Vanessa Sattele

Since almost a year, Vanessa Sattele works at Smart design in New York. She studied at UID's Advanced Product Design programme and graduated in 2008.

What is your academic background?

I did one year of architecture & then the Bachelor of Science in industrial design, both at the National University in Mexico, UNAM.

Since you left Umeå, what have you been doing?

Just a few months after graduating, I got a job at Philips Design in Eindhoven, Holland. I was mainly working in the Healthcare department, where I was designing hospital imaging systems and home health devices. I also had the opportunity to work in other areas such as Ambient Experience and Design Probes. One of the projects I worked on was a boarding gate for Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, which has now been implemented.

Since March of this year, I started working for Smart Design in New York. Here, I am working mainly on consumer products for OXO and other major brands, but also products for start-up companies, and that has been really interesting since it involves defining the brand identity. I also learned how to make a latte and I am improving my table foosball skills...

What is your best memory from your time in Umeå?

So many good memories! It was the first time I had been with people from so many different cultures and ways of thinking at the same time and in one place, and that was awesome, it really opened my mind. I also loved the changing seasons and the landscapes; being so close to nature makes you look inwards, as well. It was quite an experience when spring arrived and all the trees burst into green.

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

UID was great, because the transition from there to work was pretty seamless. I felt I had solid skills and tools, and that gave me confidence. But most valuable of all was the design approach that I learned in Umeå. Skills are important, but the best thing they teach you is to be a critical thinker, to concentrate on what is really essential. The degree project can be tough, but after that you become a professional. I learned a lot about myself as a person and how to keep strong and focused even when things get difficult.

Do you have any good advice for new UID students?

Yes, take full advantage of all the amazing people that are around you. I would encourage students to work more cross-disciplinary with the other master courses.

And another advice: even if you hear the worst about surstromming fish, you should try it at least once! Who knows, maybe you'll like it!

How is Smart Design?

Smart Design has really been great. It has been a big change, as well. After living in Umea and in Eindhoven, I got used to living in smaller cities, and New York is pretty big! Philips Design, where I worked before, was an in-house. Now I am experiencing the consultancy environment. It's good to have both perspectives, they have different challenges. I work much closer with engineering now, which is something I enjoy.

Why did you want a Master&s degree?

I had a Bachelor's degree in industrial design from Mexico, and one of my teachers, Alberto Villarreal, had actually studied at the Transportation Design programme at UID in Umeå. He was amazing, and I was so inspired by him. His skills were awesome, and also the way he taught his class. He recommended UID, and when I finished my Bachelor&s degree I felt I still wanted to improve my skills. The first place I thought of was UID.

Did you consider any other schools, or did you just apply for Umeå?

I did consider other schools, I applied to Design Academy, and I also tried Royal College of Art, but both those schools had a tuition fee. My first choice was always Umeå, and when I got in I was very happy! It would have been very difficult for me to be able to pay for the other schools.

Do you think UID has many advantages over the other schools, apart from the fees?

I think every school has its own style, so Design Academy is a very good school, as well, but they have a very different way of designing than Umeå. I think UID has many advantages, such as its location for instance. Sweden is famous for its design; there is so much design culture. Also, it is pretty far away, it is this small secluded, isolated place. You can really concentrate on what you are doing, without distractions.

Was the education what you expected?

It was what I expected. It was my dream to go to UID, and I was so afraid that I wouldn&t get in, but I did, and I think everything was more than I expected. Also more work than I expected, but that was a good thing.

Tell us about your internship during your studies at UID?

The people from Toyota came to UID - they do that every year, to look at portfolios. And I got an interview, and an internship. That was pretty amazing. I was in Nagoya for two months during summer, working at Toyota Boshoku. I learned a lot, we had a lot of fun, it was challenging, and because of the language barrier you really had to communicate very clearly visually. Experiencing Japanese culture and the beautiful country was a wonderful experience.

What was your favourite project while you studied at UID?

I really enjoyed a project I did in a team together with two other product designers. It was a tram for Stockholm, we worked with the company Alstom, and they organised a trip and paid for the hotel and everything. They sent us to Stockholm first to do research, and then to France. The teamwork was great, the result was impressive, and I was really happy with the design. The design won some awards later.

How did you do in trying to find work after UID? Was your MA from UID an advantage?

I found a job pretty quickly. When I finished my degree I stayed in Umeå during the summer trying to figure out what to do next, and I was thinking of working in Stockholm, or somewhere else in Europe.

Some previous alumni from UID work at Philips Design, and have made a really good impression there. Therefore Philips Design visited the school to look at student portfolios, and then they invited me for an interview in their design studio in Eindhoven. The fact that I studied at UID has definitely opened doors for me; companies have a very good opinion of what comes out of UID.

When you got your employment at Smart Design - was that also helped by the fact that you have studied at UID?

I applied to many jobs, but it was a really difficult time to get a job because of the economic situation worldwide, it took a while. The job at Smart Design was through a headhunter. The headhunter contacted someone from Umeå actually, and that person wasn't available, but recommended me. So I got the job at Smart Design through UID too, in the end, via personal recommendation.

Is there anything you would do differently?

I think I would take a little bit more time to have some more fun... Of course I had a lot of fun, it wasn't like I didn't go out and stuff. But sometimes I worked a bit too much - it is good to take a break also, it's important.

I also think I would try to work across disciplines. I had some friends in the Interaction Design programme, and I would have liked to work more together with them, and learn from them. I am very interested in interaction.

What do you think UID uniquely offers that should make students choose it over a school that might cost less?

First of all the quality of the design at UID. Also the way the MA programmes are constructed; the kind of projects and the close collaboration with the industry UID has. The school always tries to find a sponsor for the projects, or a company that is linked to the project. This results in a much bigger sense of reality, a much bigger meaning behind it. The industry is supporting the projects and bringing knowledge. In a robotics project they bring in an expert in that field, that is a very big advantage. You acquire real experience.

Also, the mix of students is really inspiring. Besides, I think not anybody would go to a place that is kind of extreme - it takes a little bit of an adventurer to go there.

Vanessa was interviewed by Alastair Warren and Elinn Bolonassos in December 2010