Student Voices

What is it like to study at KMD?
What are your dreams for the future? Five students spoke candidly with us.

Knives Ian (Russian Federation)
Master’s Program 2nd year,
Project: PLAY

Mai Orikasa (Japan)
Master’s Program 2nd year,
Project: Superhuman Sports

Seina Shimada (Japan)
Master’s Program 2nd year,
Project: OIKOS

Topoklang Komkid (Thailand)
Master’s Program 2nd year,
Project: Global Education

Daisuke Yukita (Japan)
Master’s Program 2nd year,
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 bothwas 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 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)