Challenging the Status Quo
Since graduating from USF’s Design program, Chris Chappelle has been heading design at Bright Funds, a startup that runs workplace giving and volunteer programs for some of the Bay’s biggest companies, including Dropbox, VMware, and Foursquare, among others. As Product Designer, Chris continues to use the skills he gained at USF to improve the user interface and user experience for his company’s website.
How did the Design program help prepare you for your job?
Coming to USF, I didn’t know how broad ‘design’ could truly be. I imagined being a designer meant working at an advertising agency, Mad Men style. Courses like Loading... helped me realize that design can be a tool for social movements and push society forward. In other courses focused on interaction design, I realized that design didn't just have to be a static layout, but could be an interactive experience. This approach allowed me to explore the wide ranges of design and prepared me for a job that I’m truly excited about, where a broad skill set, a collaborative spirit, and experimentation were just as important as traditional design skills.
Why did you want to major in Design?
When I was in high school, I fell in love with photography — creating images that hadn’t existed before, watching photographs come to life in the darkroom. I started poking around Photoshop and photo manipulation, which introduced me to graphic design. I knew that I wanted to continue creating throughout my life, which led me to design.
Why did you choose USF?
I was drawn to USF for several reasons. I was looking for a university that offered a design degree. At the same time, I wanted a liberal arts education that would help me grow in a range of fields. Having grown up in Seattle, I wanted to explore a new city and San Francisco sounded interesting as a cultural hub. USF hit on all of the areas I was looking for with the added bonus of having a strong social justice focus, which was also important to me.
What are some of your best memories from your undergrad experience?
The senior thesis project for Design was the most personally impactful experience. I made what could be described as a visual record player — you could place a drawing or colored blocks on a spinning disk that would play sounds depending on the colors and arrangements. I was very interested in music as a group experience that connected people and wanted to create something tactile that people could play with. This wasn't a traditional 'Graphic Design' project, but was more focused on interaction design as a way to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones. This project pushed me to learn several new skills like programming with Arduino and Processing and hijacking a camera to read color hues. It was a great learning experience and a wonderful conclusion to my time at USF.
The second part of USF that continues to stay with me is all of the people I met. It’s unique that you get to know so many people that come to a university because of the social justice aspects of the culture. There are so many passionate people that I met that continue to challenge the status quo in favor of a more understanding world.
You were the manager of USF’s Graphics Center while you were a student. What’s the Graphics Center all about?
The Graphics Center is a student-run design agency at USF, offering design services to student groups and professors, among others. I originally joined because I was looking for a job where I could grow my design skills outside of class. The GC provided a great place to experiment and learn in an environment that more closely resembled an agency. The amount of posters and other design work that has to be done pushed me to explore many styles and grow my skillset. When the opportunity arose, I was excited to become the manager of the GC. I found a lot of value in creating an environment where others could get their work done smoothly and efficiently while being creative and having fun. It made me realize I enjoy working closely with others and helping people solve problems. This goes hand in hand with the collaborative work environment I'm in now at Bright Funds.