Alumni stories: Yifan at Idean

Our CoID alumnus Yifan Zhang works as an Interaction Designer for Idean in Finland. He has been driven by his passion and allows us some insights into his work and mind.

Yifan, when and what did you study at Aalto?

I studied from August 2013 until December 2016, with CoID being my major and IDBM being my minor.

What did you do before you came to Aalto and what made you want to study here?

I was studying Machine Design and Media Design during my Bachelor study back in Shanghai, China, and I got bored of designing products for just improving the efficiency and reliability, as well as creating something visually appealing. Therefore, I started looking for a Master program that teaches user-centered design and design thinking. As Aalto has a great reputation for design education, I sent my application.

Where do you currently work and what does the company do, what’s their specialty?

I am currently working as an Interaction Designer in Idean Finland. Idean is a global UX design firm that works with the world’s leading companies, helping them to create long-lasting relationships with their customers, through truly enchanting and elegant experiences.

My role includes:

  • conducting cross-culture user research studies in Europe and Asia
  • creating and validating the interaction model of digital services
  • facilitating Design Sprint workshops
  • organizing internal competence development sessions
Yifan workshopping

How did you learn about them and how tough was it to get hired?

A friend of mine shared his experience with me of working in Idean. Later, I checked the project cases on Idean’s website and went to an off-line event.

To get into Idean, I had a couple of rounds of face-to-face interviews and was asked to complete a design task; and I showed them all I got.

What do you like most about your work at Idean and as an Interaction Designer?

First of all, the culture and the people – Idean prioritizes employee’s well-being to project work. Second, I feel privileged to be surrounded by talented designers, who are great at what they do and willing to spend time sharing their experience. Moreover, I enjoy the diverse design projects I have been doing, not to mention that I am lucky enough to have the chances to conduct international field studies every once in a while.

Idean trip to Paris
Field study in Jakarta

You have been a Service Designer, UX Designer and now Interaction Designer – were there any major differences for you, or is it more or less the same work?

The focus of the three roles might be different depending on the company and the projects; however, they share the purpose —  creating value for people and impact on business by design. From my experience, the UX Designer and Interaction Designer roles in the digital field are similar. Specifically, the major responsibility of both is to design the information architecture and wireframes of digital projects or services, along with some user research or user testing activities. Meanwhile, Service Designer work emphasizes more on the entire system, the stakeholders and the value proposition.

You have worked in startups before, what made you decide to work in a design agency now?

The one-year experience in co-founding a startup taught me initiative, ownership, commitment, and perseverance. After graduation, I was looking for new challenges to learn about UX design in the digital world.

Idean at Grand One 2018

How do you think your studies have helped you prepare for your current job? 

120%. I wasn’t a designer before I applied to Aalto. To be more specific, I am listing the factors that helped me:

  • Project-based courses and curriculum
  • Multi-disciplinary teamwork experience
  • Peer learning from talented CoID folks with mixed culture background
  • Excellent CoID graduates and alumni
  • Strong IDBM network
  • Smart and easy-going professors: e.g. Oscar, Sampsa
  • Nice and supportive staff like Aila and Osse

One of those questions: What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

10 years? I have never thought about it. Probably doing some exciting with my friends somewhere on the planet.

What can you recommend to students who are anxious about finding a job after graduation?

Tips based on my experience:

  • Demonstrate your work in a creative and constructive way.
  • Ask for feedback from your peers and mentors.
  • Highlight your superpower and uniqueness.
  • Show your confidence and passion in the interviews.
  • Enjoy the journey and believe the job offer will come eventually.

To be honest, I was also anxious while seeking jobs, but looking back I have had so many learnings along the way.

Besides, I am still very grateful to the ones who offered me support at that time.