After graduation, Stamps senior Megan Mulholland will be joining IBM Design down in Austin, TX as a UX/Visual Designer for their software/ mobile/ cloud products. As Megan finishes up her Senior Integrative Project, we pulled her away from her computer to answer a few questions about her interactive web media project, titled “Time (and Space) Enough at Last.”
I’ve seen snapshots of your Integrative Project, but what is it all about?
So officially, my project is is an exploration of the stories behind museum objects especially as they relate to humans trying to define and control their world through belief in the supernatural/superstitions. This interactive story (via web media optimized for tablets) takes place in one of the last unconnected corners of the known world, where the last of modern, supernatural mythology lies: Roswell, New Mexico (where most of my mom's side of the family hails from, actually!)
All of the real-life counterparts of objects featured in the interactive story are on view in University of Michigan museums (UMMA, The Kelsey, etc.). The main goal of my project is to get people just as excited about visiting museums as I do by visualizing/illustrating the incredible stories behind the objects on display.
To give a short history on it, the idea came from one of the places I visited while studying abroad in London at Central St. Martins last year, Sir John Soane's House. (I actually got the nickname "Museum Girl" because I spent the majority of my free time running between museums, galleries, shows, etc.)
Soane himself was an eccentric and impressive person (architect of the Bank of England!), and you could feel his presence in the collection from what he chose and how he arranged everything. So, when I came back home to work on my IP project I wanted to incorporate the idea of exploring a room full of incredible objects with the story of an eccentric curator as a unifying factor.
How does this project relate to what you will be doing at IBM?
My project combines the kind of work I will be doing for them with the kind of work that I do for fun! It involves designing for a mobile platform (specifically the tablet/web) and designing a program that a user will interact with, and making that interaction as frictionless as possible; it also involves heavy amount of illustration, animation, storytelling and historical research, which are all things I like to geek out about in my free time (Illustration's always been a hobby - I've been a weekly editorial illustrator for The Michigan Daily for the past three years).
What has been your most influential class/experience at Stamps that led you to UI/UX design with IBM?
Hmmm... the most influential class that pushed me in this direction was probably taking Phoebe Gloeckner's eBooks class my sophomore year; it just seemed like a super-cool topic at the time, but it really informed the kind of work I continued to pursue. Specifically, it combined my interests in storytelling, graphic design, illustration and animation, and I had a blast in the class; in addition to being a fantastic illustrator/creator Phoebe is a riot, and the whole class had a fun, experimental vibe. After that class, I realized I wanted to do more with interactive media and graphic design, which led me to take other great classes that have informed my practice, both at Stamps and abroad.
How did you get into EECS (Electrical Engineering & Computer Science) here at Michigan?
I just asked! So after realizing i wanted to pursue interactive media but not quite sure how, I found a class in EECS called 'Mobile Apps for Entrepreneurs,' which was only open to Computer Science Majors with Senior standing. I got in touch with Professor Soloway, and after a few emails, he said if I could figure out how to get credit, I could act as the design consultant for the class! From there, it was up to me to figure out how I could be most helpful to the student teams. I held weekly "office hours," gave a presentation on Design Principles specifically tailored for Engineers and app design, and ran an app design blog. I learned SO much about how to work with people who think/solve problems differently. Prof. Soloway said that he saw such an improvement in the design of the student apps that he generously allowed me to work in the same capacity this semester as well -- it's been another successful semester so far, and I've really been able to build on what I learned last time around. After my IP project winds down, I really want to see if we can get more designers into the Mobile Apps class to work on individual teams (instead of 1 designer (me) for 100+ engineers!!)
Aren't you from Texas? Are you excited to go back? Were you planning to go back?
Yes ma'am! Well sort of. I actually moved from Philly to Texas in the 2nd grade, so I've never really considered myself a Texan; my little brother however, has gone full-Texas, country music and all! I think the only thing I've really picked up from Texas is throwing a y'all in my speech here and there - it's a comfy word. Like a pair of jeans on a sentence.
I wasn't planning on moving back to Texas - but after spending a semester in London and a summer working in Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to work/live somewhere full of creative people where there was always something going on, and Austin really seems to fit the bill since - from what i've heard - it lives up to its reputation as the coolest city in Texas! It's basically Ann Arbor x 10 + being the capital of Texas. So it has the hippie vibe of Ann Arbor amplified by some serious Texas attitude. Or at least this is what I've heard from all of my high school friends who love it there and never stop talking about it. To be completely honest, the last time I spent an extended amount of time in Austin was in 7th grade on our field trip to the capital. So, i'm really excited to explore the city next year!