Transdisciplinary Design

A very emotional graduation speech

Posted on June 13, 2016 | posted by: Jamer Hunt

As we heard Zhi Yuan Cheng, best know as Janson, give his graduation speech at the TransD intimate ceremony, tears welled up in the eyes of parents, friends and faculty. His heart-warming speech about TransD, home, friendship, dinners, learning, re-learning, and life overwhelmed us all.  I leave you with the beautiful words of Janson:

“Emm, look at what we have here, we have so many families. We have family members who travelled all the way here, near, far, and the ones could not come but who are here in spirit.

Actually, there is one special family in the room that I have to mention. In this family, most people are scorpio and sagittarius, 90%  do not have a TV at home; 57% of them add milk when they have a cup of coffee; 3 members are vegetarians; most of them live in Brooklyn, and each of them has a different answer to what transdisciplinary design is….Now, please allow me to introduce this special family: the 2016 cohort of transdisciplinary design.

Two years, what does that mean? It means we spent such a long time working hard on something really important.

We held the Transgiving party that makes the entire 12th floor jealous,

We built emotional connection with this space by infiltrating quotes into it,

We created something called #thingsthatmakejamerblush, and we even used it as a design research method and tried to get some insights from it.

We tried almost everything in the cave, and speculated its alternative use on a daily basis.

We kept printing in the studio and left a series of mysterious unsolved printer jam crimes, but we are innocent, the printer is the criminal.

We love uncertainty and elasticity so much, we even made two conferences about them.


Guys, Do you remember,

When we went to prospect park to prospect,

The 18 birthday cards we passed around every year,

The babkas we shared (so many!!), naps we took on every floor in this building, and the stripes we wore together.

As if we were not busy enough dealing with these very serious family tasks like choosing between striped shirts and plaid, school also required us to intervene into the system, the system of society. Well, in order to do so, we have to learn a lot, and re-learn how to learn in the first place.

Speaking of learning, you have no idea how much you have changed during these two years, just thinking about that first intensive we had in this room. I clearly remember how excited I was at that time, before I came here: I was a designer, drawing a wardrobe blueprint in the scale of millimetre; When I came here in the intensive, I was still a designer, still drawing, but drew a diagram of system about consumerism.

Many struggles  came along with these changes….Just as the first studio began, I got totally lost when we were asked to design with the social mobility in Rio de Janeiro. The thing that I struggled with was less the topic, but more the rules. What is the right way to look at the issue? What is the right way to do a  workshop? What is the right analysis we should design from? One day, one teammate stopped my question and said: Janson, There is no right answer there, you have to make one yourself. From that moment on, for the following two years, I started to feel free to speak out, to stay open and to keep moving.

As we moved forward, we debated for true lightness, exposed our vulnerability, reframed design for this century, and even designed for our closest friend in our body, our microbiome.

As Jamer said: “To me, the program gets really exciting when we work with all of you to surface new directions we never could have thought of. To do that, you need a lot of people who DON’T push you into new territory, and a few that do.”

Who are those few people? I think It’s this program, this family. As a family, We not only support each other to think differently, but also push each other to go further. When I asked for what is the moment that make you felt like being a transD family, Ricardo replied: “In professional communication, when I saw people were trying to describe their work and struggling, I realized we were all on different journeys, so a sense of family emerged for me, a family that is not all the same but one that includes the disparities and supports each other.”

Sungmy also replied: “One day, I posted my frustration on facebook; the second day, I got hugs, cards and dinner invite…” See? We have a family.

After spending two years explaining to my roommate what TransD is, no matter how good you are at it, or if you failed a lot, we are graduating now, and it is the time for us to explain to the outside world, and many people out there (who are not as nice as your roommate). But don’t worry, we don’t need to explain. Do you remember the sugar and sweetened water story? If you have a grain of sugar, one way to transform its impact is to put it into a glass of water. You’ll feel the sweetness but you don’t need to see the sugar anymore. Instead of explaining what transd is, in this past year, we already made different types of sweetened water with local communities, government, non-profits, corporations, both nationally and globally. And we also made a huge mingle juice ourselves: VergeNYC.

As you noticed, the names on the window are now renewed, I knew you have been  waiting for this moment for so long. Now we got a one-year long membership to enjoy watching union square 360 degree . But seriously, what does it mean to be there? As we go back to the real world, it might take sometime for us to situate, to learn, to adjust and to make an impact, and these names, as a physical artifact that embodies our passion and beliefs , they give  us courage when we are making the changes in the world, and keep reminding us where we came from, what  we stand for, and where we are heading towards .

At this very moment, like many others, it’s both the end and the beginning. I remember when my father sent me to the airport for my flight to New York two years ago, he sent some feelings on social media afterwards, he said: For my son, I started to get used to see his back, and I have to. I won’t ask him to turn around, because I know when I see his back, it means he is facing the future. So to our dearest TransD faculty, I am sorry that we have to leave, and you are going to see our backs from now on, but don’t worry, with all your support, encouragement and smiles, we are ready to be the future.


Thank you very much!!”


Happy graduation Cohort of 2016. We will miss you.