Kiera VanGulden: Finding My Passion in Industrial Design

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Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello everyone, my name is Kiera VanGulden and I am from Long Island, NY. I am a 22-years-old Senior studying Industrial Design at Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT). I participated in volleyball until my Sophomore year and I am currently part of an on-campus honors fraternity.

What got you interested in majoring in Industrial and Product Design?

At first, I had no clue what Industrial design was. The reason why I selected WIT was because of volleyball. The coach here was recruiting me for the team, and I was pretty set on attending. Knowing that at WIT I would have to select a major before I could commit, I did a little research.

Throughout my life, I have always had learning difficulties, whether it was not reading at a high-level or always needing tutors to do well on the test. You name it I struggled with it. After thinking about that, I knew an engineering or business major was not for me. So I looked at my other available options: Architecture, Interior, and Industrial Design.

My mom and I sat down and discussed it for a while before she made the final call. She believed that I belonged in Industrial Design. I was always artistic and loved making things, so Industrial Design was a good fit. When I started my freshman year, it clicked and became my passion. So in summary, I got interested in Industrial Design was because of my mom’s intuition and knowing that I wanted to play volleyball at WIT.

What advice would you give to students interested in majoring in Industrial and Product Design?

My advice to students wanting to study Industrial Design is letting them know that it is not just arts and crafts. This major is actually really hard in the beginning because there is a huge learning curve. I would say if you love drawing, art, making products and have the motivation to continue after receiving a couple of Cs on your grade this major is for you.

We took a look at your portfolio, are there any projects you would consider your “favorite”. Could you tell us why?

Ahhh my portfolio! It is still a huge work in progress, but I do have a couple of favorite projects on there. It would most likely be my stool project that I created Sophomore year and the watch project that I did on my last internship. Both of those had their own unique challenges, but I was really happy with the outcome of both. For my stool project, it was definitely a challenge learning all the shop tools. I was able to learn how to use a router, drill press, and table saw (which actually gave me a fractured rib, but don’t let that scare you away, it was my fault). After learning all of that, it was amazing to see something turn from a flat sheet of wood to an organic rocking stool.

My second project, my watch, was the most fun for me because it really showed what I could create to fit in a very specific brand. This one was great because I focused on drawing and rendering. It was also very challenging because I had to design it using SolidWorks, which took about two weeks of screaming at my laptop and a lot of help from one of my favorite CAD teacher.

Do you have any inspirations?

My biggest design inspiration is to work for a large product design company in a big city. My other non-design related inspiration is to just be happy in life, make some money, and have a greatly decorated apartment with some fuzzy animals.

How has your very impressive background in design shaped both your work and school work?

I was always very insecure about my design work. I felt like I needed to blend in, get good grades, and not call attention to what I was doing because I didn’t want people to say I wasn’t good enough. Once I got my first internship designing watches for Michael Kors, that mindset shifted. I started feeling like I could do so much more. I ended up winning a logo contest at my school and then learning amazing things on that internship.

Going into my first summer semester I felt invincible and was able to create a really cool furniture piece (to be revealed in my new portfolio 2019) and get my next amazing internship at Blue Cross Blue Shield MA on the innovation team. And here I am now! I feel so much more confident in what I create and am less afraid to push the boundaries.

What tips would you give to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about what other people might say about me and to just do what I want to do.

Any design tips you would like to give to the STEAM Boston community?

I would say that design is everywhere, embrace it, learn from it and most importantly appreciate it.

What’s your favorite food?

Well right now I’m on a crazy strict diet, but when I am not its 400% lasagna. It’s my Dads super secret recipe, and it is honestly the best!

What is your favorite place in Boston?

Back Bay Fens, I always go and feed the geese even though it has a sign that says not to interact with the waterfowl (don’t tell on me)

Connect with Kiera on LinkedIn!


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