Meet Matthew Alexander, a graduate student pursuing a M.S in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Maryland, College Park and one of five new recipients for the 2020-2021 AIGA DC Design Continuum Fund Scholarship.
What was your journey to becoming a designer?
My journey to becoming a designer goes back to some of my earliest childhood memories. I was always one to rip apart cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, scrap cardboard, or any other material I could find and just make something that I either thought was fun or that I thought others would like. Then as I got older, still into crafts, I began to draw and sketch a lot which carried me to a graphic design course freshman year of high school. While pursuing my BS in graphic communications systems at North Carolina A&T, I became extremely interested in how my designs impacted others as well as how to build things that others could leverage and that would positively impact my community. This led me to begin to teach myself programming as well as UX design which, when paired with my graphic design and Illustration background, opened the door for me to work as an interactive designer and pursue my M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Maryland, College Park.
How would you describe your current design style and what are the influences that have helped you define that over time?
Okay, see I could ramble on and have this answer looking like a master’s thesis but I’ll keep it short. I guess the easiest answer would be that I’d describe my current design style as one that’s empathetic, immersed in the relevant context at the time, and reflective of my natural curiosity in everything that I do, see, and experience. The main influence behind that comes from the fact that I’m someone who, when appropriate, doesn’t do anything unless my heart is in it, whatever the activity may be. Explaining the why and how behind that last part is where the paragraphs would come in so I’ll stop right there haha.
What are some of your favorite projects you have worked on and why?
Professionally, this interactive experience I worked on for the United States Holocaust Museum in DC. It was such an important subject to be working with that had a lot of stories that needed to be told. During the project lifecycle, I was also given a lot of free-range when it came to certain design decisions which was really fun. For a personal project, I’d definitely have to say that a favorite of mine was a photography campaign I did surrounding black men’s mental health which I submitted to a competition in the UK and received some accolades for.
How do you wish to use design to make an impact or create change in the world?
Put simply, my goals are to generate wealth and opportunities for communities of African descent, people of color, and other underserved groups and to provide a platform, voice, and means to those who are without. I make any effort I can to grow as a human being, which is at the heart of why I became a designer dealing specifically with human-computer interaction. This mentality comes from my belief that great design is a requirement because it reflects a deeper understanding of the people one serves and the relationships one builds. Regardless of the design field you’re in, I see design as a means to improve the quality of life for those around you.
What does being a DCF scholarship recipient mean to you?
A DCF scholarship means a lot to me. It means that I can place less focus on coming up with ways to finance my education and spend more time on achieving my goals. It also means that I’ve seen up close and experienced what It’s like to be given an opportunity like this which is just one more thing inspiring me to pay it forward any way that I can and for as long as I can.