Student Spotlight: Kim Alban - Product Designer Embracing XR Design World
November 22 2021
The Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR course from Circuit Stream is a project-based 10-week live online course, where students learn the fundamentals of augmented and virtual reality design and its applicatoin with Unity 3D engine.
In this segment of our Student Spotlight series, we chat with Kim Alban — an experienced product designer turned YouTube and XR enthusiast.
Kim Alban is a Circuit Stream student and a native New Yorker with degrees in photography and media design. Currently, Kim works as a product designer, a role that lets her lean on her multi-disciplinary art and design experience to create unique web-based designs and apps. During her free time she shares her design insights on her YouTube channel.
An experimenter by nature, Kim has always had an interest in trying out new techniques to create interesting effects in her work. During her photography degree, before Photoshop and filters were widespread, Kim would color in her lenses to get filter effects, but dreamed of a world in which technology could make her work easier.
“At that time I wasn’t aware of technology like filters,” says Kim. But her interests in design and technology left her wondering how she could combine different technologies and mediums, which ultimately led her to pursue XR.
“I’ve always had a growing interest [in] tech and being able to merge these mediums,” says Kim. That’s what led her to ask, “what could come from that?”
Kim’s Journey Into XR
With that question in mind, Kim began experimenting with AR.
“When I saw Spark AR come out around maybe 2019, I was pretty interested in it, but some of the tutorials were really hard to digest. So, I kept my eye on it really, kept reading about it here and there, and over the course of a few years, started seeing more tutorials explaining it just a bit better, touched base with people in the community,” says Kim.
Eventually, she connected with one of her peers who was working in VR and was able to ask some of the burning questions on her mind.
“I ran a ton of questions by her,” says Kim. “Where do I get started?”
Kim's peer advised her to start by picking a reality to work in (either VR or AR), and also showed Kim the deck that she uses as a designer to present and explain VR to companies.
“I found it fascinating and did some homework, and I really started making small projects...filters [using] Reality Composer, Adobe Aero before committing to Circuit Stream.”
Challenges Along the Way
Kim found that the biggest challenge in her XR journey so far has been finding sources that she can trust.
“Overall, the hardest part is finding a source of truth. Every hardware has [its] own guidelines and [its] own details to take note of...I looked at Oculus guidelines, I looked at Vive guidelines, and I was looking for design principles, and all these things are just scattered all over the internet,” says Kim.
At first, she started a Notion hub to collect all the information she was finding, but eventually, she shared it with others and was able to make connections through it.
“What came from it was just being able to relate to a lot of other people that were having the same problem, and had a lot of questions like, ‘how do I go from being a 2D designer to thinking about 3D?’”
In that way, Kim was able to transform her own struggles into informative content that helped solidify her own knowledge while also helping others along the way.
Kim’s Experience at Circuit Stream
Even though Kim had been making progress on her own, she found that the lack of structure was stifling.
“I needed, for one, to have something to hold me accountable,” says Kim. “I can read to death and look forever and compile all the resources, but at the end of the day, if you’re not a good self-learner, you’re gonna have a hard time committing to just one thing.”
It was at that point that Kim decided to enroll at Circuit Stream. “I found structure, and that’s what I really, really wanted for myself.”
But structure wasn’t the only thing that Circuit Stream gave Kim.
“All the teachers have been really amazing,” says Kim.
In fact, Kim was surprised to find that she had already been reading Aleatha Singleton’s (major influencer in the XR design world) work before enrolling and without knowing that she’d be teaching the class. [Aleatha Singleton programmed and structured the whole 10-week curriculum of the Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR course]
“I read some of her stuff before realizing that she was going to be the instructor, so I was super excited, Tyrell is amazing with Unity, C#, shaders...the excitement there that the instructors bring to the course is what makes me excited, and really solidifies whatever it is that I’m learning.”
Throughout her time at Circuit Stream, Kim worked on two projects that helped her gain hands-on skills in both AR and VR. In AR, Kim has been developing an augmented reality planner that gives the user a brief overview of their goals for the day. When it comes to VR, Kim has been creating surreal landscapes that users can immerse themselves in.
Kim also benefited from the fact that teachers were always willing to stick around after class to answer questions and give extra help — and of course provide mentorship as well.
“It’s been a great experience overall,” says Kim. “It’s been exciting to have some of the questions that I’ve had along the way since starting just answered.”
Looking Toward the Future
Once Kim graduates from Circuit Stream, she hopes to continue learning and applying her skills to new projects.
“It’s been really exciting having people reach out either to learn from or get help or ask general questions, but also just small asks for like, ‘hey, would you mind working on this filter for me?’ or ‘would you mind working on or considering a project with me?’” says Kim. “Putting my content out there in general and opening the conversation up has been an invitation.”
It’s clear that the knowledge and skills that Kim has acquired throughout her self-teaching and her time at Circuit Stream have opened up a multitude of new opportunities for her. So, what’s next?
“I think what could come after is having a little more time work with some of these potential clients that have been just sitting on the side, at least for now.”
Kim’s Big Takeaway
Before Kim enrolled in Circuit Stream, she found herself struggling to make sense of all the disparate tutorials, documentation, and other learning material she found on the internet. Kim realized that she learns best in an environment that provides more structure, and Circuit Stream was able to give that to her.
Now, Kim has acquired new skills and valuable connections that she’ll take with her as she continues on her XR journey.
After she finishes the Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR course, Kim plans to use her talents to do new client work and keep on experimenting with art and design.
Interested in XR Unity development or learning about AR and VR?
Take a look at our course content and syllabus.
Want to know exactly what Kim learned in the XR Design course? Download the course syllabus.