[Translate to English:] Aluma Jessica Rietze im Porträt
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Alumni Story: Jessica Rietze (Product Design)

From studying to teaching: Jessica Rietze, a former student at the Faculty of Design, mastered the balancing act between family and education and is now a lecturer at Fulda University of Applied Sciences. With a sound background in medical technology and design, she brings a breath of fresh air to design education and inspires students to think innovatively. You can find out more about her professional career in the latest alumni interview.

She studied Product Design (M.A.) at our university from 2007 to 2014. Her master's thesis dealt with the topic "Design of a medical therapy device for the treatment of paediatric scoliosis" and was written in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU) Dresden. Following her Master's thesis, she worked here as a research assistant in the Medical Technology department. In October 2016, she moved back to her old home with her family and moved to Fulda University of Applied Sciences to teach as a lecturer for special tasks (LfbA) in the Department of Applied Computer Science, Digital Media programme. From 2018 to 2022, she took a break from teaching to support the "GetAll" project (health technology for coping with everyday life) at the Regional Innovation Centre for Health and Quality of Life (RIGL Fulda), which is based at Fulda University of Applied Sciences. Jessica Rietze has been working in teaching at the university again since January 2023.

You wrote your Master's thesis in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology (IWU). How did the contact come about?

At the time, the Equal Opportunities Officer at the Faculty of Design wrote a circular email with information about events for female students. She drew attention to the "Science Campus", which was actually only offered by the Fraunhofer IWU Chemnitz for female graduates and students from the fourth semester of mathematics, engineering, natural sciences and computer science. However, interested product designers were also able to take part on request. During these four days, I first got to know the IWU Chemnitz, applied for my Master's thesis there and was placed in Dresden by the HR department.

What were your tasks as a designer at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology? Was there a favourite project?

I worked in the Medical Technology department at the Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology. In co-operation with medical professionals and manufacturers of medical products, we developed solutions for problems from everyday clinical practice. Most of the projects involved implants and prosthetics, but some also involved medical therapy devices or surgical instruments. My tasks were very complex. On the one hand, ergonomics and user-orientated design played an important role in medical developments with the aim of making the use of medical devices easy to understand and safe in order to reduce user errors to a minimum. Other areas of work included the testing of functional samples and the visualisation of research and development results. The design of interaction with trade fair demonstrators, for example, also fell within my area of responsibility.

What advice would you give to graduates who would like to work as a designer at a research institute with a scientific or technological focus?

In general, it has proven to be very useful and important to work systematically as a designer and to be able to clearly argue design decisions vis-à-vis other disciplines in order to emphasise the added value created by design. Unfortunately, many specialist areas still have a false or distorted image of the work of a designer. In particular, you have to engage in interdisciplinary work with engineers, who often see no need for design work. The solutions developed in research institutes are often technically highly innovative and useful, but there is a lack of an end-user-orientated view of the product and a corresponding implementation. And this is exactly where design comes in.

You now work as a lecturer at Fulda University of Applied Sciences. What are your tasks there, how can we imagine your day-to-day work? What do you particularly like about this job?

As a lecturer, I have been responsible for the modules Communication Design, Design Basics, Media Technology and Usability Engineering. I design teaching content, try out new didactic methods and try to expand the practical part of my lectures and combine it with theoretical input. Ideas from my time as a student or my time at the Fraunhofer IWU are always incorporated here.As at the IWU in Dresden, I work with people from different disciplines at the HS Fulda. The students' focus is often on technical implementation and in my lectures, seminars and exercises I can give new impulses, e.g. on user-centred design, which should broaden the students' perspective. It's nice to see the positive development of some students over the course of the programme. Particularly in the compulsory elective module Communication Design, I see great progress time and again.

Your first daughter was born in 2011. How did you manage the balancing act between studies and family?

In order to reconcile family and studies, I had to submit a special study plan that involved spreading the modules over several semesters. With the support of my husband, who was fortunately very flexible at the time due to his studies, I was able to complete the required work for my Master's degree and look after my daughter at the same time. I also found the flexible timetable at the Faculty of Design very convenient at the time, as our courses were usually held at the beginning of the semester and later on in self-directed lessons and consultations. It was challenging to carry out activities in the workshop on machines and with questionable materials during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Nevertheless, I can only recommend parenthood during my studies due to the flexibility compared to working life.       

In your opinion, what interests should prospective students have if they want to enrol for a Bachelor's or Master's degree in Design at the HTWD?

If you want to study design, you should enjoy creative and, above all, self-motivated work. As you have to submit a portfolio of design work for your application, it is helpful if you have already dealt with these topics before starting your studies. An internship in a design office or similar is ideal in order to get an idea of the diverse and varied work of a designer and to be able to work on your own smaller problems, which can possibly be used as a basis for the application portfolio.

How did you decide to study design at the HTWD and what did you particularly like about it?

In my A-levels, I chose physics and art as my two advanced courses and wanted to combine both design and technical subjects after school. After a lot of research, the Product Design degree programme seemed to me to be the most suitable for designing technical-pragmatic and creative-aesthetic solutions to problems. As design degree programmes are usually preceded by a multi-stage aptitude test, in which only a relatively small number of students actually get a place, I applied to five universities in Germany at the same time. One of them was the HTWD, whose profile and location in Dresden appealed to me very much. I was also impressed by the family atmosphere at the faculty and the wide range of projects.

What is your favourite memory of your time studying in Dresden?

I like to think back to the team spirit of the study groups. I particularly remember the many all-nighters in the computer labs and in the modelling workshop of the Design department. Before the exams were handed in at the end of the semester, the work on the projects, especially the prototypes, was once again very intensive. The mutual exchange and the support of my fellow students made this exhausting time a wonderful memory. In general, I have very fond memories of the informal atmosphere and the collegial dialogue with professors and staff in the Department of Design.

Studying design at the HTWD

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M.Sc. Miriam Walther

Alumni Relations Officer

M.Sc. Miriam Walther