Student Voices

How do you spend your days at KMD?
What are your dreams for the future? Five students speak their mind.

Saeko Higuchi (Japanese)
Second-year master’s student
Real Project: OIKOS

Kengo Hosaka (Japanese)
Second-year master’s student
Real Project: OIKOS

Xinyu Hu (Chinese)
Second-year master’s student
Real Project: Global Education

Tanner Person (American)
Second-year master’s student
Real project: Embodied Media

Satoshi Matsuzono (Japanese)
Second-year master’s student
Real project: Embodied Media
Why did you all decide to enroll at KMD?

Saeko: While at the Faculty of Law, I came across the design thinking of the at Stanford University. As my interest deepened, I realized that I wanted to design useful mechanisms for society and felt that KMD would be the perfect place.

Kengo: Although I studied economics at a university in New Zealand, I was also actively involved in drama and stand-up comedy. I chose KMD as somewhere I could tackle social problems from both the angle of economics and the performing arts.

Xinyu: Since participating in an exchange program at Keio while at an American university, I have wanted to work in Japan. I entered KMD in order to acquire the necessary skills and to learn specialist terminology

Tanner: I studied cognitive science and psychology at University of California, Santa Cruz. I chose to study at KMD because I wanted to learn more about design for virtual reality, as well as to situate myself in an environment and culture I was not familiar with.

Satoshi: I was at a university specializing in engineering and had an opportunity to participate in an internship at KMD. That experience and the sense of fulfillment I had from creating things by considering how design benefits society and who it makes happy motivated me to study at KMD.

What is life at KMD usually like?

Saeko: Because the required subjects run until October in the first year, every day was group work and discussions. From the Fall Semester, everyone is mainly focused on the Real Projects. I belong to Professor Naohito Okude’s “OIKOS” project. It is hard because I am at the school five days a week for meetings and study groups while also away increasingly often for consultations with companies.

Xinyu: The laboratories vary considerably. I am involved in Professor Keiko Okawa’s “Global Education” project. As we often run workshops for designing educational internships, teamwork is indispensable. I am usually at the university where I can get hold of various people to hear specialist opinions and exchange information.

Tanner: Although I also make use of dedicated facilities like the Project Room at the university, I spend most of my time at Embodied Media’s Haptic Design Lab in Shibuya (laughter). I felt KMD’s “Innovation Pipeline” classes were hectic sometimes. In one of them, I took on a new challenge to build a virtual reality experience using a traditional form of performance art called Poi, and there was also a program tackling difficult corporate issues.

Satoshi: There was also the time I was so busy just before submitting a paper to a conference that I couldn’t go home for a week. Because Associate Professor Kouta Minamizawa’s project bases its activities both at KMD and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, I go to Odaiba 2-3 days a week. Since this project seeks sociable individuals who are able to work together with business people, there are different stimuli from being at the university.

Have there been any events that left a lasting impression?

Satoshi: The “crash course” camp held immediately after admission for three days and two nights was especially memorable. I quickly learned through this experience to work together with people from different backgrounds in order to create something new. Also, everybody could hold their drink, including the teachers (laughter). It felt like a place where you have to clearly switch on and off as even if everyone drinks until the early hours, courses still start at 9 a.m.

Xinyu: The crash course also aims to shatter the stereotypes held by new entrants. The camp challenges you to overcome obstacles.

Saeko: For me, helping to run the KMD Forum was a great experience. Preparations begin from June for the forum which is held in November. All aspects of this event are built at the hands of students, including its marketing and design. Unless the students take responsibility and get to work, nothing happens. There was such a sense of achievement at being able to collaborate beyond the regular frameworks of the laboratories.

Is there smooth interaction with the international students?

Tanner: When there is a shared goal of carrying out the projects together, I don’t think you feel as much of a language barrier, but I definitely should be studying Japanese more! In any case, there are many instances during the Real Projects where things go well when mixing English and Japanese.

Xinyu: Although I am also an international student, I participated in a design program up to the completion of a prototype at Stanford University after entering KMD. A willingness to cooperate with others is needed wherever you are, not just at KMD.

Saeko: I participated in the GID program for roughly a year, studying design at the Royal College of Art in London and the Pratt Institute in New York for one semester each. The completely different way of progressing with a project compared to Japan was stimulating. Perhaps the best thing about KMD is not only that there are many international students, but that you can experience studying abroad for yourself

Kengo: I took advantage of the CEMS program and went to Canada in the first semester and a business school in Singapore in the second semester for three months each. Interacting with students from thirty-one countries has been a valuable experience as I could grasp my strengths and weaknesses objectively and discern the direction I want to take in the future.

Are there any students who work?

Saeko: I think about ten percent of the students work. There is even a working mother who has started her own business, and compared to other universities I feel there are many such students.

Xinyu: Some people start businesses at KMD, others deepen their specialist research for their thesis, while others still build up their network of contacts for work.

