2016 College of Design Commencement | Natalie Rethlake (B.S. Interior Design)

2016 College of Design Commencement | Natalie Rethlake (B.S. Interior Design)


When I was first introduced to the
opportunity to speak at commencement I started to reflect on my last four
years in the College of Design, and my mind drew a blank. All I could muster was the College of
Design ruined my life. Well this started as sarcas, there is
some truth to it as well. Late nights in studio and a ridiculous
amount of hours spent on projects ruined my social life. Critique shook my
confidence, deadlines ruined my sleep schedule, my appetite, and, sorry to my
roommates, often came at the expense of personal hygiene. I writhed with jealousy of my friends
who sat in 200-person lectures and could regularly skip class versus my 20-person
studio where the professor new each of us by name. And being with those same 20
people with nearly identical class schedules for four years straight often tested my patience. Design school
ruined my ability to simply be in a space without critiquing it. I can’t walk into a bathroom without
checking if they have a sanitary code base or four door opens in the direction
of egress. Andthe real kicker is that we lost the sleep and develop these
stress-related stomach ulcers over school projects. Many of which don’t actually exist and
thank goodness because they would have been astronomically over budget. There are multiple instances when I was
up working at 4am half of my fingernails missing from rogue x-acto knives
thinking, why am I doing this, why am I doing this, why am I doing this. And yet through those all-nighters I formed friendships with people I
formerly had nothing in common with. They are people I now trust with my life or
at least photoshop advice. I realized that I check if a building
meets code because i have an inherent understanding that we are responsible
for the safety and well-being for those we designed for. And those small classes
have allowed me to build relationships with professors who not only know me by
name but know aspects of my personal life. What my future goals are and want
nothing more than to help me get there. For example, every day when I would walk
into studio my professor would ask have they offered you a job yet. Every
day. Thank you, Tina Patel, that didn’t stress
me out at all. But the reality is that our professors care just as much as we
do. They were the ones answering our frantic
midnight emails and texts, for those projects that don’t exist. Design school was hard. Because the
reality of what we do in the world beyond school is hard. As design students, we are trained to look at a situation and analyze how it can be better and you
can always be better. So we push ourselves to be better, think
smarter, design ethically. We work with the intricate vocabulary of space, form,
color, light, and material. We have the power to manipulate the world we live in
and that comes with immense social responsibility. Design is art. With the explicit intent
to enable, to shelter, to direct, to comfort, to heal. We are artists that operate within a framework of
reality. Our art must be functional because people are going to interact
with it, where it, use it to navigate, live in it. The ability to articulate
experience through design is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from my
time here. This school has taught us to design with
purpose what we do is research-based and thoughtfully executed. It often looks
effortless because it is effort filled. We have all
invested so much into our work over the last few years. Both mentally and physically. To quote a
graphic design friend, “it’s not a final project if you don’t bleed”. Because of this effort we have learned
to develop a deep empathy and human understanding of our world, of each other,
of those we designed for, and those we designed with. We have been waiting for
what feels like forever to be done. Done with class, done with the semester, done
with college. Now our work is just beginning. Which is terrifying, but
exhilarating. So maybe this College didn’t totally
ruin my life. It ruined who I was, but it changed me who I am. I believe it changed all of us it matured us and challenged us to think
far beyond ourselves. The decisions we will make every day as designers deeply
affect those around us and have the potential to build the future. That
question of why am I doing this, has changed to how could I ever do anything
else? Thank you and congratulations class of
2016.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *