Chu Scharlott, '17
Chu Scharlott | Visual Communication Design | Class of 2017
Kent State alumnus Chu Scharlott’s journey and career path to becoming a Product Designer at Netflix demonstrates the important intersection of design and technology.
Before graduating in 2017, the alumnus of Kent State’s Visual Communication Design program developed a passion for both design and technology, allowing him to land an internship at one of the largest tech companies: Facebook. One of Scharlott’s biggest takeaways from this experience was seeing firsthand the need for designers to bring a fresh perspective into the tech industry to aid them in solving problems.
And when he launched his career, he had his eyes set on Silicon Valley because " it's a hub where so many talented people attempt to solve some of society's biggest problems." He worked at Facebook full-time for 2.5 years after college before becoming a Product Designer at Yelp, and now at Netflix.
"Tech is now just as important to our lives as the government, money, or our roads," Scharlott says. "Tech has become very close to being inescapable and has taken a primary spot in modern society.
It's more important than ever that tech embraces good design so it's as simple, beautiful, and as enduring as possible. ... As much (the world needs) engineers, they need designers who can think of creative ways to think through problems."
While he was still at Kent State, one of the most important things the Visual Communication Design major taught him was “the ability to give and receive actionable, relevant feedback.” This idea, in combination with all the fundamental design principles he learned, effectively prepared him for his career, which has involved defending design decisions to non-designers.
"Take a concept like encryption, for example," Scharlott says. "I probably don't know much more about the technical ins-and-outs of encryption than the average person, but what I can do is design an experience that communicates encryption to the average person and empower them to understand it in a simple, manageable way that relates to their life. So all in all, I think designers are essential in the tech space."
Scharlott’s favorite project he worked on during his time at Kent State was designing a set of journals based on the texts of John Muir, a wilderness explorer who documented his travels in journals.
He recalls his creative process, experimenting with different textured paper for different pages of the journal to represent some of his emotion and using full-bleed pictures to capture Muir's awe that he expressed about views of Yosemite. Scharolott says: “That project encompassed mixed media and design experimentation to create a result that I hoped made the viewer feel something. That's what we as designers are, fundamentally magicians using every trick in their hat to make viewers feel” Scharlott said.
Scharlott offers this advice for students who are planning for internships and future careers: craft a new resume for each company you’re applying to, and create stories around your projects. His most important piece of advice, however, is to always be your most authentic self.
“Authenticity coupled with a healthy dose of self-awareness is the recipe I've found for finding success in this industry but also life, more generally.”