WWU Summer Design Abroad
During August and September 2015, fourteen students from Western Washington University's Design Department traveled through Germany and Switzerland. For three weeks, we studied international art and design movements and historical events while experiencing local culture.
MEET THE DESIGNERS
Throughout the trip, students journaled, sketched, and photographed their experiences.
Each of us documented one day of the trip, highlighting what we saw and did.
READ OUR STORIES
DAY 1: AUGUST 28, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
Topography of Terror
While visiting the Topography of Terror museum, I was really taken back by the calculated extent of the horror that the Nazi party inflicted during World War II. While I knew about several aspects of murders, policing, racism, etc. during the time, what I did not realize was how extensive and intricate the system for “cleansing” Germany was. Specifically, I did not know that people who were disabled were specifically targeted for medical experiments and killed in mass.
Another aspect of Nazi Germany that I found interesting was the complexity of the badge labeling system for the people in concentration camps. In order to identify the backgrounds of individuals, they were labeled with different shaped and colored badges in order to make them easily identified and eradicated. Overall the museum was informational and somber, and it gave me a deep cultural understanding and perspective of the history of Germany.
DAY 2: AUGUST 29, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
Teufelsberg, Street Art
We started our day off by going to Teufelsberg, a spy facility for the U.S. during the Cold War. Teufelsberg is located at the top of a large hill made out of 26 million cubic meters of rubble from WWII that we had to hike up. At the top we got to see one of the largest street art galleries in Germany! We got to see work done by Blot Bot and Tobo. We then went up 211 poorly lit steps to the very top dome. Everyone's voices would lag for about 5 to 7 seconds. You couldn't really understand what anyone was trying to say, so most of us did sound effects instead.
Later that day we did a graffiti tour with this local girl names Debbie. She taught us all about the techniques (including a fire extinguisher) different artists use and how much time each artist has to be able to complete a work in order to be confident not to be caught by the cops.
After the tour, we got to test our skills with some stenciling of our own art! It was so interesting to test out all the different techniques ourselves. It was amazing to see what everyone was able to come up with. I definitely have a new appreciation for street art.
DAY 3: AUGUST 30, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
Getting around Berlin is different from most large cities because there is no real “center”. It it mostly divided into neighborhoods. Luckily, the train system is amazing and can get you wherever you need to be in a short amount of time. On Sunday the 30th, we took the train to Museum Island and began our walking tour of historical sights. We saw the gorgeous Berlin Cathedral and book-burning memorial. Then we made our way on foot over to the site of Hitler’s bunker. The site is now a parking lot, completely un-memorialized (for good reason), other than a sign indicating the location. Just around the corner from here was the Holocaust Memorial where we spent some time exploring the site and reflecting.
It was 95 degrees this day so mind you, we were getting exhausted by the time we made it to Brandenburg Gate and an amazing re-built government building, Reichstag. After all this walking and sightseeing in the heat, we hopped on a train to the Bauhaus Archive. The Archive happened to be near the Zoo, the landmark for our hotel/train stop, so we were able to have a nice walk through the park back to our hotel. We even saw some monkeys, flamingos, and camels on the way! If only every city had public transportation as fine-tuned as Berlin.
DAY 4: AUGUST 31, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
August 31st was the beautiful day that we went to the Berliniche Gallerie, a museum in Berlin featuring modern art and architecture. Surrounding the museum was a sea of bright yellow tiles with letters on them, so we were instantly captivated. Inside, we saw many examples of how Berlin was rebuilt after World War II, even in its divided political state. We also were able to see countless works of art expressing the feelings of the citizens of post-war Berlin.
DAY 5: SEPTEMBER 1, 2015 • DESSAU, GERMANY
History came to life today when we stepped out of our bus in front of the Bauhaus school. Everything we've read about stood there rebuilt exactly how it was in the 20s. Every detail was precise up to how the colors of the building interacted with the infrastructure. I think we were all drooling over the sight of it. It's not often a designer gets to see one of the most influential design hubs in history.
DAY 6: SEPTEMBER 2, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
NODE, Etsy, Edenspiekermann
Today we visited the three firms - a small company called NODE, Etsy, and a larger and well-known firm called Edenspiekermann. Edenspiekermann is larger, and seemed like a fun office with tons of events and things around to keep the employees working there upbeat and inspired. My favorite though was Etsy, it was a creative and fun office and the people who worked there were all unique and lighthearted. All these firms really helped open my eyes to design after college and gave me a taste of what a job for me could be like in the future.
DAY 7: SEPTEMBER 3, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
I am in school for experiences like this. Betahaus is a creative workshop, a place where artists and brainiacs gather to swap ideas and give each other high-fives. Just being in the building brought ideas and inspiration, and made me want to roll up my sleeves and get to work. An awe-inspiring, collaborative networking moshpit. If I was a Berliner, this is where I would be...
DAY 8: SEPTEMBER 4, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
FontFont, Gestalten, Museum of Letters
Today was an absolute dream. First we visited FontFont, one of the largest international digital type foundries. Two of the developers gave us a presentation about what they do at FontFont, and it gave me amazing insight into the work that goes into creating a typeface from start to finish - not just designing, but coding and distrubuting it.
After FontFont, we visited the Gestalten storefront, where we were able to talk with one of their longtime designers and editors. His passion and enthusiasm for his work was very contagious, and we all left feeling very excited and inspired.
