Shannon Lin: Design School
Gunn alumna Shannon Lin discovered graphic design through a friend after years of traditional art forms including drawing, painting and woodblock printing. Her junior year, she made the transition to focus more on digital art. Lin is now a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as a BXA Design and Decision Science major.
To apply as a Design and Decision Science major, there are additional components on top of a standard college application. Lin submitted an art portfolio containing 12 to 15 pieces in her application. “You create an art portfolio because it shows not only your creativity, but also how you utilize your skills in a way outside of your academics,” she said.
Lin’s portfolio was a blend of digital media and original acrylics centered around her mentality around psychology and biology. “Back then, my inspiration came from themes surrounding mentality and identity,” she said. “[My art was] based off my academic interest in psychology, philosophy and biology.”
In university, students have more freedom and access to spaces where they can work on projects that they are passionate about. For Lin, CMU has the ideal studio space. “I really like that I have access to a space where I focus solely on design and have people around that really love what they do,” she said. “Being around passionate people allows you to soak in their strengths and learn a lot more about what you could do. That’s something that you haven’t been able to discover as much in high school.”
Unlike typical college projects, when it comes to design projects, Lin works on having no definite stopping points besides project deadlines. The feeling that a project is not good enough and aiming for perfection can create an unhealthy mindset. Lin recalls that the perfectionist mindset has led her to pulling all-nighters. “Depersonalization is something that a lot of people
struggle to let go of,” she said.
During the spring of Lin’s freshman year, one of her finals was a group project with three other students. “We were really into the project, and we got so motivated for no reason,” she said. “We had whiteboard brainstorming sessions at 2:00 a.m., and we kept working on it all the way until presentation day. Even after the project was due, we continued working on it over the summer for absolutely no reason. We just thought it could be better.”
Lin is currently working as the design lead on a tech-based project in a club called ScottyLabs. Her project focuses on tech related events such as hackathons and software events. Although it is primarily tech-based, ScottyLabs incorporates design as well. “The design team creates the visuals for the online platforms along with the branding,” she said.
Lin advises students who are interested in applying to universities with art programs to research lots and explore what they are passionate about. “To get better, do your best to look for resources [that are related to] what you want to do,” she said. “If you’re an artist, identify what you want to create, what you’re passionate about and what you want to tell the world. If you’re more interested in design, figure out what problems you want to solve or why you do design.”