Design tourism = deeper understanding

A guest post by Sean Barnes

Last year, while on the Germany trip, I wrote about the value of travel on our education and how, for example, being in the locations of the Bauhaus and seeing the original work that was produced there deepened my understanding more than any amount of researching and reading could. That same principle applied to the New York trip this month. In many ways, that understanding was even deeper because we had more opportunities to talk directly to designers – from the up-and-coming to the unquestionably iconic – and better understand their processes and approaches to design.

If there was one, overall lesson that I learned on the trip it was that there are many different ways to create a successful career in graphic design and that success can be defined in many terms. The range of experiences and approaches we encountered was vast – from a designer sharing space with several other creatives to a large, international company setting the branding directions for the largest of the largest corporations.

Stylistically, the designers we met with were also diverse. Perhaps the greatest contrast was between the designers who started and ended our tour – James Victore and Massimo Vignelli. Since we are all students of design, I’m sure I don’t need to go into the differences in style of each of these men, but I was struck by the similarities between the two. Each found his path in the large world of graphic design. Each surrounds themselves with his work – Victore’s studio is stuffed with hand-painted objects and personal notes and work, while Vignelli wears clothes he designed and is surrounded by furniture and objects designed by him and his wife Lella. Both have been able to create lives based in design, which are balanced with their personal lives and create an environment in which they can thrive. While it’s doubtful that either designer would agree on a particular piece of work, they have similar commitments to the practice and growth of graphic design. The point here is that graphic design is a large enough field that each of us can find our own path and place in it and define our success by our own terms. To see that in action is truly inspiring!

The MFA program is fortunate to be able to offer such remarkable and rewarding opportunities as these field trips. I encourage everyone to get on the waiting lists for future adventure. You will never regret it!

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