Meet Fulbright Scholar & Guide Studio Intern, Yuliya Fedorovych
We welcome our very talented summer intern, Yuliya Fedorovych!
Yuliya is from Ukraine and is earning her graduate degree at The University of Notre Dame on a Fulbright Scholarship. This summer, she joins the Guide team to learn more about wayfinding, essentially a foreign concept in her native land. Using her hands-on experience at Guide, Yuliya intends to implement wayfinding projects back home, ideally making Rivne – and by extension the whole of Ukraine – a more attractive place to visit. In this Q&A, the seasoned designer shares her enthusiasm for wayfinding and its potentially transformative power.
What is your professional background?
I don’t have a design education, but I worked in Ukraine as a graphic designer for the United Nations and a bunch of non-governmental organizations. Five years ago, I switched to freelance with a group of people who were doing editorial design and a lot of infographics, illustrations and branding.
Why did you want to return to school?
In Ukraine, I had plenty of work (and clients!), but I needed something to push me further – it’s easy to get comfortable and not challenge yourself professionally. I wasn’t sure that an American university would accept me into the program with only my portfolio. So, I did a lot of reading and research on new design software and how design schools were organized in the United States to help me get up-to-speed for a graduate program.
Prior to getting the Fulbright, I was traveling every winter and visited a friend at Savannah College of Art and Design. I went to a class and was impressed by how they discussed each person’s project. It was so great to hear that kind of constructive criticism and this further spurred my interest in attending a university here in the States. Now, I’ve just finished my first year at Notre Dame, pursuing an MFA in visual communication design.
How did you get the internship at Guide?
Through Fulbright, I applied for the Edmund S. Muskie internship program which helps Fulbright scholars from former Soviet countries get professional experience in the field. I made a list of companies and Guide was the first one on the list. The moment I met the team, I knew I wanted to work with them!
What kind of work are you doing with the studio?
They involve me in every project, which I appreciate. In June, I was part of a walkthrough in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and at the same time I worked with a team on logo concepts for Longmont, Colorado. I’ve developed signage for a Cleveland district and am learning about wayfinding strategy as well. I’m here for two months, so while I won’t be doing many wayfinding projects from beginning to end, I’ll be helping piece together the puzzle. This has already been such a great experience for me! And it’s making it clear that this is what I want to do after graduation.
How is the concept of U.S. wayfinding different from what you might find in Ukraine?
Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union for a long time. After Ukraine declared independence, we changed the names of streets and cities that were previously named after Soviet-inspired themes and people, to names that are more Ukrainian-inspired. That made navigating the city more confusing. Also, a bird’s-eye view of Eastern Europe highlights how complicated navigation can be – like a spiderweb. In the U.S., it’s more of a grid with parallel and perpendicular lines. The whole approach to navigation is very different.
How do you plan to implement your education back in Ukraine?
My goal is not to copy what you have here in the U.S., but to understand the principles around navigation systems and apply that knowledge to make Ukrainian cities – particularly my hometown – much friendlier to navigate.
All the cities in Ukraine are challenging to navigate – both the wayfinding and the design are not what they could be. Besides that, there are only one or two cities that have a solid brand, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.
My country changes rapidly, so I have no idea what the political and economic situation will be in two years when I return. I feel like if I get the technical knowledge here, I’ll be able to adapt to any situation back home, no matter what it is. There’s so much work to do – that’s inspiring to me! Even if I don’t know exactly what it will look like.
How long have you been interested in design, branding and wayfinding?
At home I got a degree in business management, but when I was at university in Ukraine, I knew I’d never work as a manager. I’ve worked as a graphic designer all my life. I did branding and packaging design, as well as a lot of infographics, which uses design to explain information and present it in an accessible way.
When you work with infographics, you start to see data in your environment and think about how that information could be presented in a more understandable way. That’s how I became interested in wayfinding. I wanted to do something meaningful. I’d like to have a city as a project for creating a wayfinding system. Rivne is one of the 25 biggest cities in Ukraine. I see the city as an interesting project, where design and branding are tools that can make it more attractive.
Where do you see your career going over the next five years?
A favorite phrase I use in grad school is “Let’s see.” I can’t predict the future, but I don’t have enough words to express how grateful I am to Guide Studio in having me here. The people here are such great, multi-functional professionals, and the atmosphere they’ve created is so healthy. I come here every morning excited to start my work. It’s just amazing!