Our last stop was the Buchstabenmuseum (Museum of Letters), which displays a collection of typographic objects found in public spaces. There were individual letters, logos, sign systems, and neon signage, and the museum was extremely fun to explore and walk through.
DAY 9: SEPTEMBER 5, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
Today was the first day off, which was much needed by everyone. We needed a day to freely explore on our own accord. I found my way into deep East Berlin where I visited the Stasi Prison. This ominous place was where the Stasi temporarily held political prisoners of East Berlin and interrogated them through both psychological and physical torture. This place truly opened my eyes to the oppression and paranoia that occurred during the Cold War era.
On my way back, I ventured to the Eastside Gallery where I soaked in the beautifully political street art on a long still-standing section of the Berlin Wall. While there, I had the opportunity of witnessing a street artist tagging an adorable pink monster on the corner of the wall. It was great to see this in action after our street art day. Everything comes full circle.
DAY 10: SEPTEMBER 6, 2015 • BERLIN, GERMANY
For the first time on the trip I wandered around the city on my own. I stopped to admire the architectural details of the Berliner Dom and enjoy a birds-eye view of the city from the top. Down below, the street musicians were playing classical music and it was the perfect moment to pause and reflect on all the insight and experiences I have gained so far on the trip.
DAY 11: SEPTEMBER 7, 2015 • FRANKFURT, GERMANY
Today we left Berlin. We got up early and caught a bus to the train station. Even though we got there almost an hour early, we still almost missed our train. We didn't realize that the train that was on our platform early was actually our train! Luckily we managed to get on it and rode for almost 4 hours to reach Frankfurt.
We immediately got on a bus to go see the Braun collection in Kronberg. It was incredible to see the evolution of Braun’s product design. I enjoyed seeing the evolution of the razor and the hairdryer designs. After seeing the Braun collection, we made it to our hotel in Frankfurt. The town has such cool architecture that reflects traditional Bavarian styles. I made a journey to the Birkenstock store before dinner and stocked up. Three for the price of one! Bargains! Exhausting day, but it was awesome. I wish we had more time in Frankfurt. It’s such a quaint town. Very refreshing after spending such a long time in such a big city (Berlin).
DAY 12: SEPTEMBER 8, 2015 • MAINZ, GERMANY
Our day in Mainz was by far one of the most exciting and worthwhile experiences I’ve ever had. The Gutenberg Museum was fascinating and having been personally interested in the history around the printing press in the past the tour was even more enjoyable. On our tour I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer during the demonstration of a very old and authentic printing press, where I got to be the man power behind the machine and print a page of the Gutenberg bible. This was the main highlight of the trip for me as I not only got to participate in the demonstration but I was able to keep the page that I printed. The printing workshop following the tour was indescribably fun and was yet another experience that solidified my love for the physicality of printing.
DAY 13: SEPTEMBER 9, 2015 • WEIL AM RHEIN, GERMANY
Vitra Design Museum
Upon arrival, it seemed strange that a design museum would be located in such a desolate location. After walking around a bit and experiencing the exhibition it occurred to me; we were venturing a design amusement park. Filled with rides and famous Eames chairs. You could even design your life, or at least your surroundings with the help of the not so affordable show rooms.
DAY 14: SEPTEMBER 10, 2015 • ZURICH, SWITZERLAND
Today we walked down not too far from our hotel to the Zurich School of Arts. We were able to go on a tour of the design facilities and learn about their design program. The tour started with some recent alumni showing off their work, which was a great way to get a sense of the projects they work on and the intensity of the curriculum. The students churn out a lot of large, beautifully done, finished projects. I also loved their workspaces - everyone gets a desk! They also have a beautiful library, with not only books but materials too.
After the tour, we went into this exhibition that was full of interactive projects and videos. The highlights were a machine (#Birdly) that used a virtual simulator to make you feel like you were flying, a pool of water with graphics projected onto it that responded when you threw little white balls into the water, an area where you colored pages and what you colored showed up on 3D sumo wrestlers, plus many more interesting projects!
We finished up the day with a trip to the Freitag Flagship store, a store that sold the products that we saw made the next day. The most unique thing about the Flagship store itself was that it is made entirely out of shipping crates! They are a company completely devoted to upcycling.
DAY 15: SEPTEMBER 11, 2015 • ZURICH, SWITZERLAND
Opened in 1993, Freitag was started by two eco-conscious brothers. Confronted by the freeway/car-centric lifestyle, the Freitag brothers turned to up-cycling tarp materials from semi trucks. In their Zurich factory where all of their bags are made by hand, materials are washed by rainwater collected on-site. This fabric is not biodegradable, however, it is given a second life on the streets. After seeing the factory in Zurich and everything behind the construction process, our whole group's perception of Freitag bags shifted. Rather than simply being an expensive accessory, Freitag is a conscious fashion statement against animal hides and slave labor.
DAY 16: SEPTEMBER 12, 2015 • ZURICH, SWITZERLAND
Furniture Design Workshop
Working with my hands on a physical project is one of my favorite parts of design. Being able to create, change, and experiment with materials is both creatively stimulating and just plain fun. Sitting with the group at the furniture design workshop, it was fascinating to see all the different ideas spawned from the same materials. The joy and pride of having, even a mini finished product is one of the best things in the world. I can't wait to experiment more in the future.
But most importantly...