had read, thinking really hard about where we were headed, and then we developed and delivered what will be the second-most important presentation we ever give as a Quest student, next to our Keystone (thesis) presentations. We spent 2 days watching Question presentations, cheering for our classmates, asking the tough questions during Q&A, and getting educated about other people’s interests. What I learned from my classmates: healthcare messages need to be delivered creatively, video games can improve people’s relationships (tell that to anyone who has played Mario Party with their friends…), mixed zoning might build better cities, pregnancy can be empowering (and it should be), the BC coast needs protection, and there is a blurry line between healthcare and ethics. Overall, I think we actually had physical classroom meetings 6 times in the entire block, if that. It was very self directed (read: late nights, sleeping in, procrastinating, then devouring books).

Where did I settle? I am asking “what is effective visual communication,” and I care about the delivery of information through digital media. I want to build websites and mobile applications that look good and work even better. I want to learn about how people think, decide, focus, and remember, as well as the relationship between culture, technology, and perception. I’ll use what I know, along with some technical skills to be developed (CSS3, HTML5, Java, Javascript, I don’t know, all of these) to eventually work in a cute little design firm where they drink good coffee, let me bring my dog to work, and everyone appreciates my obsession with labelling objects. In my presentation, I talked about why I didn’t just go straight to design school (and believe me, I almost did, and I almost did it again this year, but thankfully I didn’t). I didn’t go because what Quest can offer me (and what I am trying to give back to Quest!!!) is bigger than anything that exists as an undergraduate degree anywhere else. There are MDes programs all over the USA and Australia seeking undergraduates from anthropology, neuroscience, psychology, and liberal arts backgrounds. Why? Because grounding yourself in another discipline allows you to be a better designer. I won’t just build things that look good and work well; I will build things that look good and work well because I understand how the target audience thinks, how their values influence their preferences, and where they’re going to look for information.

Part of finishing Question block is putting together a course plan for the next 2 years. To conclude, I’ll give you an idea of the courses I plan to take. They may not seem directly related to visual communication, but I’ll take what they offer and apply my own thoughts about culture, technology, and cognition.

  • Cognition
  • Culture & Technology
  • Language, Culture, and Thinking
  • Learning and Memory
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Brain Disorders
  • Independent Study (something programming-related)

I’m also (tentatively – fingers crossed that my application is accepted) trying to go to Amsterdam University College (AUC) through our exchange program in the fall of 2014. I chose Amsterdam for a few reasons, as follows. Most of my extended family live there, and if I end up going, I may be able to convince my mom and grandparents to visit, introduce me to distant aunts and uncles, and explore our heritage with me. Amsterdam is also a design hub; some of the best design institutes in the world reside here, and the city itself is design wonder. I hope to get culture blasted, information immersed, and find out how little I actually know about the world. I’m also looking forward to taking advantage of Amsterdam’s proximity to the rest of Europe, and the cheap (but long!) train rides that link the two. I’ve got my eyes on Berlin, Bruges, Prague, Istanbul, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. For me, the traveling is just as important as the exchange; this will be my first experience traveling alone and it marks the beginning of what will hopefully be a lifetime of country-hopping. If I set some really lofty goals and plan well, maybe I can take my dream week in Iceland on the way home….
*sigh* Anyway. Here are the courses I plan to take at AUC. The school is particularly attractive because they have a stream called “information, communication, and cognition.” Sound familiar? I actually made my Question BEFORE I saw the name of that stream. It only confirmed that AUC must be a good fit! Courses are as follows:

  • Introduction to Information, Communication, and Cognition
  • Narrative in Media
  • Multimedia
  • Communication

As a final farewell, in honour of my Question, I’ll share with you two beautiful websites I stumbled across while deep in my search for academic inspiration. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did, hopefully they enjoy the increased traffic, and hopefully I’ve given you some insight into finding and settling on and Question!



Found Via

The Sites



Leave a Reply