2021 Hot New Things: Nicola Pfister, AUT
Today we speak with Nicola Pfister, AUT’s school of Art and Design
Was there someone (or something) that inspired you to pick design as a career path?
In 2016, I took a gap year in Switzerland where I interned at a Design Studio and I learned how to do sublimation printing and operate a laser machine. During this time, I was introduced to the exciting maker culture, which ignited the artisan in me. It was this experience that encouraged me to study a Bachelor of Design at AUT. Throughout my time at AUT, I have developed a passion for mixing traditional mediums with technology, motion graphics, AR, UX design, and packaging.
Can you tell us what your graduation project focused on?
My final year project explored financial well-being among young people in New Zealand. ‘Nest’ is a money-management mobile application that aims to motivate and encourage young people to improve their relationship with their money. The goal is to create good financial habits that will help them to achieve their financial goals and ultimately promote financial well-being. A human-centered design approach was used to understand financial well-being. Throughout the project, experts and prominent voices in the personal finance industry were interviewed to provide real-world constraints and the target audience was surveyed to better understand their relationship with their money.
What were some of your most exciting or unexpected discoveries to come out of your project?
I think the most exciting discovery was designing for a real social issue in the midst of an economic downturn. Financial well-being and personal finance were hot topics during the first nationwide lockdown. As a result the stigma around money was lessened as a lot of people were in the same boat financially and this opened up the discussion about how we manage money.
What did you enjoy most during your course at AUT?
I enjoyed being based at AUT south campus. I particularly enjoyed collaborating with people on projects, being able to drive to campus, a great $3 lunch, the small class sizes, and the quality of teaching.
What was your biggest challenge while studying and how did you overcome it?
By far the biggest challenge was shifting from the campus to studying online for most of this year because of the two lockdowns. Going through this period of uncertainty and frequent breaks from study was challenging to maintain the momentum of my project. As I adjusted to working online, I was able to create new workflows and routines which helped immensely.
What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your studies?
It is hard to pick just one lesson I’ve learnt throughout my time at AUT. One of the most valuable lessons I learned is the ability to be critical and how to take on board constructive feedback. Being able to objectively be critical about my work and taking feedback in order to push my projects and ideas further is vital.
How has your ability and confidence progressed since the beginning of your studies?
At the start of my course I was unsure of my ability as a designer but with each project I became more confident as I learned new tools, processes, and thinking patterns. Knowing my strengths and being pushed out of your comfort zone is a great confidence builder too!
What does your creative process look like?
I have recently come across Design Sprints by Jake Knap and have enjoyed utilising sprints in my creative process. I find this a great way to generate ideas quickly and for testing validity. Developing a portfolio piece usually looks like researching and gathering information about the brief, figuring out where my skill level is at and deciding if I need to upskill. From there it is all about idea generation and testing, collaborating with stakeholders and receiving ongoing feedback- it is an ongoing cycle rather than a linear approach.
How do you see your work and practice developing, and what are your main aspirations?
I see my practice developing through learning and upskilling continuously. As a Junior Designer at the beginning of my career, it is more important than ever to be upskilling. In the future, I hope to find a mentor and network with other like-minded individuals. I would also like to develop my practice by learning coding to work with front-end and back-end development of websites and applications.
Which piece in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
This is a hard one but if I had to pick one it would be the group project I was a part of this year. My team designed an application called ‘Nudge’, which was aimed at motivating and preparing young people for employment opportunities. I am proud that this project was done remotely during the first nationwide lockdown and that we were awarded finalists at the Best Awards. My favourite pieces of work in my portfolio are the projects that focuses on human-centred design and has a social design component.
How (if at all) do your interests outside of design inform the work in your portfolio?
A major reason I chose to do my final graduation project on a money-management application was because of my interest in personal finance, behavioural psychology and technology. Beyond that I am also just passionate about learning new processes and technologies. When I look back on my portfolio which includes publication design, packaging design, UX design, augmented reality, and Virtual reality 360 video – I always chose to push myself in areas that I was a complete novice in.
Why did you choose to study at AUT, and what do you feel you can take away now that you’ve completed your course?
This is an interesting one. Before deciding to study at AUT, I considered doing the self-taught route. While I definitely believe it is possible to go successfully down that route I am glad I chose to go to AUT. There is no substitute for the real experience needed like collaboration, presenting ideas, and networking.
How are you feeling about the future?
I am very excited about what the future holds! As a student I was always looking forward and envisioning working in the design industry. Now that I have graduated, I am still just as excited about the future.
What does your dream job look like?
I had aspirations to land a job in both the Design and Technology industry and I am so excited to say that I have recently landed my dream job as a Junior Designer at Journey. For me, a dream job is not just about loving the work you do and being part of an awesome team, but also being in a role where I am constantly learning and growing.
How can people get in touch and see more of your work?
Feel me to get in touch with me at email@example.com, my current portfolio at nicolazpfister.myportfolio.com, and on Instagram @ziona_makes.