Paddl Profiles: Samuel Wang - Graphic Designer and Paddl Games Alumni

August 07, 2019
By Aaron O'Farrell

Samuel Wang is a graduate of Graphic Design from Homesglen TAFE. He is now studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Design and Business at the University of Swinburne.

1. Hi Samuel. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself? What did you study? What are some of your passions, interests and hobbies?

Hey my name is Samuel, a fellow Melbournian but originally from China. Growing up I was a shy child with a huge sense of curiosity and focus. From my mother’s account - much to her annoyance at the time - I would often be found  taking apart everything from toys, bikes and other household appliances to figure out how they worked and then reassembling them (often breaking them. Sorry Mum!) or building machines that scared the neighbourhood cats (sorry Cats!).

You would think engineering would make sensible as a career path to choose with such curiosity and madness… Nope, not for me! At the time, I was really captivated by art, with my favourite artists being Da Vinci and Monet. I was so curious about how a single image can evoke so much emotion, so I bought my brushes and paints and was on my way to walking the path of an artist, or so I thought. I didn’t make it past 6 weeks until I discovered the high art scene wasn’t for me.

I broke down what aspects of art really appealed to me and discovered what I was really interested in was “communication.” Now, looking back at that weird Chinese kid that barely spoke English, using pictures to communicate was super important to me growing up. 

It’s amazing how good visual communication design can transcend cultures and language barriers. For example, someone from Turkey can come to Australia and instantly know which bathroom to enter. That’s why I am currently studying Business and Graphic Design in the hope to come up with designs and solutions for better and more responsible communication.

As for hobbies, my field involves being stationary for long periods of time and takes a toll on your body. A good physical lifestyle is connected to a good mental lifestyle, so I am a firm believer of getting exercise and eating healthy. Outside of study I am cage fighter/MMA fighter training 3-4 times a week for fun. I like martial arts because, like design, it's also about communicating. I like to think of it as a kinetic game of questions and answers, or human chess.  Often my ideas for projects and clients come to me on the mat.


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2. We first met you at the Metro Scratch Space Challenge in September 2017 where you were part of the winning team! How would you describe this experience? Was it easy coming together and forming your solution, considering you were all from different disciplines?

Electrifying. Absolutely brilliant, going in I didn’t really know what to expect but it was very reassuring to see that Metro staff were just as passionate about coming up with the pitch as much as the participants were, and I think that passion spoke through as we came up with the winning idea. I reckon it was easy to come together quickly, as in our particular team we only had 4 members, so we skipped the initial shyness as we knew that everyone had to contribute their knowledge and expertise to be successful in this challenge. We found that, on the day, finding the solution was the easiest part of the challenge. The hardest bit was really listening to Metro and really identifying the core of what their problem was and asking ourselves if it was a problem worth solving. As always, it was an absolute pleasure to work with my team and learn from Metro and everyone’s approach to design thinking. 

 3. Since your success at the Metro Scratch Space Challenge, you continued working with Metro Trains Melbourne and Paddl Co. in subsequent projects to validate, further develop and trial the ideas that came out of the Paddl Games Challenge. What do you feel you gained most from these experiences, and how do you feel it's helped prepare you for professional work?

The importance of learning by doing, participating in real world projects, allowed me to apply my knowledge to real world situations that a textbook can’t teach you. There are so many opportunities for things to go very wrong or that exceed your expectations but that’s okay, in fact I learnt you should welcome it! Prioritising your mistakes allows those golden nuggets of knowledge to sift and you can then ask yourself how you can do it better next time.

In addition, I realised it is important to learn skills outside your comfort zone, continue with a student mindset and up-skill. Sure, you shouldn’t necessarily jump from one profession to another, but it is beneficial to specialise in one skill but also have some knowledge in other subjects. This can help you speak the same language in cross-functioning teams or with clients. With the landscape of workplace many organisations are in constant restructuring and it's not enough to just be a specialist anymore.  

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4. You then came back for more - this time joining us during the COSBOA Innovation Games (Victoria) 2018/19 series as Paddl Alumni! What was your role here? How did this experience differ from the previous ones?

Yes, it was a great opportunity. It wasn’t really any different than when I was a participant. Paddl still worked with people from different fields, still used design-thinking and empathy. The main difference I think I did was, rather than push more of my ideas, I would provide opportunities for my team to refine their ideas and identify the core problem. In addition, I paid closer attend to overall team engagement and coming up with ways to involve the quieter participants.

5. Congratulations on your graduation last year! Since graduating from your Diploma of Graphic Design at Holmesglen TAFE, we've heard that you've now started a Bachelor's Degree in Design and Business at Swinburne University of Technology. Why did you choose this course? How is it going so far and how do you think having graduated from a TAFE course already is helping you in this new phase?

Thanks, I was allowed an opportunity to continue my studies at university, so I decided to take them up on it. I was curious about the business side of things, which I had limited knowledge in, and thought that business and design go hand in hand. I’m not 100% sure what I will major in yet but Marketing seems like an area I would like to study up on. Swinburne is currently treating me very well and studying has allowed me time to work on side projects.

I think TAFE really helps develop the fundamental design skills, and self-discipline skills that help me tackle university and the workplace. At university I feel a lot more free to explore ideas using the abundant resources they offer. I think back to when I was studying TAFE, I was juggling 10 projects at once and only slept 3 hours a day. So entering university I was pleasantly surprised at the lower workload, and because I attended TAFE I had a better appreciation for time management and a knowledge of how not to waste it. 

 6. As an experienced Paddl Games Challenger, how important is it to get involved and gather experiences outside of academics and work? Would you have done anything differently?

100%. I reckon it's arguably even more important than academic study/work. No textbook can ever replace real industry experience and these events Paddl offers is a good taste of the industry. If you are hesitating to start something just because you aren’t an expert yet, then that’s the perfect time to get out there and try Paddl games or an internship. Not thinking you are good enough is the biggest mental block I experienced when I was younger, and if I knew what I do now I would have told myself to start participating a lot sooner.

 7. What advice do you have for other Paddl users or non Paddl users looking to navigate their professional journey?

I commend whoever reads this because they are already ahead of the competition - seeking out information. I think being outgoing and willing to go that extra mile is very attractive to employers. In addition, someone told me this, and I often refer back to it: Don’t focus too hard on what you are going to do or what you are going to be, and start asking Why do you do what you do and the rest will follow.

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