‘Be water, my friend’: towards a proficiency of uncertainty by Belen Palacios


I have recently become a Graduate Learning Facilitator in the Design Department. As I make the overlap from a learner to a teacher, I realise that I am not just a graduate in ‘Design’, but a graduate in ‘Uncertainty’.

Initially this course makes you doubt yourself, to avoid designing by mirroring the self. You must forget what everyone told you design is, in order to start defining what you think design should be. Your first year isn’t only about emancipation, independence and taking responsibility; as uncomfortable as it it, this first year is about re-shaping your perspective.

The course then makes you doubt your surroundings. At this point you question what your role is in the socio-cultural complexity of the world (yes, the world). By then you would have gotten used to the uncertainty. You live through your questioning mindset. That is the strategy: no stability. You are in a constant state of uncertainty, and you learn to understand and accept it.

After this process, there is no ‘default designer’ expected of you. The expectations are that you perform beyond your potential. Rather than climbing the tiers of academia, your eyes open to the fact that the toolkit and ability of your BA needn’t be lesser than those of a more specialised qualification. The borders melt away between graphics, interaction, product, architecture, fashion… Instead, you learn to analyse and attack any situation, because you no longer have a default safe zone. You learn to adapt. “Be water, my friend.”

Graduates worry that they have no discipline to fit vacancy requirements. It doesn’t matter how many Adobe applications you master because you are proficient in uncertainty. Your skills are your strength against a frightening brief; your infatigable fight to reveal the un-seen; your bravery to question what is taken for granted. You aren’t against the design industry, you are what the design industry should be wishing for.

Belen Palacios