Gauri Rajeev

Gauri Rajeev

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I have always had a strong affinity for design, which led me on a journey to explore its various facets, with my undergraduate studies in architecture laying the foundation for my design career. Hailing from the UAE, I have spent my entire life and educational journey there. Architecture has laid the groundwork in creating myself a design philosophy centered around creating impactful solutions. From advocating for animal conservation to delving into the intricacies of human psychology, I consistently seek ways to weave things I am passionate about into my designs. 

What made you want to apply to your Masters course and to Leeds?

I believe the UK offers excellent design opportunities, especially in the burgeoning field of XR technology, which is being explored quite effectively in the country. I was drawn to apply at the University of Leeds for various reasons. Firstly, the University is renowned as one of the top universities in the UK which made it a natural choice for me. The program itself was a significant attraction; it's a fresh and exciting course, not widely available elsewhere. Leeds, as a city for students, has consistently received positive feedback. I personally appreciate a city that strikes a balance - not too large or overly hectic, and Leeds fits that description perfectly. 

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

What truly fuels my passion for my area of study is my deep-seated enthusiasm for games. Transitioning from my background as an architect to an experimental game designer allowed me to delve into a realm I've always found captivating. It has been a challenge, yet extremely rewarding when I began exploring how to leverage this for conservation and awareness programs. It's incredibly fulfilling when your motivation stems from working on projects that align with your passions. I've always aspired to contribute to meaningful work, whether it's making a positive impact on the environment or helping people, and this program has provided me with a unique avenue to pursue these goals.

What aspects of the course are you enjoying the most?  

I've found several aspects of the course particularly enjoyable. One standout feature is the freedom it offers. There's ample room to explore various technologies and exercise total artistic freedom. Personally, I was keen on investigating the array of tech resources available at the university and figuring out ways to integrate them into my projects. The specialist project was a highlight for me, as by that point, I had become familiar with most of the technologies and could focus on building a robust project. Semesters 1 and 2 were great for experimentation. Additionally, the course encourages sharing our work with classmates, and this is especially rewarding due to our diverse student cohort. It's fascinating to exchange ideas and witness the diverse approaches everyone takes to their projects.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

I must say that the program is impressively well-funded. We have been fortunate to be introduced to cutting-edge technology, all readily accessible to students. It's worth noting that all these resources are conveniently located within the X-Lab, which doubles as our Digital Design Futures classroom. While some of the university's general facilities may be insufficient for our specialised course, this isn't a concern at all, as the X-Lab is fully equipped with tools from Oculus and HoloLens, to body scanners and motion sensors. The availability of these resources is ample, ensuring that students can work smoothly without any interruptions.

Did you work closely with a particular tutor or member or the University’s academic staff? Tell us about that experience. 

I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to have been part of the inaugural Digital Design Futures intake, where our class consisted of 20 students. This intimate setting built close relationships with our dedicated tutors and our very skilled lab technicians. I've had the privilege of collaborating with both our course leader, Hosam, and Vanessa, who supervised my Specialist project. Their unwavering support, approachability, and understanding nature alleviated the inherent pressures of a master's program. I personally found that the program benefitted greatly from the combined expertise of Hosam's technical and scientific background and Vanessa's rich knowledge of art and design, and that gave us a well-rounded educational experience.

What do you plan to do when you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed/are developing at Leeds will help with these plans?

I entered this course thinking I would leave simply as a UI/UX designer, but this course has completely changed my perspective. It provided me with the opportunity to delve into areas I'm deeply passionate about, such as environmental and wildlife conservation. My future plans involve working with wildlife conservation programs, especially in developing creative campaigns to engage their audience. Many organisations are now turning to XR (extended reality) options for wider outreach, and this program has not only equipped us with XR skills but also a solid foundation in research, HCI and UI/UX. This leaves me feeling confident about stepping into any of these roles if needed in my future work.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

If I could share one piece of advice, it would be considering enrolling in a basic coding course, particularly in C#. While not mandatory for our master's program, this skill can be incredibly beneficial, especially when working extensively with the Unity game engine, which is the primary software we use. It can give you the extra push of creativity and advantage within the program you need for a more challenging design.