The importance of design in a Master’s degree course‍
The importance of design in a Master’s degree course‍
Miguel Ferreira, 15 August 2022
The importance of design in a Master’s degree course
For the last 4 years, I’ve been trying to uphold my passion for design in my university works. I’m now going to my second, and last year, of my Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering and which moment could be best to do a retrospective of these last years? Let’s start!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been always very passionate about design. For me, every single detail matters. I remember the joy when I bought my first iPhone (after having every single Galaxy phone from the first one until the 4th), and I remember feeling the stiffness of the mute button, the physical feedback that it provided that was very different from the mushy feeling from the Galaxy buttons. After so many years of not understanding why such a big company couldn’t use a good set of buttons, I now found that other companies could do it correctly.

Similarly, it still brings a great deal of joy to me when I think about all the thoughts that I had then when I understood for the first time that there were indeed phones with icons with great design, and where it was obvious that there was a thought process behind their construction with the intent of building something that could provide some sort of feelings to the end user and with the end goal of maybe, become a timeless design.

For me, design is much about feelings as it is about detail, but ultimately, it is a way of thinking.

Coding in an elegant way, creating beautiful slide decks, or building top-notch products, are all actions that have something in common: a way of thinking that incorporates a basilar principle where everything we do should encompass a preoccupation for design.

Most of us think of design just as graphical design, using Figma or Sketch, or knowing how to pair fonts, but, I think of it in a much broader way. Caring about design is simply a different way of living.

So, about design in my master’s course…

In every curricular unit that I had where there was a project, two characteristics stood out:

  • My project was always in the top projects (in terms of grades)
  • It was, as far as I know, the only work that cared about design and making something elegant. And this was true no matter the topic: from a Natural Language Processing project to a Parallel Computing one.

Apart from one project that I did alone, all others were made in groups. It is acceptable, and expected even, that each person assigns a different level of preoccupation with design, even more after the introduction I did above. As the reader (🙂) can understand, there was a big gap between the importance I gave to design and the other group members' assigned importance.

I’ve found out that (as one could expect) people can indeed evaluate good design and notice when something stands out. Most people simply don’t care that much about it to do good design. And that's ok!

It is important to have in mind that when I do work with good design, I believe that a very strong foundation is needed, in the case of these academic projects, this foundation is whatever the assignment was.

In my work, I’ve always tried to push the envelope. Whereas, for example, in an Autonomous Agents project, trying to create more agents, or in a Parallel Computing project battling furiously to reduce the execution times! And, deep down, I believe that this is all connected. My work ethic with my academic dedication and my eye for design.

What I’m trying to convey is that my work wasn’t only well-designed work, but also well-thought work in terms of its theory. I’m pressuring this idea that design is not something independent. I do believe that I like to have well-designed projects because I also have very good underlying research, and I also believe that I have very good underlying research because I like to have very well-designed projects.

Confused? Well, so am I...

Nice talk. Now show us something!

Assuming that you've played a bit with the slideshow above, I hope that you are now starting to grasp what I mean when I say that I love design. For sure my designs aren't the best I've ever seen (or you, I'm sure), however, I think that they are already very distinctive of who I am and, this I know for sure, even though there are surely other students doing better design, I doubt they are Engineering (namely Computer Science) students.

This is the point. The junction of engineering with design. Amazing developers and engineers are doing some brutal design. The only problem is that they are few. There should be more attention being given to the importance that design has in Computer Science (and more broadly in the Engineering world).

In the first image of the slideshow, I'm showing you an image of one of my posters, for a university project. This one I'm particularly proud of as it goes very well with the topic at hand (distributed computing) and I also think it is, indeed, quite elegant and creative.

In the remaining images, I either show other posters or some overall screenshots of some of the designs I've incorporated in my reports. The third image, for example, on the left-most figure, has a screenshot of one of my boards in Figma where I design most of my graphics. As you can see I do a LOT of experimentation.

Some others are a little bit more creative. The last one I'm particularly proud of! I've never done any type of design with 3D elements however, I had a very strong idea of the design I wanted to have, as such I had to search for some tools that could allow me to reach my goal. For it, I found Spline, where I did the design! I hope you like it.

Good. What now?

Design is not an accessory, it is mandatory. To live a complete life, for me, I need to always give my best for design (not only design, but that's for another blog post).

Deadlines are obviously to be respected and met, but not to the detriment of design. Whatever it may be: code design, graphical design, you name it.

But well, now it's time to say goodbye! I hope to have enlightened you, the reader, a little bit about my passion for design. Also, as this was my first blog post and as I am not that used to writing in English, I hope that you could somehow reach this point without quitting due to my writing abilities!

August 2022