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Graduation Speakers: Dustin Mara + Joyce Lin, Design

Submitted on June 25, 2022 - 4:54pm
Dustin Mara and Joyce Lin
Dustin Mara and Joyce Lin

Dustin Mara received his Bachelor of Design degree in Visual Communication Design in June 2022. He had a second degree in International Studies, focusing on Europe. Joyce Lin received her Bachelor of Design degree in Interaction Design at the same time. She had a minor in Art History. Each was selected for membership in the 2022 Husky 100.

Mara and Lin were the Division of Design’s undergraduate speakers for the School’s 2022 Graduation Celebration. Below is the text of their speech.


D: Hello Class of 2022, I’m Dustin,

J: and I’m Joyce,

D: and thank you Kristine for the kind words and introduction.

J: Before we start, we want to be transparent about two things: first: writing a speech like this is hard. And it’s hard for one person, so imagine writing a speech for two people.

D: It’s two hundred times as hard (and don’t ask me if that math checks out, I’m an arts major, not a math major),

J: so if we stumble, mumble, freak out or faint, please forgive us.

D: And second, we want to be transparent that we wrapped up this speech yesterday, which in retrospect is highly reflective of how we work as design students — we consistently struggled all quarter only to pull it together in the last week, mainly the last evening.

J: It is also reflective of how busy our final quarter at UW was, planning our capstones, executing our capstones, installing our capstones, and finally presenting them.

D: This last-minute-ness also reflects the friendship that Joyce and I share — both in the way we met, the way we work, and the way we hang out.

J: It’s not procrastination, it’s just knowing the style in which we function...

D: so essentially yes, procrastination.

J: Dustin and I first met in a last minute critique right before the first deadline of our UW design lives. There was a very short exchange where we introduced one another

D: and I complimented Joyce’s hair — which I’m going to do again right now — like come on, look at it, buzzed and bluey-purple. Iconic.

J: And then after that, we didn’t talk the rest of the quarter... off to a great start aren’t we?

D: The next quarter was Design Methods, which consists of a very extensive quarter-long group project.

J: In the midst of forming teams with people, there was confusion and anxiety between our groups and who would be with who. We did some very last minute swapping and we found ourselves committed to each other for 10 weeks.

D: Both groups, I’m happy to say, found our closest friends through that quarter and produced amazing projects.

J: During that quarter, it felt like the worst. We consistently butted heads, argued over research and couldn’t decide where to put the colorful blobs so that our posters looked organic yet put-together, but also care-free yet precise.

D: (If you have never talked to a designer, describing your work with juxtaposing adjectives essentially means I don’t know what I’m doing, yet I do know what I’m doing.)

J: All of those Wednesday nights staying up until 2AM for Thursday presentations showed one another our true colors. Little did we know that in two years those 2AMs would turn into 4AMs and eventually they would turn into leaving the studio at sunrise — like last week... or even last night preparing this speech.

D: And with every hour added to our day, we began to know one another better and better — we understand the smallest of nuances in each others voice, the sounds we make when we agree or don’t agree, and the mannerism that say okay this has gone too long and we need to call it quits. In a sad, yet joyous way (adjective yet adjective) We know each other better than we could say we know our own families.

J: In retrospect, those were the last few moments of innocence and bliss. Moments where the only thing that mattered were if the poster should be landscape or portrait, and if the font we picked was legible and accurate to our project.

D: That the only things we cared about were where we’d work that day and where we’d get boba after to celebrate. The last time we could say we were just children, going about everything, knowing the consequences would indeed be inconsequential.

J: The day we had our last Friday critique, was the day the University told us that the school was going to shut down for two weeks due to a global outbreak of an unknown virus. This was also the day we had to submit what concentration we wanted to go into.

D: So, if deciding what kinds of design careers we wanted to start wasn’t hard enough — we also had to last-minute move out of our dorms, get projects completed before facilities shut down, and shift our deliverables to fit the new online format.

J: And at the end of the day we did all that, and arguably it could have been one of the most successful and strange winter quarters the design program would experience...

D: and then spring break happened and we all went home thinking we’d be back on campus at the beginning of spring.

J: But we didn’t.

D: We stayed home, and we saw each other on this strange new platform called Zoom where we had to yell out our profs that they were or weren’t muted and that screen sharing a YouTube video was just not going to happen.

J: We learned what synchronous and asynchronous meant, and we all became Figma pros. We battled through racial injustices, a mental health crisis and a global pandemic. Things that we brought to the forefront of our design education.

D: Our senior show is aptly named Design as Disruption — and oh boy did we do that.

