Designing Media, Designing the Self

The Eugene Lang Courtyard at The New School.
The Eugene Lang Courtyard at The New School.

When I told people about my biggest fears going into graduate school, I mentioned group work and “filming things.”

I chose to go to The New School in large part because its Media Studies program features a design element and involves hands-on production experience. As happens, the most exciting and fear-provoking parts overlapped.

My aversion to group work had roots in the classic Growing Up Introverted story. As for film, I think I just conceived of it as something alien to me. I am more interested in the written word and visual design, but I understand the program’s intent to give students a broad-based competency in all possible media forms.  I knew I would do some group and film work, but looked at those steps as inevitable hurdles to overcome.

One day I walked into Media Design class with a storyboard I was convinced would not be one of the three we would develop into a short film, and walked out as a director.

From where I am today, having finished the class and the project, I can drop a link to “The Photobomber,” and say it was a great experience working with a team to make this thing happen. This is true.

If I were to put myself in my own shoes from a few months ago (spoiler alert: they are the same shoes), I would feel the acute panic of someone who was asked to step outside her comfort zone, again. My zone of proximal development had expanded so much during the semester that I felt the pain of the stretch. And being the leader of a team was the culmination of a series of steps outside the well-worn path that marked my professional life before this stage.

I tried my best with “The Photobomber,” giving a type of effort I had never given to a project. Being a director requires a vision of the whole, so I had to be very specific about how the scene was going to play out, while at the same time being aware of the different strengths every team member was bringing to the work. In the future I am excited to develop more as a leader, not in the old-school, “top-down” form of leadership, but the type that empowers and builds up everyone involved.


On the last day of class, I was reading “There’s Nothing Funny About Design” by David Barringer on my commute and came across a quote that encapsulated everything I was feeling – “A designer’s greatest design may be the creation and development of her own personality.”

It was a rare moment of synthesis and left me inspired. The craft of film is worth crafting, together instead of alone.

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