Throughout the tumultuous summer and fall of 2020, junior Claire Choi felt a call to action. “With the amount of chaos in the world right now, it’s a little disheartening to see how things are unfolding,” says the Irvine, California, native. “But it also sparks something in me to want to ask questions: Why is this happening, and how can I play a part even though I’m one among billions?”
Choi credits her training in the College of Human Ecology for that problem-solving attitude. As a Design and Environmental Analysis major, she notes, her focus extends beyond what merely looks good to prioritizing what works for users. “I’ve learned so much about empathy and being in a place where you’re ready to listen and take in someone’s life and experience and how that translates into design,” she says. “I just love problem solving in a way that’s honest, emotional, and memorable. The power of media, photo, and video and its ability to foster emotional connection has always been so important to me.”
I just love problem solving in a way that’s honest, emotional, and memorable.
After taking Positive Design Studio with Assistant Professor Jay Yoon, Choi signed up to intern in his Meta Design & Technology Lab, which investigates how products, services, and systems can be designed to enrich users’ momentary and long-term experiences. “It was really refreshing to work on projects where we were thinking about how to think about the emotional needs of people,” says Choi. She also spent a semester working in Assistant Professor Salah Kalantari’s Design and Augmented Intelligence Lab, which deploys such technologies as virtual reality and machine learning to enhance the design process. “I love emotional, empathetic design,” says Choi, “and if I’m learning the science behind it, that gives so much insight.”
In addition to her academic pursuits, Choi also serves as the design media lead for rapStudy, an Ithaca-based education technology startup whose web-based platform uses popular music as a medium for learning by integrating academic content into songs school children know and love. Consider, for example, “The Electoral College,” a twist on Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” and “COVID Safety,” which sets kid-friendly public health info about the Covid-19 pandemic to variations on hits like Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.” As design media lead, Choi oversees both brand development and marketing tasks, as well as user interface for the website.
In her work with rapStudy, Choi has drawn as heavily on her coursework beyond DEA as she has her classes on introductory design and programming and user interface. In the Spring 2020 semester, for example, she took Positive Psychology with Anthony Ong, a professor of Human Development. While expanding her understanding of the science of human emotions, says Choi she was able to take an intellectual shift away from design that ultimately enhanced her subsequent design efforts. “I want my work to spark some kind of personal response and promote natural engagement,” she says. “I want to always be someone who’s ready to listen and willing to have harder conversations to get to a better place, whether it’s project work or in relationships with other people.”