Bilgi Karan

Bilgi Karan was offered a position at Sony Ericsson directly after graduation from UID&s MA Advanced Product Design Programme.


What is your academic background?

I got my Bachelor of Industrial Design in the capital of Turkey, Ankara at the Middle East Technical University. After that I started working as an industrial designer, but I also started a Master&s program at the Istanbul Technical University within the subject of Industrial Design.

Since you left Umeå, what have you been doing?

I completed my degree project together with Sony Ericsson, and after my graduation, I was offered a position at the Creative Design Centre at the company. Since then I have been working as an Industrial Designer at Sony Ericsson&s Lund office in Sweden.

What is your best memory from your time in Umeå?

My best memories are always with the wonderful people of Umeå Institute of Design. Both the students and the staff were always helpful, intelligent and talented. I learned a lot, not only from professors but also from students, researchers, and even from the cleaning crew. Studying at UID feels like being with family.

Which aspects of your education at UID have been most useful for what you are currently doing?

The education at UID is very well rounded and very deep at the same time. The full-time faculty is limited to a low number, and you get the education from actual professionals that come from the industry, and I consider this aspect to be the most striking. It felt like I almost continued my career while studying. Also, everything is very practice-oriented, and only a few subjects are theoretical. It was all very hands-on; I loved that.

Do you have any good advice for new UID students?

For prospective students, my advice is that they should try to demonstrate their skills, and - more importantly - their potentials, through a well thought-out portfolio when applying. For the current students: You should remember how lucky you are to be studying at one of the best design schools in the world. Work hard and be proud of your work. Most importantly, be open to critique from anyone, especially your peers. Ideas multiply when shared.

Did you enjoy life at UID, the atmosphere?

It was very nice and I still miss those days. Mostly I miss the people and the friendships, the level of openness, and how everyone feels almost like family. At the same time UID is very professional, the education is quite strong and very comprehensive. I had a balanced life, since I was married when I was studying; I pretty much left UID at five o&clock. What I learned that was very valuable, was that you can actually get a lot done on a workday, so you don&t have to extend it, unless there is something special going on. I am very glad that I learned that, I mean you cannot always apply it to professional life, but most of the time, you can, especially in Sweden. This way I really learned how to be efficient in what I am doing, and to be very focused. We still had our "fikas" and lunches, and the famous parties - we were very tight. I did enjoy everything we did together; we used to watch movies after school and stuff.

Do you still keep in touch with anyone from UID?

Yes, there are a couple of people that I work together with, almost on a daily basis, in my workplace. And with others, I keep in touch via Facebook, and such.

Did UID prepare you for your professional life?

I already had three years of work experience when I began my studies at UID, but UID provides a very solid foundation of what you are going to learn afterwards, so it prepares you for life, rather than just loading you up with a bunch of theoretical information. There is no place for apology or any kind of shortcoming; everything was pretty complete, if not perfect (laughs). Of course we thought about things that could be improved, but when I look back, I cannot remember them.

The whole reason why I am where I am right now is because of UID, 100 %, ok 99%... I looked for a sponsor for my degree project, and I found Sony Ericsson and at the end of the degree project, they offered me a job, and that&s how I am here. The thing that got me hired was probably not my portfolio per se, but it was more my sketchbook from my degree project. They were very impressed by the process, and by the thoroughness of the process, and that is completely something that I learned at UID.

I encourage all students to keep a sketchbook with them at all times, and I encourage them even in their professional life, especially if they are doing some kind of consultancy work. In that way you can always dig out old ideas, which would seem irrelevant at the time, but might prove invaluable afterwards.

How do you think the tuition fees for non-EU students will affect UID?

It is quite saddening to hear about the tuition fees. Umeå Institute of Design was my only choice. I did not, and I could not apply to any other school, because I couldn&t find any other school with the same degree of quality, and without the tuition fee. Of course, even without the tuition fee, it was difficult for me to find the budget to even live in Sweden. Fortunately, I got a lot of help from the staff during my years there, and I worked for the school part time, so that was very lucky for me. With the tuition fees, I wouldn&t have come to Sweden at all, so my life would be quite different.

Did your personality come across in your designs, when you applied for a job?

I think one of the most important things that separates designers from for example engineers, is that we have a better look into the human nature, and emotions, so if a student, or a designer try not to reflect their personality on something, that would be a great loss, because everything a designer touches is affected by what or who she or he is. Having been on both sides of the table - looking for a job, and also reviewing portfolios, and interviewing people - I think a great personality is almost as important, or in some cases, more important than the quality of the portfolio.

What do the professionals in the real world think about the graduates from UID?

The people who know about UID respect it very deeply, and understand that it is a great institute, for bringing up great people and at the same time contributing to the design education. The unfortunate thing is that not everyone knows about UID. We all have to pitch in and get the word out there. When you study at UID you really know that it is a great school, and you want to tell everyone about it. It is frustrating when you meet someone who hasn&t heard about it.


Karan was interviewed in November 2010 by Louise McCallum and Elinn Bolonassos





The memory drops work with a very simple principle; just stick one of the drops to one of your belongings to keep track of it.