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Graduation Speaker: Jack Johnston, Design

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Submitted on June 20, 2020 - 4:26pm
Jack Johnston
Jack Johnston

Jack Johnston received his Bachelor of Design degree in Industrial Design in June 2020. He was the Division of Design's undergraduate speaker for the School's virtual Graduation Celebration 2020. Below is the text of his speech.


Hello everyone! Good night, good afternoon, good morning, uh, good whenever you are watching this. I hope you’re doing well right now. My name is Jack Johnston. I am a Senior Industrial Design major here at the University of Washington.

My story starts as a visual arts major at a public arts magnet school. I was there for both middle school and high school, and so I developed a knack for art. Once I graduated from there, it was off to design school. I chose to study design at this liberal arts institution in a city a thousand miles away from my home in Denver, Colorado. It’s actually where I’m filming it right now.

When asked by the faculty to represent the Division of Design as this year’s graduation celebration speaker, I was first very surprised and then immediately proud to represent all of my best friends: the undergraduate design class of 2020.

Since my junior year of high school, I’ve known that I wanted to be a design major here at the University of Washington. I didn’t want to follow my friends to art institutions or conservatories — I wanted to learn about the world. I wanted to study design in a city that would support me, at a program that blew my mind.

The first time I visited the UW, I walked down the design hallways and was in awe of the work displayed. You see, I came from an art school, which means that everyone has their own way of doing things. And, most often times, that means hanging their art in really weird places. But instead, this hallway was unlike that. It was orderly, and it was perfect. It was uniquely creative with undeniable craft. It didn’t seem possible that it was all student work. This hallway was a dream.

Five years later, and this hallway has become our home. Not because I’ve spent a lot of all nighters working in the studio. Those I will miss, but that’s not why it feels like home. My perception of the design hallway has developed from complete mysticism, to pride, to comfortable nostalgia. It was the constant in our time here as Design majors, and so now I can look back and remember every project from every class.

The hallway isn’t a dream anymore, because it’s our reality. We've done it. We've taken every class, we’ve learned everything we can, and now we’re on to something else. So parents and family of this graduating cohort, I need y’all to know something: design school is hard! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, because within this program I have grown alongside some of the most talented, passionate, creative, and inspirational people I have ever known. We’ve pushed one another every single day of critique to create something better. We’ve accomplished more than we ever thought possible. And we’ve put so much of ourselves into our work. The only reason we’re still here is because we want to be.

This need to keep moving forward is a trait that I have seen in each and every one of you students. We are tenacious, we have opinions, and, with our craft, we carry a lot of responsibility. And we also share the memories of Karen saying questionable things during crit, of Ahn trying to teach us design drawing (somehow), and Audrey introducing us to the power of the design process through a 100 ways we can use a lemon.

Lastly, thank you to all the faculty who’ve helped us develop our passions. To our family and friends who have supported us in our most ambiguous situations. And to all of you for being a support system and an inspiration I could not have lived without. So stay curious, don’t run away from a challenge, and keep creating. Because it’s something that we’re all good at. I miss you all so, so much, and I look forward to when we can all be together again. Good luck and congratulations. We did it.

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