Spartan charging forward with vehicle design

Posted on: August 19, 2011

When the Chevy Volt zips down the highway, Spartans should be proud because the design team for the new vehicle had an MSU Ph.D. student at the wheel.

Younghwa Yun works at General Motors as an interaction designer, whose job is to provide innovative designs for electric vehicles including the well-known Chevrolet Volt.

“I generate design ideas to meet user goals, and turn those ideas into detailed form and behavior specifications which are used by our technology teams to build new products,” Yun said. “Take Volt for example, my design helps people to understand how much electricity or fuel they have used during a drive and how efficiently they drive.”

What excites her about this job? “Creating something for people is an unbelievably exciting experience, but what’s even more important is to enhance communications between drivers and vehicles, and to provide products with ease of use that can be enjoyed by every user.”

Meanwhile, Yun is also a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University, studying media and information studies. She focuses her doctoral study on user experience and behavior, specifically motivations for technology adoption. 

As a user experience designer, Yun has gained more than 10 years of experience working at LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics. She has benefited from her doctoral program by connecting academic study with practical work. 

“I learned that academic achievement is not separate from tangible outcomes that industry requires. I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Heeter. She encourages me to look at opportunities outside of academia,” said Yun. “Theories have great impact and the potential to help us understand phenomena in real life, too.”

Yun holds a master’s degree in design futures from Goldsmiths, University of London in the United Kingdom and a bachelor’s in industrial design from Hong-Ik University in Korea. The multicultural experience also plays a role in building her perspective on user experience. 

“It’s always fun to dive into a new world,” Yun said. “As for work, it is helpful to understand different cultures since products we design today can go anywhere in the world.”

Yun is on her way of pursuing a successful career in user experience design, and she says MSU is an amazing part of her journey. “We have great programs, people and surroundings here, which truly facilitate me to grow. I am definitely proud to be part of the tradition as a Spartan.”

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