J: The racial injustices didn’t stop at design’s doorstep, we made a point that design and design history favors the wealthy, the white, and the men. And so we shifted our understanding of the status quo — great design can come from anywhere and anyone, not just from Europe. We learned what made each other and ourselves special, using new forms of empathy to design solutions that fit the needs of the people and not just those who would hand out good grades, praise, and awards.

D: The mental health crisis taught us that it’s okay to not be okay. The isolation, the monotony, and the fear of the unknown got to each and everyone of us. The creative vacuum and the imposter syndrome got really real — really fast. We were doing the most, but at the same time doing nothing at all. A Zoom call, a Figma file, and a supportive faculty can only go so far in helping students isolated from each other.

J: As a result, we helped start a new student organization within the design program called Design Health & Wellbeing, later shortened to DesCare cause it’s way easier to say and sounds way cooler. We tried our best to bring design students into a space that felt like the studios of our beloved design hallway. There isn’t a way to know if DesCare truly helped or not, but we like to think that it did, and that it will pass on the spirit of this resilient design community to future cohorts.

D: The global pandemic taught us how to be resourceful and crafty. We were designing fonts, experiences, and soft goods, and many other things with the random scraps that lay around our bedrooms.

J: We learned how rapid change and ambiguity can define how we create and solve problems as designers. We didn’t get that full studio experience like classes before us, but we surely tried to get the most out of our bedrooms, garages, and kitchen counters.

D: During the pandemic our homes became our studio,

J: but in senior year, our studio became our home.

D: This last fall, for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, all 58 of us were back in the second floor hallway of the Art Building.

J: Our understanding of design expanded and shifted as we re-learned how to interact in person.

D: Can we hug?

J: Do we bump elbows?

D: Can we share X-Acto knives and Sharpies?

J: Can we drink in front of each other?

D: How many of us can even be in this room?

J: It was like navigating those first moments of the pandemic all over again. We know we all really wanted to get comfortable being in our studio — in our space —but the reality was we were uneasy for so long.

D: We didn’t know if the person we partnered would be contagious.

J: If a single mask was enough protection.

D: Or even if the University was going to send us all back home for ‘two weeks’.

J: It was all up in the air.

D: That is, until it wasn’t.

J: Our familiarity with one another grew stronger and stronger. Eventually we’d learn to trust each other to be smart enough to not come to class with symptoms. That a week online after break is all it takes to mitigate future campus spreads. And how to communicate and help each other when exposed.

D: By the end of it we were able to see people full faces again. We began to re-associate people with their style and height over what their Zoom background was. As comfortable as we were designing on Zoom, we became even more comfortable with one another in the studio.

J: We leaned on each other to face the highs and lows of designing in person.

D: Before we knew it, we truly were back together again, sitting in the same room we had spent hours on hours painting tiny little squares to make 5x5 grids as sophomores.

J: And just like that, we were planning a senior show.

D: Our senior show.

J: Something we didn’t think would happen in person. So much of that planning period taught us that the transition from online to in-person made us who we are as a cohort.

D: We honestly struggled to communicate, get ideas across, and find solutions we all agreed upon, a result of working isolated in our bedrooms for a majority of our education,

J: which on the flip side made us ambitious and determined to put together the best show the design program has ever seen.

D: And we like to think we did exactly that.

J: This senior show was an experience we will all be grateful for since the reality is it’s the first ‘real’ ‘normal’ show that has and will happen for a while. We got a real exhibition space, and made real projects, that all look really freaking good.

D: We got to bond over the missing experiences we were robbed of during what were supposed to be the peak years of college. We spent ungodly amounts of time in our studio working but also laughing over projects, and we spent huge amounts of money going out and having fun like college kids should. We lived like it was going to taken away from us again, because the truth is it could’ve been.

J: Class of 2022, with all these ceremonies, shows, and goodbyes it feels as if this is the end. But recently we've been reminded that it really is just the beginning.

D: Joyce and I want you to remember what it was like to have your whole life and all its stability taken away from you, leaving you to face the unknown. And we want you to remember what happened when it was finally given back.

J: We didn’t have regrets because we acted with truth and power. We didn’t live vicariously, because we were living the lives others were vicarious about. We chose to suggest the wildest, out-there, impossible ideas, because Class of 2022 that’s who we are.

D: We boldly face the unknown and we come out stronger — through all the difficult times that will come we know we continue to have each other.

J: Whether you are in this crowd as an art historian, an artist, a designer, or a supporter of the likes...

D: We want you to remember these last few years as clearly as you can, the lessons we learned, the things we put up with, and the people who were there for us, because these are what will define us for the years to come.

J&D: Class of 2022, thank you and congratulations.

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