Systems Design Thinking Program


Ying Li


Interdisciplinary Designer/Researcher

When Ying Li graduated with her industrial design degree from South China University of Technology, she never imagined the depth and breadth that her career would one day offer her. 

She credits much of her success to her experiences in the Interdisciplinary Design graduate program at Detroit's College for Creative Studies (CCS). 

"What I enjoy most about my job is the depth and broadness of my work," said Li, who works as an interdisciplinary designer/researcher at Delphi. "In terms of depth, as part of some projects, I go through the entire design process that I learned from the MFA program, including benchmarking, surveying, focus group interviews, persona creation, storyboarding,  ideation, wireframing, user interface design, communication with developers, user testing, refinement and presentation. “

"Sometimes these projects can last over a year, so learning the timing of this process was a very valuable experience for me.  The process helped my designs become more solid, I gained insight into how users' behaviors/desires affect my design and I gained a sense of perspective-- whether our design was 'good' from a user's point of view.

"My career is also quite broad. Working for an auto supplier has given me the opportunity to collaborate with world-famous auto manufacturers. We also get some side projects supporting other departments. One time I was a visual note-taker for a  five-day conference with 150 attendees at Delphi. I was happy with my final work--a 'Where's Waldo' style graphic and three hand-scripted style videos, which are very different from what I usually do here!"

In her position, Li's main focus is user experience design. However, she also designs user interfaces and does research. One of her career highlights was the opportunity to assist design manager Vince Brooks and other Delphi representatives with sponsoring a CCS-MFA Interdisciplinary Design class (Fall 2013). The project was about Mobility 2025 and " “exceeded expectations." Another of Li's proudest moments was when her manager deemed her performance as "extraordinary" and assigned her as user interface (UI) lead on a recent project.

One of the most significant observations that Li noted as she evolved in her role as a designer was the demand for exceptional communication skills.

"The professional world requires a designer to have more communication skills than I ever expected," said Li. "In my position, I communicate with my team members, manager, developers, engineers, people from other departments, clients and suppliers almost every day. This often requires coordination and negotiation…  Competence is a must; you are expected to be effective and professional." 

One of the most significant lessons Li learned at CCS was how to go beyond the task of design and put deeper thinking into her work. As a student, she found the sponsored projects and year-long graduate design project to be particularly helpful in helping her become the designer she is today.

"The MFA program trained us to look at projects at a higher level-- to always remember the big picture and not to overly focus on little details," she explained. "Sponsored projects helped me seamlessly transition into my 'real world' career. Since I was used to following projects through the entire design process, I could easily find my place at different milestones in the projects I've taken on at Delphi.

"The one-year graduate design project was tough. While my internal advisor, Joanne Healy, and external thesis advisor, Lynn Teo, gave me helpful feedback on my weekly progress, I still had to be self-driven and self-manage on my own project. The experience helped me become more responsible and organized at work."

"In addition to the guidance I received from my advisors, I'm grateful for the support I received from Rebecca Moore and former tutor Brandi Keeler. I decided to give back as a peer tutor at Student Success Center. I became the first peer tutor from the MFA program. What a rewarding experience – I met interesting people from different programs, and it helped me think more when trying to help others solve problems."

Prior to attending CCS, Li completed two internships and was a teaching assistant in Guangzhou, China. She appreciates the experience of learning and living in a new culture (the American culture).

"Experiencing another culture has helped me think in a different way," she said. "It keeps my eyes fresh and my mind open."