Similarly Different panel discusses time abroad in London

The graphic design department hosted a panel discussion on Thursday, Nov. 6 with six Portland State students who traveled to the London College of Communication last July. While in London, the students attended numerous graphic design workshops and collaborated with LCC students.

Their work culminated into the show Similarly Different, which was showcased in East London and is now displayed in Portland. The panel acted as an opportunity for students to share what they learned in London, as well as their personal experiences abroad.

In the two weeks the PSU students were in London, they explored the city through design in the form of museums and studio visits. The group reminisced about the first few nights in the city, recounting memories of watching the World Cup in an American-themed pub.

“I would say [London] is pretty obsessed with design, if not the design capital of the world” said Briar Levit, assistant professor of graphic design and advisor for the trip.

The students were surprised to see how worldly and diverse each London neighborhood was, contrary to their preconceived ideas of a mono-English culture.

Bianca Hansrote, a senior, said the trip gave the visiting students an opportunity to get to know their London counterparts.

“We went and had drinks with them, we went to parties with them. Getting outside of your brain and starting to understand how their brains work,” Hansrote said, “I think it influenced some of our designs, or at least some of our thought processes.”

Levit recounted a two day experience with the group’s letterpress studio advisor and mentor, Alex Cooper. Cooper gave the students the materials to work and play, unhindered by set guidelines or rules. He encouraged experimentation with proofing presses, placement, overprinting and textures.

“No one was working on computers at all [while working on the project], so it was a lot of trial and error and playing with the proofing press and seeing what happened,” Levit said.

Ben Woodcock, a graphic design student, said he was surprised at the amount of labor and patience the project required, especially considering how easy it is to complete comparative tasks using a computer and appropriate software.

The group participated in two other workshops, one focusing on pinhole photography, which resulted in the creation of students’ own cardboard cameras. Another workshop was informed by a prompt that led students to consider their feelings as either a local or a foreigner, resulting in some discussions of cultural differences.

The trip left open recreational time for students to explore Europe, as flights from one country to another are relatively cheap.

“It was a pretty cool way to meet people. I met up with my sister and traveled all over Europe for three weeks,” said Hansrote, who visited many places like Croatia.

Other students were able to explore Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels and Rome.

“This was my second study abroad experience and, even if you’re not going for academic reasons, I think that everyone should travel at one point just to gain some new perspective and observe other cultures. Talking to people that are unlike yourselves is really important,” Woodcock said.

Levit is planning another trip for next summer with the hope this the next trip will run for four weeks, rather than this year’s two.