Aisha Thaj is graduating this spring from the Western Michigan University (WMU) Product Design Program at the Richmond Institute for Design and Innovation (RIDI) in the program’s first-ever graduating class. Aisha is a logical, yet out-of-the-box thinker who loves to help solve problems by stepping out of her comfort zone. Interested in the aerospace, medical, and social change industries, Aisha has a long list of projects and accomplishments to show for from her time in the program. Learn more about Aisha and check out her portfolio below.
What is the best lesson you learned from your classes, an internship, an instructor, or a mentor?
“You will not always be the smartest in the room, and you will not always be the strongest or the funniest or the most talented. But you can always be brave, and you can always be kind. These are the things you should be every minute of every day for the rest of your life. Because yes, those other things, they’re great things. But these things are better.”
You can knock down doors, but remember to bring others up with you.
What is the strongest skill you bring to an employer?
Logical, outside of the box thinking. I started school as an engineer, and “form follows function” resonates with me. If there isn’t necessarily a function, there will always be a “why.” That search for “why” intrigues me. With my experience working for the virtual reality (VR) lab on campus, I have a greater understanding there will always be developing technology that expands our horizons on what is doable. There are a hundred ways to solve a problem; sometimes you just have to be willing to step out of your tried-and-true comfort zone.
What type of project or industry interests you?
I am interested in the aerospace, medical, and/or social change industries.
What project in your portfolio are you most proud of?
The project in my portfolio I am most proud of is the information kiosk, “EVA.” For it, I conducted interviews and ethnographic research, which is not an easy feat during a pandemic. In form-giving, I had a few pivotal moments when prototyping that caused me to realize my original intent wouldn’t work. You can’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes, and that project showcases that.
What/who is one person, place, or experience that had a positive impact on you during your time at Western Michigan University or in the Kalamazoo community?
Anthony Helms, my advisor at the Lee Honors College, is the person who has had the greatest positive impact on me during my time here at WMU. He reminds me that you can always do at least one percent better. Carly Hagins, my RIDI professor this year, as well, for all the after-class conversations about growing and design.