There are many strange and wonderful directions that life takes us. We make decisions that affect our personal lives and career paths, often happening without complete certainty. It’s human nature to have doubts about our futures, but when given the tools to be able to embrace challenges and adapt to them with conviction and fortitude these challenges become opportunities. Destination Imagination (DI) gave me those tools by teaching me to think differently when approaching obstacles and discovering innovative solutions.
In my field of industrial design, decision-making is done rapidly and with purpose. If a design isn’t working, we immediately alter it or find ten new directions that fulfill our project needs. In these brief moments of deliberation, we consider form, function, and identity. It comes down to an instinct. Not a feeling, but an informed and professionally-educated instinct. Destination Imagination taught me to think on my feet in high-pressure situations and form these instinctual solutions.
Whether I’m making decisions professionally in design, or personally in my life, being able to trust an instinct is everything. DI gives students a distinct creative advantage as they move into their respective career paths, providing them with the confidence and determination to test ideas that others label as “outlandish” or “impractical.” Some of my best ideas thus far have been laughed at far before they were considered innovative.
To the current and subsequent generations of young creative minds: Don’t lose your identity as a thinker to people who may not understand you at first. Be patient with them and be patient with yourself. More often than not the best ideas aren’t immediate; they take time to reach fruition. On the other hand, don’t be conceited. The moment you think you know more than everyone else is the moment in which you stop learning. Stay humble and be open to input from your peers and professionals. To the current and subsequent generations of young creative minds: Don’t lose your identity as a thinker to people who may not understand you at first. Be patient with them and be patient with yourself. More often than not the best ideas aren’t immediate; they take time to reach fruition. On the other hand, don’t be conceited. The moment you think you know more than everyone else is the moment in which you stop learning.
Stay humble and be open to input from your peers and professionals. Surround yourself with people who challenge you to work harder and smarter. Work with as many people of complementary backgrounds to exchange wisdom for wisdom, and experience for experience. Take the initiative to show experts something they may not know. The faster you can grow your creative network the quicker you’ll progress as a creative thinker. Recently, I had the opportunity to design and develop a product of my choosing for a class in my graduate program. Working from a blank slate is always an interesting opportunity since there aren’t any limitations to the project’s direction. In my master’s program I’m specializing in product design that utilizes emerging technologies to create new and meaningful experiences for people. Industrial designers have the ability to impact an audience on a global scale and it’s important to me that my work creates a positive social impact. I ended up creating an epinephrine auto-injector that eliminates the negative social stigma associated with carrying a medical device and that also creates a paradigm shift in the way in which we receive professional medical care. By breaking down and analyzing the problems with current epinephrine and other medicinal delivery devices, similar to the way problem solving is implemented in DI, I was able to discover an entirely new way of assuring user safety.
When the user senses an allergic reaction, the new auto-injector can be quickly accessed to inject epinephrine into their muscle tissue, temporarily neutralizing the reaction. Upon injection, the device triggers its smartphone-integrated application to notify 911 emergency services of the user’s exact location, allergy susceptibility, and personal information. This helps to expedite and reduce onsite emergency response time, thus saving lives. I was fortunate enough to win an international design award for this project.
Without the eight years of Destination Imagination that allowed me to conceptualize and build in a completely raw and creative environment, I don’t believe I’d be accomplishing the things I am today.
While life’s decisions get more complex and difficult to make, it’s important to approach each one with an open mind and the confidence to take on new challenges. As for myself, I’m continually grateful for the experiences that have sculpted me thus far and am excited for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Yale Shaw grew up in Fairfield, Iowa. He currently is working on his master’s degree in industrial design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA. To see more about Yale’s projects and design work, please visit yaleshaw.com.