Pragya Jain’s journey to WdKA was one of serendipity. Being born in India and growing up in Spain, she initially pursued an International Baccalaureate (IB), pre-college course in physics and visual arts with the intention of becoming an aerospace engineer. However, when she came across the work of an artist, Yunchul Kim, who integrated art and science, she realized that there was room to explore the intersection between art and engineering. In this article, you can read everything about her time before, during and after WdKA.
Life before WdKA
Jain began searching for programs that were both practical and artistic, and discovered the WdKA website. Drawn to the idea of being able to experiment with machines and materials, she enrolled in the program with the intention of pursuing either product or spatial design: “ I soon realized that I did not want to focus solely on finding solutions to problems. Instead, I was more interested in exploring methodologies that could be used to approach issues in a nuanced way. Thus, Product Design was the best fit. For me, designing products was not about finding solutions, but rather providing opportunities for users to experience the world in different ways”, says Pragya Jain (PJ).
Life during WdKA
In her first few months studying Product Design, PJ had doubts about her ability to succeed in the program. She expected it to be more technical and believed that she was not creatively competent enough to follow it further. She was even told that she should consider attending TU Delft instead. However, Jain’s epiphanies about the value of products and materials and the need to integrate sustainability into design practices kept her going.
PJ was inspired by the practices of designers such as Buckminster Fuller and Victor Papanek, who emphasized the use of minimal materials and sustainable design. This inspired her to create every single product she made at WDKA from waste, or to create her own materials.
“I found that WDKA broadened the framework of what a designer could be, and allowed me to combine my interest in science and physics with my love of art. While the first two years of the program were challenging, I found that the honours program and RASL programme allowed me to adopt a transdisciplinary ideology that allowed me to combine science and art in my practice”, says PJ.
When asked about her graduation project, PJ explains that she created an interactive immersive installation that focused on the theory of optics: ” I spent months experimenting with materials such as lenses, mirrors, prisms, optic fibers cables to create installations that explored the spectrum of light.” To learn more about her graduation project: check out this video from the Zoom-In project that she joined.
Life after WdKA
After graduating in the summer of 2022, PJ did not experience the so-called "black hole feeling" that some graduates feel. Instead, she decided to pursue a Master of Science in Media Technology at Leiden University, which was a big jump from her BA in design. She was motivated to continue learning and was curious about how she could combine theoretical research with hands-on research. PJ found that the transdisciplinary approach she adopted at WdKA allowed her to combine her scientific and artistic background and become both a competent creative and scientist.
PJ describes herself as a fluid transdisciplinary experience researcher/designer. She believes that calling herself a researcher enables her to remain fluid and avoid limiting herself to a specific way of working. PJ’s current practice involves exploring the convergence of academic and traditional knowledge practices, as well as how this can be used to approach the climate crisis: “My family's tradition of Jain cosmology inspired me to combine academic knowledge with traditional knowledge and share this with the outside world. I believe that cultural knowledge practices can converge with academic knowledge practices, and that there should be no boundaries between the two, as it allows production of knowledge from a novel perspective.”
When asked about the most valuable thing about her time at WDKA, PJ emphasized the amazing individuals she met and the environment of co-creation “I learned a lot from everyone at the academy, including my major teachers, minor tutors, classmates, station instructors, and people I randomly ran into. The environment at WdKA allowed for co-creation and learning from each other in the purest form. I believe that current WdKA students who aspire to a career as researchers should challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zone and combine theory and practice.”
Overall, PJ’s experiences at the academy allowed her to broaden her understanding of what it means to be a designer and to integrate her multiple interests in science, art, and sustainability.