Alumni Interview: Vu Minh Hieu, UX Designer & Photographer
by Larissa Petryca, on 01 February 2021 16:51:30 CET
The benefits of the British University system? Well for starters Czech art schools are lacking in practical areas, says Vu Minh Hieu, a Graphic Design graduate of Prague College. Prague College also develop multi disciplinary artists and their assignments and projects are based on the active involvement of students in real-life job briefs from local and international clients, says Vu.
The following article is translated and adapted with permission from an original article by Tereza Bíbová published 20 January 2021 in CZECHDESIGN.
You come from Vietnam, you have lived in the Czech Republic since you were three years old. How did your parents perceive studying art at university? Are there prejudices in the Vietnamese community that art is not a suitable career for their children?
The Vietnamese undoubtedly have prejudices in this regard. From markets or grocery stores, they are used to thinking in business principles. Simply put, they buy the goods they sell. That is why studying art school is too abstract for them. On the one hand, they cannot imagine the employment opportunities for a graduate, and above all, they do not believe that money can be made.
But as a UX designer, for example, I'm very interested in technology. My parents already perceived this positively and are now beginning to understand why I went to study design. Even though I'm lucky and my parents are very benevolent and supportive in this respect, they wanted me to study graphic design at the University of Economics rather than Prague College. They probably found it more mathematically oriented. But I do not regret my final choice.
At Prague College you completed a Bachelor's program in Graphic Design. Why did you decide to study at a university in the Czech Republic under the British education system?
I know a lot of friends from my surroundings, students from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, AVU or Sutnarka, where the study is focused too much on the concept and visual side of things. There is no overlap in the practical part, which is a great pity, because I think that graphic design, but also design in general, definitely deserves it. It is necessary to transfer to the student not only the visual and conceptual value, but also the business value. Specifically, I learned at Prague College, for example, communication with the client, presentation of the final project and teamwork. And for that, Prague College is very beneficial.
Many art school graduates are of the opinion that local schools do not sufficiently prepare them for practical life. Is Prague College different in this respect?
I believe so. After the first year, I completed a mandatory internship at a digital agency. In my case, I persevered in the internship and it became my job for another 5 years. During the internship was able to apply the experience I had gained during my studies, we talked about my work projects, and the school also functioned partly as a consultant, so it was an ideal combination. And when we were in class we shared and discussed our internship experience in detail.
And do you have a comparison with a classic Czech state university? I would like to know how teaching directly in studios with the British education system differs from the Czech education system, where studio teaching is already quite specific. What is its added value?
For me personally, the primary benefit is studying in English. Also the cultural diversity in each year. In general, however, I think that the difference in the approach at Prague College compared to classical studio work is in the diverse focus of students with multidisciplinary overlap. Each student devotes themselves to a different artistic medium, so I had the opportunity to work in a team with illustrators, photographers and graphic designers, for example. The creation for real foreign clients was also a benefit.
At Prague College, projects are commissioned in such a way that the goal of the project is fixed, while the medium and form through which the student processes the topic are more or less free. Is this way of studying also the reason why you are now working on two quite different types of art - photography and UX design?
Yes, I perceive that parallel. A person is not one character, label or position. In design, it is important to recognise more forms. It is positive to free yourself from computer work. I do it with photography, so it makes sense to me. At the same time, however, photography intersects with UX design. When I create a website, I specifically know which photos would fit into the concept. It is important to understand UX design in context - the appropriate combination of text, photos and illustrations to creates the best user experience.
What was the topic of your Bachelor's thesis?
In my Bachelor's thesis entitled "Empathy plays even bigger role in modern product design", I looked at design as a means by which a UX designer can evoke emotions in the end user through various structures, colours or shapes. For example, a button on a website should have certain visual parameters for the user to click on it naturally. Therefore, I was looking for various elements where and how UX design intersects with the real environment.
And do you feel more like a photographer or a UX designer?
I like to do and combine both.
How did you get into photography?
I started with graphic design and photography as a self-taught person while studying at the grammar school. Until then, I was de facto learning to create from tutorials on Youtube - photo editing and graphic design. Then I decided to focus on graphics from an academic point of view and think more conceptually. That was the reason why I applied to Prague College.
For me, photography is synonymous with stopping and detailing the world around me. I guess I needed it at some point. Sometimes I'm saturated with the digital world and photography balances it for me.
In the field of UX design, you have honed into several startups, for example, you participated in the development of the Rekola shared bike platform. What UX design project are you currently working on?
I created the platform for Rekola in the before mentioned digital studio manGoweb, which I first joined as a student intern. I worked as a graphic designer, but again it was more interdisciplinary - in my position I also took photos or filmed.
I currently work as a UX designer at Avast, where I focus on the design of a system that consists in automating the process of creating a website. We draw various components, which we sort into libraries. This system then enables a simpler process of creating a website, but above all it speeds up its design. At the same time, I am also preparing my own e-shop with Vietnamese ceramics and furniture, where I will apply my knowledge in UX design and in photography to create a brand.
You can visit Vu Minh Hieu's website and Instagram to see more examples of his photography including commissioned work.