Satoshi: I think people are able to continue their studies even when busy because you can view all of the classes via the video archive. It is very convenient as you can also access past classes. On the other hand, I feel nervous about having my thesis presentation kept on there too (laughter).

Did you feel any gap between your expectations before and the reality after entering KMD?

Tanner: Because KMD is a graduate school, I had an image of me often doing research alone. Actually though, my communication skills have improved, not only in terms of language but also communication in a business sense, such as the ability to skillfully express my ideas in presentations. Moreover, the tremendous feeling I had being able to realize something I couldn’t achieve on my own through working together with people who each have different talents was greater than I imaged. On a personal level, not only can I use software, but learning to think about hardware as well was also important.

Xinyu: I agree. Before entering KMD I thought it would be a problem not having any design skills. However, I learned it was actually okay to seek help from those around when doing the projects. The students all help each other out.

Satoshi: There are many people here who are highly attentive and everyone is positive.

Saeko: When I first entered KMD I was struck by just how different the way of thinking of some people could be. However, to the extent that what I had considered common sense didn’t apply, I also felt I grew as a person when accepting new values.

What advice do you have for people thinking about applying to KMD?

Saeko: It is important not to be afraid of personal change. I want people to enjoy the experience of changing by not being too rigid in their opinions, coming in to contact with many ideas, and having an interest in them.

Xinyu: Hiyoshi is a fun town and kind to foreigners. I recommend living close to KMD (laughter). As there is a rich variety of scholarships and a medical clinic located in the building, it is ideal for international students. You can also work at any time at KMD, which is open 24 hours a day.

Kengo: New students should think carefully when choosing a Real Project, comparing each one with what it is they want to do. I changed to a project on design thinking after entering KMD, but this was very challenging as it is a field in which I had no previous experience. I think they should decide after learning as much as possible about the ambience of each laboratory.

Finally, what are your dreams for the future?

Saeko: I would like to have an international job that is beneficial for people and society and allows me to make use of my knowledge and skills of system design and innovation through design thinking.

Xinyu: I would like to become a teacher at KMD and carry on workshops developed through global education for the next generation. I will actually join a publishing company from April, but I have a strong desire to return to KMD and continue my research.

Kengo: It’s a bit vague, but I really want to achieve something in life. Whether at the IT company where I am due to work after graduation or in a separate field, I aim to push ahead until satisfied and give it my all.

Tanner: Because I started a company this year in Japan, I will do this job after graduation. Although I might return to the United States to work in the future, wherever I am I want to have international interactions like I do here. My dream is to realize a type of community that has never existed before.

Satoshi: I want to create something new that will be loved around the world. Combining what I have worked on at KMD with my expertise in technology, I want to try and create something that doesn’t exist yet.

(This interview was held in November 2017)

Knives Ian (Russian Federation)
Second-year master’s student

Mai Orikasa
Second-year master’s student
Project: Superhuman Sports

Seina Shimada
Second-year master’s student

Topoklang Komkid (Thailand)
Second-year master’s student
Project:Global Education

Daisuke Yukita
Second-year master’s student
Project:Global Education
Tell us why you decided to study at KMD.

Topoklang Komkid: I was studying advertising at a university in Thailand, but I decided to come to KMD because I wanted to build up more practical and creative experience.

Daisuke Yukita: I majored in computer science at the Faculty of Science and Technology of Keio University, where I mainly researched image processing. The experience made me curious about the possibilities of design, so I entered KMD.

Mai Orikasa: I majored in product design in the past and was designing prosthetic legs for athletes, but KMD’s Superhuman Sports Project intrigued me.

Seina Shimada: After majoring in French Literature, I took a job, but I wanted to gain the thought processes and experience that would give me an advantage to survive in the working world, so I became a student once more at KMD.

Ian Knives: I was studying economics in my native country, Russia. After working as a network engineer for about a year and a half in Japan, I began to think I’d like to continue to live here. I decided to study at KMD, where I could balance both technology and business.

What does a typical day look like?

Seina: The first year and second year are vastly different. In my first year, I arrived on campus in the morning for class. I had to prepare for classes, attend group work meetings, assist the KMD Forum, and work on internship documents for submission, so I stayed on campus quite late. Now in my second year, I have more work and meetings with collaboration partners for Real Projects, so it’s more common for me to be working off campus all day.

Mai: I’m a member of the Superhuman Sports Project, which has a number of bases, so I’m seldom in the same place. I might have a meeting at Professor Ichiya Nakamura’s office or be doing something with people from corporations. For the project with Iwate Prefecture, I visited the site several times. Of course, there are days when I do work at school too.

Daisuke: KMD feels like a place that can be anything according to the situation. Not only is it a university, it feels like home or a playground where exciting things happen. It’s also an office and a studio. I’ll leave the campus, saying, “I’m going to a meeting,” and afterwards, return with an “I’m back.” I chat with classmates on campus as we share a meal (laughs).

Ian: That’s true. When I was involved in a project with just four members, all of us were always on campus and it felt like a family. I have a project with Ericsson, so I have a lot of Skype meetings also.

