Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Nov 15, 2011
Whitney Taylor, from Wooster, Ohio, earned an M.F.A. in interactive design and game development from SCAD Savannah in 2011.
When Whitney Taylor finished her undergraduate studies in technology two years ago, she found herself struggling to incorporate more programming into her interactive web designs. "Instead of enabling my work, programming proved a roadblock, because I really didn't know how to fully control it yet," says Whitney. She began researching graduate programs to help her turn this obstacle into an asset. "I came here because SCAD offers a balance of programming and design
, so I can stay true to my aesthetic while I work on my programming."
Her time learning the ins and outs of interactive design at SCAD has provided Whitney with more than just the programming skills she came for. "I definitely feel like I'm kind of a one-stop shop now," says Whitney. "I can take a product through the entire cycle, through the idea generation phases to the sketching to the prototyping, to the testing to the final output. Before SCAD, I could come up with good ideas, but I couldn't make them happen. I never really had the tool set to do that. Now, I feel like I've truly gained all the skills I need."
Whitney has put her new skills to the test through her freelance work for clients like Nickelodeon, creating interactive games and online quizzes. She has also teamed up with other SCAD students for some of her class assignments; in one of her favorite projects, Whitney's team used an actor and a green screen to create a user interface that simulated a real person moving through the display.
She says the professors fuel the fresh concepts behind these kinds of projects by encouraging the students to work outside their comfort zones and then following up the results with thorough one-on-one feedback.
Working outside her comfort zone has led Whitney to jump into many new areas for the first time, including the fine arts. "It was a new experience, learning to call myself an artist, because I always thought of myself as just a designer and programmer," she says. She recently exhibited a new media art installation called "Digital Flux" at the Jepson Museum. The piece allowed viewers to move cubes around an interactive display to produce sounds; each time a cube moved, a different combination of audio clips resulted. "It's really a whatever-you-make-it type installation," says Whitney, who found watching the way different people interacted with her work fascinating. "Some musicians made really interesting compositions with it," she says. "Other people just had a good time playing with the computer display."
After becoming involved in this interactive sphere of digital media, Whitney began to notice that more and more of these kinds of installations were surfacing in the public arena. "It's really neat to see how this work has emerged from the museum art space for a more commercial purpose," says Whitney. "You see things now like interactive clothing advertisements in store windows, where you can walk by and move your hand to scroll through the different dresses that they have in stock. So I'm really glad to have these skills, because that's where things are definitely going."
In her time in the program, Whitney has also acquired the skill of observing those around her to analyze what new services may be needed and putting that knowledge to work in her projects. As an avid snowboarder, Whitney says she has seen many annoyed boarders continually take gloves off and put them back on again to use touchscreen phones while they're on the slopes. After observing this problem repeatedly on her snowboarding trips, she began working on a solution. The result is an app she is developing for her thesis project: SNO Touch. The app allows users to bypass their touchscreens altogether using the built-in accelerometer; tilting the device navigates through the menus and shaking it activates the camera function. Whitney has obtained a provisional patent for this system.
Before her recent graduation, Whitney received several job offers. After lengthy consideration, she accepted a position with game developer Zynga, where she now works as a user experience designer. She is excited to continue working in the interactive field, and hopes eventually to grow her freelance business XCentric Design
into a fully staffed design company. "Because of SCAD, I feel set up now for my life," says Whitney. "I can enter the industry comfortable and confident in my skill set. It's a great feeling to know you're ready."