Emilia Doohan tells of her childhood dream to study aeronautical engineering and become a pilot, and her subsequent decision to study design.
Tell us about your upbringing
I’ve lived in Sydney all my life … until now. I’ve always been a ‘creative soul’, as my father would put it, with actions like changing the theme of my room every couple of months (examples include a jungle theme, a zoo theme, a hospital theme and a ‘new reporters’ theme) to creating the term ‘holiject’ with my dad to name our various holiday projects or the occasional hijacking of school projects.
Once for a science research project I decided to test the survivability of air crashes (another strange hobby of mine: watching air crash investigations – actually, before I did a 180 to become a design student, I wanted to become a pilot and study aeronautical engineering), which involved mimicking an air crash. This led me to source a child’s car seat to act as an airplane seat and I did some brainstorming with my dad to come up with ways in which we could slam the seat with enough g-force that it would be on par with an air crash … or come as close as we could with only my dad’s garage tools as resources.
My dad and I decided to mock up a big wooden swing to hoist a child’s seat (with a toy strapped in) up to the roof of the verandah and then let it smash into a series of old car batteries and five-litre bottles of chlorine. This acted as a solid wall so we could witness the whiplash of the toy’s head (which of course had accelerometers attached to it).
Aside from this, other hobbies of mine include practically any other way I can express myself creatively. This ranges from painting and photography (I particularly love self-portrait photography) to fashion – particularly thrifting clothes and turning old clothes into new items. One time I took a skirt my mother didn’t want anymore and turned it into a top … I brought it to Trinity so maybe you’ll see me around in it!
What made you choose design at uni?
If you talked to me when I was 16, I would have told you I wanted to study aeronautical engineering to become a pilot, as in some ways my personality is two-faced – one side is logical and rational and the other side is creative and expressive.
So why the left-field flip to design?
Funnily enough, despite loving to create, I wasn’t studying art at school until Year 11, even though I had been one of those annoyingly keen students during my DT classes (Design and Technology) from a pesky Year 7 student all the way up to a stressed-out Year 12 student. So it was throughout the process of completing my majors for both these subjects in my final year of high school that I realised that to deny the creative facets of my personality (as I had been doing so up until Year 11) was utter stupidity and that an artistic and sometimes irrational mind should not be shunned for its illogicality at times, but rather, embraced.
Therefore, design was the perfect field for me – it was a way in which I could apply both sides of my personality and create artistically, but with a logical purpose. Design is, after all, a balance between aesthetics and function.
Although there used to be the constant voice of an annoying grandparent in my ear saying, ‘there’s no career in the arts, you don’t want to be a starving artist!’ I’ve managed to shut them up, as I’m not studying art I’m studying design AND THERE’S A DIFFERENCE! Plus, I can literally feel the wrinkles start to crease my forehead when I think about a 9-to-5 job.
So with a double major in graphic design and digital technologies, and with companies constantly needing to redesign and rethink in creative flexible ways, I envisage myself having a job in the future that lets me create graphics for a company, or design their website interface to be aesthetic, functional and user-friendly. I want an exciting future that blends my favourite parts of design so I can innovatively think of new ways to solve problems with a balanced appreciation of beauty and functionally.
So that leaves us in the present with me, quite the antithesis of the stereotypical aeronautical engineer. I believe my love of design and its integrity within my personality can be summed up with the experience of people walking into my room at Trinity. Looking around they see plants on the windowsill and hanging from the roof, brightly coloured dresses on display, some paintings and drawings stuck up here and there, my black and white film prints pinned up, and a colour-coordinated timetable I’ve made on my wall using some tape and sticky-notes.
This stimulates visitors to question, ‘Art student?’ to which I reply, ‘No, design student’, and they all but exhale. ‘That makes sense.’
As told to Ian Coyukiat