Any events that were especially memorable?

Ian: An especially memorable event was the IE KMD Venture Day in November 2016. A business school instructor came from Spain and gave a presentation about how to develop just one idea, from a venture perspective. I was able to learn the essential skills for a startup and I am convinced that this experience will be invaluable to me in the future.

Seina: Helping with the operations for the KMD Forum was a lot of work, but a wonderful experience. To spread awareness about KMD, I was in charge of interviewing professors and alumni for an article that I wrote and posted online. The days were extremely tough while I was doing the interviews, transcribing them, and writing the article (laughs). But it was a fantastic opportunity to meet alumni and learning more about the professors.

Mai: KMD Forum is fun because your involvement transcends the borders of different projects. I think the event is very intensive, like an all-star KMD exposition. I helped with design and was involved in the logo and visual design.

It’s said that about 50% of students are from abroad. Is interaction smooth?

Seina: There is a mood of cooperation that crosses the language barrier with international students. In addition to the international students who start school in September, many CEMS and GID program participants also come to KMD.

Daisuke: Through the GID program, I studied design at the Royal College of Art and at Imperial College in London for four months, and at the Pratt Institute in New York for four months. GID is actually one of the reasons I decided on KMD. There was an option to apply for RCA directly, but being able to attend both was very appealing. Four months after entering KMD, I was able to go abroad and intensively study the essence and meaning of design for eight months.

Komkid: I’m an international student myself, but after entering KMD, I participated in a 4-week design-thinking program that consisted of two weeks at Stanford University in the US and two weeks in Japan. I like that we can earn credits with short-term programs.

Is anyone a working student?

Ian: I earned as many credits as I could in the first and second trimesters of my first year and then in the third trimester, I was at school three days a week and spent the other days at a startup, building an in-house training system. So, it’s not impossible to work while attending KMD, although I wouldn’t recommend it. I couldn’t take time off, so my stress level went through the roof (laughs).

Seina: During my first year at KMD, I worked as an intern for about six months to help establish an in-house venture at an advertising agency. It was a lot of work, but it was good experience because the business was relevant to my research. I also know a student who attends KMD while working at a publishing company. So, it’s very stimulating.

Daisuke: I think being KMD students makes us uniquely qualified for some types of work. We should all go outside the school to gain experience, it’s useful for research too.

Did anything differ from your expectations before entering KMD?

Komkid: Initially, I thought I might be able to collaborate on other projects, but the reality is that I’m too busy with my own.

Mai: To be honest, I assumed that I would have lots of spare time because it’s a graduate school (laughs). So, I was astonished that the curriculum was packed with classes everyday from the morning, especially the Pipeline programs. The professors are very approachable, and I am delighted that our relationship feels like we are working partners.

Ian: While this obviously depends on the professor, I feel comfortable consulting professors even if they’re not heading my project; they are welcoming, if I am proactive. I also learn a lot from older students. An international student from Hong Kong taught me in depth about design thinking, and this was very helpful.

Seina: There is a rich diversity of career backgrounds and characters. Everyone is heading in a different direction, so group work is sometimes onerous, but this served as training to think about personnel management.

Daisuke: There should be more follow-ups for studio usage and programming. We have full access to the studios for two years, so having the option of undergoing practical training could further enhance this.

Do you have any advice for people who aspire to attend KMD?

Seina: KMD is a developing graduate school, so things can become fuzzy if you lose sight of your goals. You should enter the school only after you’ve gained a clear sense of purpose.

Ian: KMD offers lots of programs and projects, so if you experience everything once, you should be able to find something. Even if you’re not interested in business, you should start by going through the experience to learn about yourself.

Komkid: I want them to be passionate and embrace all challenges. I had little time to prepare because I entered the school in the spring, so it was very tough with the communication difficulties, but I’m glad I took the leap.

Mai: I’m often told to take action, and not just move my mouth and brain. KMD truly holds meaning only if you contribute to society, so I hope they discover the joy of creating something with their own hands.

Daisuke: That’s right. Everyone should use the studio more!

Finally, please tell us about your dreams for the future.

Komkid: This is really just my ideal, but I’d like to make others and myself happy with the power of education. I hope to provide more enjoyable programs to schools and develop new education.

Ian: I have been hired by information security company and will start in the spring. I will probably become a happy “salaryman” of Japan through work (laughs).

Seina: Regardless of which company I join, or whether I start a business, I hope that my work will continuously offer new value and happiness for people.

Mai: After I graduate, I hope to harness my experience at KMD to address creation culture and community design, working at a job where I can uncover value that has been overlooked and call attention to it.

Daisuke: I would like to create an educational institution like the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. My time at KMD has been the happiest period in my life, one of its reasons being the absence of paper tests. So, I thought why not create a school that drives the creativity and capabilities of children and evaluates them without using paper tests. I am planning to work at a creative agency after graduation, but I would like to bring this idea to life in the near future.

※This interview was held in February 2017.