Aakifa Chida

Aakifa Chida

Master of Design student
Bachelor of Design in Communication Design

The studio culture has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of her studies at AUT, says Aakifa Chida who came to AUT to study a Bachelor of Design in Communication Design, followed by a Master of Design.

“Working in the studio was one of the best aspects of my experience by far – giving each other feedback, staying late in the common room until security tells us to leave, collectively complaining but still working incredibly hard together, and debating about what food to order while we are working.

“The studio is a space where it doesn’t matter what year you’re in, who you are or what you’re working on. There’s a mutual understanding that somehow we will all make it. The open studio, the communication design common room, holds some of my fondest memories and connections I hope never to forget.”

Growing as a designer
Aakifa says she always knew that she would come to AUT to study design.

“Being born and raised in Auckland, choosing AUT was something I had done long before applying. It was my dream university and my dream degree. I’m grateful for the whole experience and especially for the connections I made throughout my journey.”

She would highly recommend AUT’s communication design programmes to other students, says Aakifa whose studies were supported by an AUT New Horizons Scholarship in 2018 and an AUT Summer Research Scholarship in 2021.

“The design programme will push you to your limits and make you look at your work in ways that have never occurred to you before. If I look at my designs from my first year and compare them to my final-year capstone project, it looks like they were created by two entirely different people. The programme may be challenging, but without growth we can never really learn.”

Design for good
Passionate about design for social good, for her Master of Design research Aakifa is exploring how communication design can impact, encourage, and influence social awareness around islamophobia. Aakifa’s research is supervised by Dr George Hajian and David Coventon from AUT’s School of Art and Design.

“As a Muslim woman, I’ve experienced islamophobia first-hand. Change can’t begin without awareness, so my project targets different levels at which islamophobia is manifested throughout global society – whether it may be in biased attitudes or blatant genocide.

“Design activism is a discipline that has existed for several decades and is continually growing as a catalyst to spark positive social change. My intention is to channel my responsibility to speak up into my design and hopefully inspire a higher level of awareness and consciousness around islamophobia.”

While she has certainly experienced islamophobia in her life, Aakifa says that at AUT she received a lot of support and empathy, especially after the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019.

“That was a few weeks into my second year at uni and shook me to my core. I had to skip classes to travel to Christchurch for the unexpected funerals of people I knew and grew up with. It was a difficult and tumultuous time, but upon returning to AUT I felt nothing but empathy and compassion from every angle. Not only from my tutors and peers but also from people who I had never met before. I deeply appreciated this.”

*The Bachelor of Design is now known as Te Tohu Paetahi mō te Hoahoa - Bachelor of Design.

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