This spring break, twenty-two students from Herron’sfurniture design, visual art, and visual communication design programs traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, with associate professors Aaron Ganci and Helen Sanematsu to experience one of Europe’s modernist design epicenters. They traveled via bicycle to design studios, museums, and cultural attractions and sampled a plethora of Danish cuisines.
“It was inspiring to see my students experience Denmark. We visited several design agencies to learn about their people-centered approach to design, went to a few museums, had a bike tour of the city with a local designer, and made a dinner together to experience hygge. Our trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art was especially inspiring because we had a personal tour from their director of education who taught us about the history of land, the collection, and the architecture. I can’t wait to get back with more students!”
—Aaron Ganci, associate professor of visual communication design
“The museums we visited during our study abroad were amazing and made me fall in love with the arts all over again. But above all, the talks with the designers were what stood out to me.
We went to EGGS Design and spoke to Katja [Egmose] and Nikolaj [Bebe], who are the creative directors for EGGS in Copenhagen. Katja had us do an exercise where a few groups had arthritis and the other groups were mute. The groups with arthritis (I was in that group) had to tape their knuckles and wrists, which would mimic the lack of movement with arthritis.
This was an important exercise because we had to go to the grocery store and pick up ingredients to make lunch while our hands and wrists were taped. This seemed weird at first, and we got some interesting looks from the people in the store, but as we were shopping – trying to hold on to the basket, use our phones to look up translations, and take out our credit cards – it all made sense.
Design isn’t about making something pretty; design is about creating a solution to a problem. Our problem was the fact that everyday tasks were made more difficult because of our mobility issues. Katja said we should always try and put ourselves in the shoes of the people for whom we are creating a solution.”
—Romarie Quinones-Perez, visual communication design student
“Being exposed to well-designed solutions that address a particular problem has had the biggest influence on me. I am now confident that I can provide techniques and ideas similar to the ones used in Denmark for problem solving in the United States. For example, at the airport, instead of scanning your ticket when they start boarding, you scan your ticket to get into a seating area when you first arrive at the gate, therefore, making the boarding process quicker and less stressful.”
—Caila Lutz, visual communication design student
“Denmark always ranks in the top 3 of the world’s happiest countries, and it was awesome to get some idea of why by being there and hanging out with Danish folks. We used our previous experience in design to share our own networks with our students, and we all learned a lot about how design can make life better.”
—Helen Sanematsu, associate professor of visual communication design
“Everyone there was so kind! Me and the other grad student took a day trip to Møns Klint, a beach with giant white sand cliffs. We had a four-mile hike to get to there, after a train and two bus rides. During our hike back, it started to rain and the wind was really strong. We stopped to use the restroom in what turned out to be a nursing home and the manager offered us a ride to the train station. It was a 40-minute drive and she told us a lot about Denmark and even stopped at a couple churches to show us the architecture and art inside.
I think part of why everything felt so intentionally placed and beautiful in Denmark is because the people there really value what they have – not just as possessions but also in terms of quality and design as well as togetherness. So many things there are designed to maximum potential and to be aesthetically pleasing, which compliments their emphasis on togetherness and coziness. It is definitely something I have taken home with me and makes me look at things differently.”
—Tiffany Pierce, visual art student
“The people there were amazing, and the architecture was breathtaking. It was an incredible experience I would want to have again and again!”
—Deven Grose, visual communication design student